By People Staff
September 21, 1981 12:00 PM

A step in the Right direction

Before France’s recent presidential election, Socialist François Mitterrand, 64, often campaigned (above) in rumpled suits and plaid flannel shirts—in sharp contrast to the elegant incumbent Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. But as part of his winning strategy, Mitterrand downplayed the proletarian look and learned to dress for success. Heeding close advisers, he submitted to his first private fittings. The designer Marcel Lassance gave Mitterrand file cards on which shoes, socks and shirts to wear with his 12 sober new suits. Now that the Mitterrands are in the Elysée Palace, his wife, Danielle, is said to need file cards of her own. At the inauguration, Madame Mitterrand shocked the world’s most couture-conscious country by appearing in a red-and-white-striped frock. It was so gaudy, quipped one observer, that Danielle looked like an unopened beach umbrella.

Six formidable fashion fizzles

No one is going to accuse Gloria Steinem of being a slave to chauvinism—or to fashion. The 47-year-old feminist leader, who some years ago gave up Estevez gowns for the Cause, seems to have overdone the monochromatic Low Rent style of the seriously political. Are all those jeans, poncho tops and sacklike dresses really necessary? “What a waste,” chides Eileen Ford, “she could be so pretty.” Entertainer Wayne Newton, 39, on the other hand, is a showbiz glitz blitz. Flashing a diamond ring as big as a marble and a silver belt as wide as a truss, Newton struts through his Las Vegas Aladdin Hotel in pink silk suits and Rhinestone Cowboy gallimaufry. Grins Michaele Vollbracht: “He looks like Liberace’s nephew.” At 30, Christina Onassis has, alas, settled into vintage poor-little-rich-matron attire. The world’s wealthiest woman favors shapeless gray skirts and bulky wool jackets. “She always looks unhappy,” muses Ford, “as if she’s angry at the world.” Onassis has an unlikely working-class counterpart in Polish labor leader Lech Walesa, 37, who despite his international renown still looks as if he just came off the night shift at the Gdansk shipyards. Of course Walesa, who throws on ill-fitting polyester blue suits, occasional made-in-Poland jeans and woolly patterned socks, has more fundamental things—like Solidarity—on his mind. “He doesn’t need to dress well,” says Ford. “He stands for freedom.” The hours novelist Barbara Cartland spends primping in her boudoir probably would make Lech retch. Cartland, 80, dolls up in seven-strand pearl necklaces, feather-plumed hats and ruffled sleeveless dresses with matching parasols—invariably in some shade of Cartland pink. “I hate beiges,” she explains. “They make women look like baked potatoes.” Says Nina Blanchard: “She’s so bad, I adore her.” Back on this side of the Atlantic, in an administration of snappy dressers, 57-year-old presidential assistant Lyn Nofziger seems more alley than fat cat. As Vollbracht puts it, “He’s a mess.” Amazingly, Nofziger’s oversize houndstooth jackets, broad, loud ties and irrepressible shirt collars no longer seem to rattle the boss’s chic wife as they once reportedly did. “Never once,” claims Nofziger, “has Mrs. Reagan said to me, ‘Pull up your tie. Hitch up your pants. Be a gentleman!’ ” Please, Nancy, it’s about time.