Angela Merkel’s Been Wearing the Same Amazing Tunic for 18 Years

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 6 2014 8:32 AM

Angela Merkel’s Been Wearing the Same Amazing Tunic for 18 Years

Angela_Merkel_tunic

“Our Chancellor stays true to herself,” crows Monday’s headline from Bild, which is Germany’s most-read newspaper, meaning that it comes off like USA Today and the Daily Mail had a very inflammatory baby.* What Bild means in this case is that Angela Merkel has been wearing the same flowing silk tunic—in a bold color scheme that looks like one of A.C. Slater’s button-ups on Saved by the Bell—to various high-end Teutonic classical music festivals since 1996. 1996, for reference, is back when I had a fake ID and a real nose ring, and Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, which now looks like this, was a sea of massive cranes.

Bild then embarks upon an in-depth analysis of the many outfit-repeats of the most powerful person in the most powerful country in the European Union. “Because the Chancellor buys her clothes herself (unlike many other celebrities, who borrow items from designers for events),” explains the article, “she often wears the same outfit multiple times.”

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It would be hard to find a better example of German sartorial practicality than Merkel’s tunic, which, as a German tunic, is now old enough to buy its own beer. Because German clothes are—not unlike their automobiles and their Chancellor herself—sturdy. They are meant for serious wear. In the German-speaking world, standard treatment for an outfit you like is to wear it day after day, until it wrests itself from your body and marches itself over to the Waschmaschine autonomously. Merkel’s thrift and practicality in her tunic reuse endears her to Germans, though if she really wanted to be a Frau of the Volk, she’d have worn that tunic every day, not just to formal events. (Her work clothes, notably, are also pretty consistent.)

Interestingly, Americans used to be more into outfit-repeating, especially back when women made most of their own clothes, and more store-bought clothes were American-made (and thus more expensive). Nowadays, mass-produced clothes are so cheap (obtained, often, by awful means) that you don’t have to be a celebrity to wear a different outfit every day for months. Celebrities, meanwhile, who have limitless clothing budgets (and, indeed, are inundated with free goods from fancy designers), are often mocked for being photographed in the same thing twice. The tide may be turning, however—Michelle Obama has also been known to repeat outfits. I can only hope this excellent trend comes full circle, and Merkel sports that awesome tunic—while the First Lady rocks a Jason Wu rerun—at the next White House state dinner.

*Correction, Aug. 6, 2014: Due to an editing error, this post originally misstated the date the Bild article about Angela Merkel's flowing silk tunic was published. It was published on Aug. 4, not Aug. 6.

Rebecca Schuman is an education columnist for Slate.

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