The exhibition Are You Ready, Madam President? examines the wardrobe of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, a public figure in Icelandic society. Vigdís was fifty years old when she was the first woman to be elected as her nation’s head of state in a democratic election. Throughout her 16 years in office as President of Iceland, she was sought after as a head of state and a role model. Her presence and participation were requested on a variety of occasions, not only here at home but around the world.
Vigdís’s projects and activities in her first year in office did much to shape a certain image of her. She represented the country and the nation and was always conscious of the trust the nation had placed in her. Surrounded by suit-clad officials, she was a fearless trailblazer in both word and deed. This shaping of a public image was not least manifested in her choice of attire, and from the very first she was a symbol of the elegant modern female, supported by men and women alike.
Iceland’s classless society, as we so often describe it, is not least reflected in the fact that sartorial traditions and dress codes are connected with only a very few, temporarily held offices. The attire of officials here in Iceland is modeled on that of other nations and typically governed by rules. Vigdís had no such role models when she was elected President, nor was she presented with a well-defined idea of what a female president’s wardrobe should look like. This was an opportunity that she used to build, for herself and her nation, a credibility that should not be underestimated.
The exhibition Are You Ready, Madam President? sheds light for the first time on an important factor in the tenure of the first woman president of the republic. The clothing Vigdís chose during her presidency reflects her personal style. Each individual’s choice of attire is shaped by taste, but traditions and customs for a given office also exert their influence. In selecting the pieces that are exhibited here, an effort was made to showcase the elegance and hard work involved in “being Vigdís.”
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