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PoliticsSeptember 6, 2023

Shop the fit: Nicola Willis

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Next in our campaign style series, Nicola Willis works the pantsuit, sparkles and gold.

Last Tuesday Nicola Willis was very unimpressed with Grant Robertson. “Labour has sprayed that money hose around,” she said. At the same time, her knit top was subtly sparkling, a gold chain rested on top of it, her hair looked perfect and she was wearing one of the best suits I’ve ever seen. I knew the secrets behind this look had to be spilled. For a whole day Willis’ shopping tips sat unseen in my spam inbox, and I worried that my request was too trivial for a woman in a suit. Luckily it seems Willis saves time not by ignoring emails, but by shopping almost exclusively on Lambton Quay, within a 10-minute walk of the Beehive. 

Beautiful locks

When I told Willis I wanted to know where she got her hair done, I was expecting she would say something about a blow wave or that $320 GHD hot brush, because who has hair that falls perfectly in cascading waves naturally? Instead she admitted that she has a growing number of greys. “Four kids and the finance role can do that.” At Rodney Wayne on Lambton Quay (of course), “the wonderful Andrew” does a great job of colouring over them, for $144. Truthfully, this exacerbates the mystery of the flawless styling, because I have no children, no financial literacy, and greasy hair badly “hidden” with rusty hair clips. I’ve decided that as well as the colour, she must get the Kérastase Fusio-Dose treatment, the 2023 perm which only costs $45. There’s no other way.

Pinstriped pantsuit

“Love a pantsuit,” says Willis. She got her green pinstriped pantsuit from Cue on Lambton Quay, but sadly, there are none left in New Zealand. You can still purchase the pants in Australia, have them sent to your friend who lives in Melbourne, and have her send them to you, but you’d be without a matching blazer. They’re half price at AU$180, but you’d be paying double post. Cue have many other beautiful suits, but this season, none with a pinstripe. A bit more stripe and budget friendly are these pants and blazer from Zara, the set will cost you just under $240. It’s an international retail giant, but “there is always a place for chain stores”, Willis says. No need to be pretentious about a suit.

Sparkly knit top

This is another item from Cue (yes, on Lambton Quay), which Willis bought on the recommendation of a “lovely shop assistant”. There is now only five left in the country, all at in Newmarket. If you can get one in your size, lucky you because they’re half price. Otherwise, on the recommendation of a Google search for “sparkly knit top nz” I bring you the Gorman option. It’s also half price at $89.50 and has the same extended polo neckline, which is going to make you look elegant and smart like Willis. The sparkle comes from Lurex which is knitted through the wool and possum, so it’s not going to fall off in the wash or make its way into every crease of your couch. Gorman needs to be encouraged to make more clothes without big bold patterns on them, so for that reason alone this is a good purchase.

Gold chain

This is no ordinary chain. The capri necklace (no known relation to the pants) is made out of stainless steel so it’s basically indestructible, the links will not squash or squeeze. It is even officially approved for men to wear, maybe because they also have necks. Eventually the 14k gold plating may wear off, but at $189 its considerably cheaper than a necklace that’s gold all the way through. It’s from New Zealand brand Silk and Steel, which has also been worn by Rachel Hunter (hot). Capri is for the “jet-setter”, so it will serve Willis well on the campaign trail, and you on any holiday where you want to look rich and sophisticated. Would pair well with a white bikini and bubbles at 10am.

Patent leather block heel pump

Out of frame, Willis is wearing tan patent leather pumps from Australian brand Wittner. Their Wellington shop has closed, but Aucklanders can visit Commercial Bay for their Aussie foot needs. Willis has opted for a sturdy 9cm heel, which is a reasonable height increase. Being tall is associated with handsomeness, power and making more money, so good on her. I am less sold on the pointed toe. That is not the shape of toes, unless Willis has only four or six rather than 10, in which case I apologise.

Verdict: Much of what makes this outfit work is in the details. Every item is refined with a subtle twist, so that it’s classic, but certainly not boring. Take the suit, covetable not only because we can’t have it, but because it’s green (unusual but not in your face), is cut well (somehow fitted and voluminous at the same time) and it doesn’t have a collar or lapel (sleek and surprising). Assuming she didn’t buy any of the pieces on sale, Willis paid around $1,882.2 for this fit. I know the Zara version is not as good, it’s just that it has pinstripes and is not a thousand dollars. With the budget suit option, this outfit is sitting at $923.40.

Read more: Shop the fit: Chlöe Swarbrick

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