What is the meaning of Theresa May’s £750 ‘twofer’ coat?

If it feels unfair to analyse what Theresa May is wearing in the picture above, bear in mind that there are few days when a politician’s clothes matter more than budget day, regardless of their gender. As with a royal at their wedding or pre-season catwalk collections, these optics can prove useful as an indicator of what is to come. And whether or not you like what you see, you can certainly read into it – just remember what fun we had with George Osborne’s Caesar haircut at the 2015 budget.

So, where to begin with May’s coat? First, it is one coat, designed to look like two, and known as a twofer. Double-coating is a trick, but it is also rooted in fashion: it has been in vogue since Balmain 2015 and was seen on this year’s autumn/winter catwalks. And May is a woman who asked for a lifetime subscription to Vogue on Desert Island Discs. The fact that she is wearing a coat deliberately designed to look like two suggests prior knowledge.

An example of double coating, as seen in the Givenchy autumn/winter collection this year
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An example of double coating, as seen in the Givenchy autumn/winter collection this year. Photograph: Estrop/Getty Images

As for the complex layering – it has a funnel neck, cropped sleeves, a quilted lining, a detachable neck and sleeve panels for added layering insulation – it is drowning in symbolism. Yes, we are having a cold snap, but couldn’t that be linked to climate change, which was mentioned nowhere in Hammond’s budget? And is it fair to say the reception on Monday wasn’t much less frosty? In short, is this layering a question of May protecting herself from the cold?

Alternatively, did she choose it to make it look as though she was wearing all her clothes simultaneously, you know, like she is thrifty? After all, this coat costs £750, a curious amount of money to spend, even if the end of austerity is supposedly in sight. We all remember trousergate, when May wore a pair of £995 gold leather trousers in a Vogue shoot in 2016 while answering questions about the “just about managing” families; look how that played out.

The final piece of the puzzle is the brand, Herno, an Italian company that specialises in functionality and outerwear and is based in Lombardy, which is in the EU. I will just leave that there.

When Steve Bannon wore two shirts, his spokesperson claimed it was about planning: “He’s always got a contingency plan. If one shirt gets ruined, put the next one on. If one pen dies? Just use another pen.” In the case of May, we live in a world where communication is visual, where clothing is our common language and where buying a £750 coat seems tone deaf when your government is introducing income tax cuts that will benefit only the sort of people who can afford to spend that much on fashion.