Marguerite Patten was one of the first ever TV chefs, showing thousands of Brits the vital role of women on the home front during World War Two. Rationing applied to both food and fashion – fabric was economized in printed day dresses.
Fanny Cradock’s flamboyant, glamorous and eccentric style dominated through the seventies. In a generation when women felt increasingly that they had to be it all – fulfilling roles as mothers, housewives, full-time workers and part-time socialites; Fanny’s rejections of any pinny or apron in favour of fur stoles and power shoulders told her audience that being the cook and the hostess at the same time wasn’t impossible.
Delia Smith and Mary Berry show the more matriarchal image in TV cooks. The collars are a little more business-like than their predecessors, but still echoing the rise of women in the workplace; the penchant for scarves and pearls softening the look in respectable country club. Paula Deen also fits into this category, but is maybe better known for her butter addiction than her cooking, per se. However, her look is perhaps a little more ostentatious in Deep South style, with huge earrings and lots of hairspray.
Nigella Lawson is perhaps best known for her sensual (some might say sexual) attitude towards food. It’s perhaps ambiguous whether it’s an empowering power fantasy for her female audience, or objectifying women as sensual pleasures in the same category as cheesecake – or maybe worse, just a gimmick. She certainly approves of the finer things in life, opting for lush fabrics in figure-hugging styles which emphasise the femininity of her figure.
Lorraine Pascale is by far the most casual on this list, but that’s not to say uninteresting – she opts for bold colours to make her statements. It fits with her image of making home cooking both easy and healthy, providing twists on traditional dishes.
Rachel Khoo: seeing her cook in her tiny Parisian flat is enough to give hope to any student in halls. Her style centres on classic shapes and vintage pieces, especially voluminous skirts and printed day dresses with flats. Her feminine style is sleek but not overly elaborate and allows for more quirkiness and mixing than styles like Nigella’s.
Sophie Dahl also likes to wear day dresses, but with a floatier feel and more geometric patterns, which can be dressed up just as easily as they can be dressed down. As a former model and contributor to both fashion and food publications, Miss Dahl shows us that a healthy relationship with food can be possible whilst working in the fashion industry.