Taiwan's new President Tsai Ing-wen faces fashion spotlight

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wore a white jacket cinched at the waist over charcoal trousers and court shoes during her inauguration on May 20, 2016.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wore a white jacket cinched at the waist over charcoal trousers and court shoes during her inauguration on May 20, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's new President Tsai Ing-wen faced global scrutiny over her take on China relations as she was sworn in on Friday (May 20) - but the island's first female leader was also under the spotlight for her dress sense.

Like other high-profile women in politics, from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to prospective United States presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Ms Tsai's choice of outfit was closely critiqued online and in local media.

Speculation in the Taiwanese press focused on whether she would diverge from her usual dark trouser suits to wear a skirt, with the question even raised by one visiting Japanese politician ahead of the inauguration.

Ms Tsai laughingly brushed it away, while praising him for his knowledge of the "hot topic" in Taiwan.

Ms Tsai, 59, who took office after winning a landslide victory in January to defeat the ruling Kuomintang, wore a white jacket cinched at the waist over charcoal trousers and court shoes.

This inauguration outfit merited a detailed analysis in the United Evening News, which judged she had "maintained the status quo" in her choice - a tongue-in-cheek echo of her much-stated stance on relations with China.

But one designer quoted in the story deemed her hair and pale lip gloss "small failures".

"It looked like she just woke up and casually ran her hands in her hair before going out... and a gloss in the shade of red bean paste would have been suitable," the paper quoted Lee Ming-chuan as saying.

Overall the paper gave her outfit a score of 85 per cent, saying her "feminine touch is revealed in details".

The sartorial choices of previous male presidents have never been closely scrutinised by local media, but their wives' fashion sense have come in for analysis.

Online reactions to Ms Tsai's inauguration look were mostly positive.

"She maintains the Tsai Ing-wen style. If she changes, she is not Tsai anymore," read one message on the Apple Daily website.

"Her outfit today is really successful. It casts her in a fresh and intellectual light," another said.

Ms Tsai's signature jaw-length bob has become a much-requested cut since she won the presidency.

The hairdo is dubbed the "Hsiao Ing" or "Little Tsai" bob by the media, reflecting her nickname.

Speculation continued on Friday over what Ms Tsai would wear to the state celebratory banquet, a nine-course dinner at a hotel in Taipei with around 1,000 guests, including visiting foreign dignitaries, with discussion that she may wear an evening gown.

In the event, Ms Tsai appeared in her customary dark trouser suit.