What we can learn from the fashion on the election campaign trail

What We're Thinking is a weekly take on the fashion questions and issues on our minds – from what we adore to what we abhor.

People on both sides of politics would agree Julie Bishop was one of the best dressers parliament has ever seen.

Now that Bishop has packed up her parliamentary office and will be spending more time wearing her 2XU tights than Sophia Webster stilettos, Australian politics is facing a power-suit shaped hole.

Enter Chloe Shorten, the oft-quoted "secret weapon" of Bill Shorten's election campaign and potential next first lady.

In terms of a designer wardrobe, Michelle Obama she is not. But Mrs Shorten boasts something more valuable than a rack of designer frocks: she has fashion relatability in spades.

First of all, Mrs Shorten is not a size 6. And this works for her, given the average Australian woman is a size 14 and wears a 14C bra.

At Mr Shorten's Budget reply speech, Mrs Shorten wore an emerald green dress with long, split sleeves that looked as though it came from a smart store. Obviously the style works for her, since she backed it up at Labor's "mini" campaign launch in a similar dress, in powder blue. Elegant but not overly expensive seems to be her style, and her love of colour has the capacity to cut through the sea of dark suits and make her photo, usually with her husband, jump off the page or screen.

Mrs Shorten has also nailed "street-walk style", donning a pair of camel pants and a white shirt for a visit to the Royal Easter Show. The outfit screamed rural chic, in the same way that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, nailed her visit to Dubbo last October in a white shirt and black jeans. If these women have learnt anything from US first lady Melania Trump's missteps, it's this: don't alienate the country folk with a pair of 10-centimetre heels.

While Mrs Shorten keeps the details of her campaign wardrobe private, we hear she has been recycling her favourite outfits and isn't working with a stylist. Mr Shorten, meanwhile, isn't afraid of being photographed in his running gear, and, according to sources, started having his suits tailor-made once he ascended to the Labor leadership.

First lady Jenny Morrison also has a flair for fashion (and fabulous hair), including a love of printed tops and dresses. She prefers separates to suits and favours more relaxed styles than Mrs Shorten.

Mrs Morrison is also proving a savvy recycler, wearing the navy dress she wore to meet the royals last year again to the campaign rally in Brisbane on April 14. Her style is a good complement to Mr Morrison, who has nailed "daggy suburban dad", with his Hurley cap and Cronulla Sharks gear.

Stephanie Peatling, deputy federal editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, said politicians have to walk a thin line on fashion: not enough care and they're accused of being sloppy; too much and they may be accused of vanity.

"Politicians don't want to be known for their clothes – that would suggest they were not people of substance. Julie Bishop walked a very fine line on this; she made a virtue of fashion diplomacy but it was also the topic of [some negative] remarks."

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