As if one Kate isn’t enough, the Brits are pushing another unto the world stage. Kate Middleton may not be a princess yet, but she is watched with so much intensity that it seems the global fashion industry would collapse if she did not wear a particular dress. Hemlines were once used to predict stock market action. These days, Ms Middleton’s dress could be seen as the harbinger of a nation’s, and indeed, the world’s collective happiness.
Marrying a prince isn’t enough. Her conjugal felicity, as Jane Austen would have called it, appears to be dependent on the bridal gown, so much so that almost everyone wants to know ahead what (or who) she will wear, competely removing any surprise that would lend some awe to the wedding procession on the actual day. Brides in so many ceremonies are to be revealed, no less a princess-bride. That explains why the groom often appears out there, up front first. Surprise from a bride’s choice of a dress—well or badly picked—adds to the value of the nuptials, together with the bouquet, and even the shoes. So it is to be expected that the royal wedding planners are keeping very quiet about the dress. And even if the rumours were true about Sarah Burton’s role in all this, it is expected that the house of Alexander McQueen remains as silent as a piece of still duchess satin.
I am not quite sure what pleasure watching Ms Middleton’s sensible style brings. She is no fashion icon, not yet anyway. Why wear Burberry and look like you’re donning Benetton? I am inclined to agree with Matthew Williamson, who was quoted in the The Telegraph: “Kate isn’t a fashion bunny. I don’t know why everyone in fashion is waiting to see what she wears. I’m, like, thinking: get over it.”
She dresses smartly, but she’s not necessarily smart about dresses. Well, not before, not in 2002. Surely no woman of considerable style would consider wearing that “dress that snared a prince”? Anyone in fashion will tell you that a dress that can turn-on a man is rarely one that can be tagged fashion. That strapless slip, purportedly “designed” as a skirt, went under the hammer in London ealier today. An unknown bidder paid £78,000 for it!
Now, lest you think I am a prude, I have nothing against sexy garments. If the role you regulate to clothes is purely for the purpose of seduction, it’s really your perogative. But must sexy be so devoid of elegance, so bereft of seductive flair? The dress that the soon-to-be-princess wore, designed by a Charlotte Todd, has little to offer to the imagination, but much to say about the wearer.
For many women, fashion is less about design than what she designates herself to be. So few women really care about how well clothes are made, only how well the clothes will make them look. The look is also far removed from the looks found in look books that inform many fashion enthusiasts. Thai women are especially sold on looks: those that give the impression that they have hi-so pedigree. When I look around me, from Pinklao to Sukhumvit, the tendrils-as-hair, the short filmsy slips, and the tacky high-heels seem to come from a coterie of women, those whose success depends on high returns with low fabric usage in dress. Yes, to be more pointed, hookers. The interesting thing is, even hookers don’t dress like hookers anymore.
Kate Middleton is not a fashion star who will lead a generation of women to fashion nirvana. She is not the individualist who can give a fresh take to the royal style she is expected to adopt. She is not a protagonist who can use clothes to give the rest of us moments of satisfaction.
She’s not the other Kate.