Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding Dresses

Although my father would be appalled, I did watch the Royal Wedding, or rather youtube highlights, but with my Celebrity Class, not in my living room at 5 am. I actually caught the final moments (the balcony kiss) as I was getting ready for work today. Having seen the dress, I figured the rest was missable (save Posh Spice's outfit, of course) although I watched enough snippets to be relatively well informed in future conversations. I also didn't miss tons of sleep so that was another positive, even though Peeps was doing her best to get me up by 5 am.

Like the Oscars, this wedding seemed to all come down to the clothes, and as most of these were essentially uniforms of one sort or another, (hats/bright colored dresses with matching jackets, hats/suits/military attire), the bride's dress (and that of a former British girl group) were the real red carpet attractions. Posh, as seems to be the case of late, did not disappoint, her pregnant stomach carefully draped in navy blue fabric, her husband's hat hiding her torso, all accessorized with her custom made Louboutins and equally custom made ponytail.

The bride, however, was somewhat dull. Granted, this appears to be part of her image--dull, driven, very upper middle-class girl who will not shake the monarchy apart, reasonably attractive, good figure, nice hair, good breeding stock to add some new blood into the ancien regime. She's certainly no fashion plate although she's not an embarrassing dresser either--just solid Sloaney contemporary, the modern equivalent of too many of the girls I went to University with in the UK. Her dress really said it all. Mildly derivative of Grace Kelly's 1950s affair, it spoke volumes about the expectations attendant upon a wealthy commoner marrying royalty. Unlike her late mother-in-law, she chose a dress that took up little room, suggesting that she would not make waves and would similarly fit herself into her surroundings. Its relatively clean lines also indicated a willingness to subdue any of the extravagances of self, to conform to the system to which she submitted herself, as well as gesturing to the ideas of clean, upper-class taste. Diana was not a fashion plate, although the world pretended she was, but she was someone who was entranced with fads and followed the trends, albeit in their high end forms. The ruffles and lace that became synonymous with her early style had already moved through Vivian Westwood's pirates and Britain's New Romantics long before her wedding dress made its crumpled first appearance out of that carriage. Her choice spoke of a woman perhaps too invested in the world of pop culture, fashion and pop music, a sensibility that foregrounded the self and sentiment, not restraint and acceptance of hierarchies and position. As it filled the aisle and its excessive train billowed out for yards and yards, its very size articulated a different persona from Kate's slim and streamlined gown--that of a young woman who would not renounce self for Queen and Country, but was instead inspired by romantic fictions and fashions.

Kate Middleton, on the other hand, not only stayed true to a style that is essentially recognized for its quiet conformity to upper class social norms, but also evoked her role as consort above all else. No peaks of cleavage, no creases, muted decorations, all of them expressing emblems of her husband's royal heraldry. Besides echoing Grace Kelly's gown, her dress bore some resemblance to Princess Anne's own choice, with both harking back to far older models--Kate's had a pared-down Tudor look to it, especially around the neckline, while Anne's was overtly Renaissance Fair-Medieval. Given Princess Anne's status as the hard working royal, the one most respected by traditionalists and most associated with customary royal ideals, I feel this resemblance also spoke volumes. This was not the muted presence of a bride who acknowledged the recession and public service cuts that have eviscerated British life, but rather a clear announcement of someone who will accept their place and maintain royal tradition, containing self in the process.

As for Posh, I think she gets more fabulous as every year goes by. Best dressed at the wedding by far.


Amanda said...

I love this very insightful post, particularly the third paragraph. I told the husband yesterday that I while I thought Kate Middleton was pretty, she struck me as being really plain, sort of an uniterestingly dull character. I however, like her dress very much - I think that it's more beautiful than Diana's. Kate's plainness though, may be the reason why the dress has failed to shine.


Its relatively clean lines also indicated a willingness to subdue any of the extravagances of self, to conform to the system to which she submitted herself, as well as gesturing to the ideas of clean, upper-class taste.

Nice...that's just what I'm thinking every morning as I get dressed for work.

You would concede, however, that if Duke W. were just a data input guy at Sainsburys, she'd be way out of his league?