Off With Her Hair!
Kate Middleton needs a radical haircut—and other style tips for the princess-to-be.
If Kate Middleton were a squat homunculus with a thick moustache, and Prince William a Marty Feldman lookalike, their lives would be infinitely easier. The Furies would take one look at them and say, "Oooh no! Not really our type" and go back to scouring Hello! magazine for their next victim. The hideous-but-happy couple would then be free to enjoy a boozy casual wedding, after which they could cuddle up and dedicate the rest of their lives to breeding or inbreeding or whatever it is that royal folks do.
But they are not ugly. The problem is that Wills and Kate, like Princess Diana, are perfectly cast. They are, in appearance and demeanor, the archetypal prince and princess. Like a computer-generated version of a young royal couple, they are the ultimate Danielle Steel cliché. He is dashing, kind, and looks fab on a polo pony or stuffed into a uniform. She is unslutty, lithe, sweet, and Cinderella perfect. They belong on the cover of an '80s knitting-pattern book. They are very Spiegel catalog. (Yes, I said it!)
This archetypal fairytale prettiness is a red flag waved at the universe, inviting all kinds of insane stomping, snorting, projection, and speculation: "Will Di's sapphire engagement ring carry the curse of The Spencers?" "Why are men delivering port-a-potties to Kate's mum's house? Could she be planning a party?" While all this is going on, the Furies are licking their lips. They love an archetype. They eat them for breakfast. With a little Log Cabin syrup, a toasted archetype slips down like a treat.
Last week's engagement announcement has, as you can tell, propelled me into free-association mode. I'm also skipping off down memory lane recalling Royal Weddings of yore. In 1960, for example, I vividly remember watching the televised marriage of Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, not least because my lobotomized granny stood erect in front of the telly like a sentry throughout the entire ceremony "as a mark of respect."
Margaret and Antony had an effortlessly stylish wedding. Mysterious, cat-eyed Maggie—she wore a white Lady Macbeth number designed by the fabulously grandiose Norman Hartnell —and her handsome and groovy fashion-photog husband made a glamorously enigmatic couple. No "people's princess" she. Self-involved, nicotine-lovin' and hedonistic, Princess Margaret had that elusive quality which the French call le chien. It's a tough brand of chic that the Furies have always found rather intimidating. They don't like it because it nips at their hindquarters.
As Kate faces the biggest media onslaught in the history of media onslaughts, she might take inspiration from gin-swilling Maggie and her chien. La Middleton needs a tougher look, a look that says: "Don't fuck with me fellas. This isn't my first time at the rodeo." (Even though we all know it is.) I prescribe an angular art-deco makeover. Think Louise Brooks. Think Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago. Off with her hair!
To those of you who are thinking I have lost my mind I say this: Remember that the 1920s vamp was invented to empower women and save them from the appeasing mire of Mary Pickford's wimpy ringlets. Chopping off all Kate's princessy tresses into a wicked bob would be a total eff-you to the Furies: I can see them now, all red in the face, with their panties in a giant knot.
And speaking of foundation garments, who should design Kate's vampy wedding frock? I propose fellow brunette Victoria Beckham. This is her sixth season designing entrance-making cocktail frocks, and she has repeatedly demonstrated the requisite szooshing and draping skills for a wedding gown. VB can also give Kate firsthand tips on how to deal with fame, fluctuating popularity, and the ire of jealous women. (Female soccer fans regularly chant, "Posh Spice takes it up the Arsenal" at Mrs. B. when she is out shopping on Bond Street. Charmed, I'm sure!)
Kate's principal beacon of inspiration should, of course, be the queen herself. OK, so those matching-dress-and-coat sets are not exactly le dernier cri, but, you must admit, the reigning monarch is one seriously unstoppable broad. She has never wavered, gone on Oprah, or descended into mawkish sentimentality of any kind. Having successfully kept her shit together—and the Furies at bay—for over 58 years, she understands that noblesse is not a popularity contest or a media opportunity. Could she give a rat's ass what Grazia magazine says about her? I think not.
Rat's asses aside, I am feeling optimistic about Kate. She, like me and Posh, is a commoner and therefore much smarter than the average inbred aristo. Her documented ability to endure nicknames speaks to a promising resilience: She and her sister Pippa were dubbed "The Wisteria Sisters" by Wills' claque. (Geddit? They are fragrant, lovely, and good at climbing.) The same snooty toffs also referred to Kate as "Doors-to-manual," a snarky nod to her mother's career as a flight attendant. Her staying power then earned her the name "Waity Katy." (Upper-class Brits, as you probably can tell, love a nickname almost as much as the Furies love an archetype.)
In conclusion, let me express one final concern: I am crossing my fingers that the future Mrs. Willy Windsor does not elect to get plumped. Though pretty and perfectly acceptable to moi, her top lip is, by contemporary trout-pout standards, a little on the thin side. Will she succumb to this nasty fad, or will her lip go unplumped? The Furies and I are taking bets.
Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.(Photo by Roxanne Lowit.)