Kate's Dress! That Queen! Those Hats!
Could the elegant royal wedding signal the end of porno chic?
It was with great reluctance that I dragged myself out of bed this morning, popped in my 18th-century wooden dentures, powdered and deloused my wig, hoisted my lorgnette, and clicked on the TV to watch the royal wedding. Why the withholding grumpiness and general lack of rejoicing? OK, I admit it: I am irate because I—a Brit AND a queen!—was not able to score a lucrative network TV wedding commentator gig. As tragic as it sounds, I actually wanted to be a ROYAL WATCHER for the day!
I'm not sure why I ever thought this was even a remote possibility. I have never had a good word to say about the chinless, annoying, anti-Semitic and inbred English aristocracy. The only individual I feel any affection for is the frowzy-but-admirable Queen Elizabeth II, aka Brenda. Her Maj is known as Brenda to the generations of Brits who read Private Eye magazine, wherein she has been pseudonym'd, to avoid legal action, since the 1960s.
Regarding Brenda, and her legendary anti-fashion: Years ago I interviewed Sir Hardy Amies, the hilarious and tart-tongued old poof who created Queen Elizabeth's iconic "look." I refer to those brightly hued outfits with the matching dress, coat and hat—like the yellow number she had on today. When I asked Sir Hardy if he had ever tried to squeeze Brenda into anything more stylish, he admonished me sternly. "Young man! Her Majesty must never appear to be chic. That would be disastrous, for there is an unkindness to chic [paging Wallis Simpson!] * and her Majesty must never appear to be unkind. She must always appear friendly and approachable."
As I watched Kate Middleton in her Sarah Burton-for-the house-of-Alexander McQueen frock, I scrutinized her for any traces of unkind chic. Alexander McQueen, the subject of a poignant retrospective opening at the Met Costume Institute on Monday night, was known for wild experimentation. But Kate was pitch perfect. Nothing too insanely fashiony or arch. No stylish self-indulgence. Nothing radical or innovative. Tudor-esque in silhouette, the frock had a tight bodice and sleeves, contracting with a flaring structured skirt. Mary Queen of Scots meets Grace Kelly. She was in every respect an archetypically pretty princess, an Audrey Hepburn for the 21st century! (See, my commentary is TV-ready!)
As I watched her sailing down the aisle like a romance novel heroine, a serious question formed itself under that powdered wig of mine. Might the lovely Kate, with her modest allure, her natural bosom and her quiet mystery, have the power to stem the flood of boob-jiggling hooker style which has engulfed not just fashion, but our entire culture? Could April 29, 2011 mark the beginning of a whole new era of elegant restraint?
An entire generation has grown up in a world of hair extensions, pneumatic hooters, and stripper poles. In the absence of a Jackie Kennedy or a Grace Kelly, these kids—and their mothers!—have been subjected to an unadulterated diet of Girls Gone Wild, busty Real Housewives, Jenna Jameson, and The Girls Next Door. The message? "Hotness" is the single viable currency. The only effective way to get attention is to flaunt your lady bits. Now along comes Kate, the anti-hooker, garnering the attention and admiration of the entire world with barely a glimpse of flesh.
My prediction: If she keeps up the simple elegance, she might well make a dent in the all-pervading culture of porno-chic. At the very least brunette Kate could de-popularize our global addiction to peroxide.
Aside from that, how did you enjoy the show, Mrs. Lincoln? Not a dull moment. Loved the rosy-cheeked choirboys and the aging prelates with their gorgeous robes and exploding eyebrows. J'adore'd Fergie's daughters in their insane hats sitting right behind the bright yellow Brenda.
Speaking of which: Am I the only person who lamented the absence of Fergie? The goofy ebullience and joie-de-vivre that have caused the Royal Family so much agita were poignantly absent. A similar thing happened at Chuck and Di's wedding back in 1981: Back then it was lady novelist Barbara Cartland who was relegated to the salon des refusees. Even though Babs was a relative of the Spencer family, she was asked not to attend as her presence might prove "distracting." Given that she always wore gaudy pastel satin gowns, 10 sets of fake lashes, and outrageous ostrich feather hats, thereby resembling a circus poodle, this was a strong possibility.
Back to Kate. With Mrs. Wills poised to eradicate ho culture from your lifestyle and your closet, it's not too early to start thinking of ways to recycle all your thongs, pasties, porno-pumps, and halter tops. Since fashion is a pendulum, it might be best to store them all in acid-free tissue paper so that you can eventually make them available to your grandchildren: "These were mine once, back when I was young and vagazzled and spray-tanned," you will say, tearfully unveling your raunchy relics to your wide-eyed heirs, adding, "I am not quite sure why, but I suddenly stopped wearing them on the day Kate and Wills got hitched!"
Kate and Wills, mazel tov!
P.S. Am currently accepting bookings to Royal-Watch Harry's nuptials. I feel confident that both Fergie and I will be invited. Click to see a slide show on the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Watch a video clip of the wedding:
Correction, May 11, 2011: This article originally misspelled the name of Wallis Simpson. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Simon Doonan is an author, fashion commentator, and creative ambassador for Barneys New York.(Photo by Roxanne Lowit.)