· Reconciling my love of royal fashion with the cost and sometimes controversy of a royal wardrobe ·
As you’ve probably noticed if you read my blog, I love royal fashion. I love following what the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex wear, along with other royals such as Queen Letizia of Spain or Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. It’s partly because they wear beautiful clothes, often in the class, feminine style that I gravitate towards, but it’s also the thought behind these choices.
Having studied fashion history and theory at the graduate level, I believe wholeheartedly in the idea that our clothing choices reflect back on who we are and who we want to be. This is especially true of public figures – almost solely female public figures – who understand that for many of the events they attend, all that the public will see are pictures of them. This is why diplomatic dressing is so important for modern royals. They are aware of this and often dress accordingly: a fern in New Zealand, red in Canada, tartan in Scotland, ring motifs during Olympics events, wearing designers with connections to the event; these are all ways in which royals practice “soft diplomacy” through what they wear. The Queen is truly the kween of this type of dressing.
Many people don’t realize how much thought is put into a royal’s working wardrobe. When Kate Middleton attends an event, she doesn’t throw on the first thing she sees in her closet. The location, event, attendees, and more are all taken into consideration. This is all heightened for a royal tour. Back in 2016 ahead of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s trip to India and Bhutan, The Telegraph reported that a team including Kate’s private secretary made a “rehearsal trip” to make “notes on factors to consider about the locations the Duchess will visit, so that she has an idea of what outfits will and won’t work.” The article reports that Kate is intimately involved in choosing her wardrobe and is aware of the factors that she needs to consider when deciding what to wear. The article continues, “The team took a photograph of every place the Duchess will visit, so that she can use these images as a guide to determine how formal she needs to dress and what colours will look best against the backdrops.”
While royal tours are undoubtedly carefully planned as they are often at the request of the government, day-to-day events are just as deliberate. It’s this reason why I enjoy royal watching, but it’s also this reason that sometimes I feel conflicted about it. While I’m a staunch fan of the royals, I also have strong feelings about the wealth disparities we are seeing in the world. Of course, the royals are a little different than the Trumps and Bezos-es and Bloombergs of the world, but when I read about the staggering cost of their clothing, I blanch. How often are the Duchesses visiting charities in multi-thousand-pound clothing? How often do they talk about wanting to help the underprivileged and underfunded charities while wearing something of which the cost could actually make a difference to these entities? How often does the Duchess of Cambridge have almost identical garments made especially for her, costing a few hundred to a few thousand pounds for something that’s almost exactly the same as something she already owns? It’s a paradox I sometimes have trouble coming to grips with.
Something else I sometimes struggle with is when they misstep in their fashion choices. It is because of the deliberate nature of their wardrobes that when they opt for a controversial brand, I have to shake my head and wonder who let them step out without warning them of the optics. This happened last month when the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in not one but two brands that were under fire on the same day. Insert facepalm emoji here. During the day, she wore a tweed Dolce and Gabbana skirt suit and in the evening, she wore a floaty gown by Gucci. Both those brands have been called out recently for racist products and advertising, with Gucci’s scandal having broken just days before the Duchess stepped out in their gown. While Gucci made a swift apology and is continuing to develop programs to improve their awareness and social impact, Stefano Gabbana doubled down with racist remarks before issuing an apology but not doing much else to remedy the problem. Understanding how much thought is put into what Kate wears, it is hard to stomach a day in which she wore two brands dealing with a racism controversy.
Similarly, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a surprise visit to sign a condolence book in honor of the Christchurch victims this week, Meghan stepped out in a black Gucci coat. While, appropriately, What Meghan Wore chose not to cover Meghan’s fashion at this event (other than her earrings which were a gift from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern), Elizabeth Holmes of So Many Thoughts fame argued that by wearing Gucci Meghan made it a fashion moment. With the scandal, by choosing to wear the brand, she opened herself up for comments on what she was wearing rather than keeping the focus on why she was there. We know she has other black coats, so why choose a new one by a company still grappling with controversy? The royals are supposed to stay politically neutral and, in my opinion, abstaining from wearing a brand which such a recent scandal should be a no-brainer.
I suppose both the staggering cost of their wardrobes and their fashion missteps are nice reminders that royals are simultaneously not like us and just like us. They’re not like us because they have purse strings and connections to curate wardrobes that cost a small fortune. And they’re just like us because despite the thought that goes into that wardrobe, they still make mistakes. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully reconcile my love for royal fashion watching with the cost it incurs and I won’t ever stop marveling at how they could choose a brand that’s under fire. Instead, I’ll embrace the nuances it adds to one of my favorite hobbies, reminding me that it’s okay to not like everything they do or wear and to be conscious of these things on the much muchsmaller scale they have in my own life.