Kate Middleton's Dress Sells Out
The intersection of fashion and celebrity, or maybe to put it more precisely, fashion in the age of celebrity, is a significant topic in my brain, and one that we'll return to here again and again. That's because in this age of celebrity as fashion icon, I contend that the art of personal style has been conflated with the aura of celebrity. More than ever, we can't tell whether we're interested in the clothes because the clothes are interesting, or because the person who is wearing them is.
Consider this. The Duchess of Cambridge just two days ago wore a red mid-length dress with an asymmetrical neckline by designer Preen by Thornton Bregazzi to a state ceremony. She looked lovely, and the dress sold out. And my question is: why?
For some background, this dress (well, a slight variation of it) by this designer has been in fashion circulation for some time. I first saw the black version photographed on Yasmin Sewell in the Fall of 2013.
To be fair, I'm not sure if the dress sold out after Yasmin wore it (and she wore it well). But the point is: since the idea behind this dress isn't exactly novel, and since I happened to stumble upon the very dress in stock on Net-a-porter just a few nights ago, I have to point to the Kate Middleton effect as a legitimate force in getting women to imagine how they want to look. This is incredibly powerful. To see something on someone else that makes you immediately act to get it on to yourself debunks every behavior change theory I learned in my past life as a public health researcher. Getting people to do anything (even if it's in their own best interest) is never easy.
Maybe it comes back to the reason why I finally bought something pink: the more exposed we are to something, the likelier it is to set off triggers in our head. Familiarity is a powerful force, and among the millions of clothing options out there, clothes can often feel so anonymous. Perhaps when someone we recognize wears something, it personalizes it for us in a way that maybe the runway can't. Because I believe we seek a connection to our clothing, this de-anonymization turns an average dress into a noteworthy one.
Here's another idea: maybe we substitute her style for our style. It's easier to put on the same dress as Kate, who always looks polished and regal and poised, than it is to dig deep into who we are, buck the trend, and decide we want to live in futuristic platform heels.
Or maybe, when the future Queen of England wears a dress, we get excited by the idea that we can wear it too, sharing a small thing in common with a woman whose life is anything but.
I think the Duchess looked lovely, but I'll pass on the opportunity to wear the exact same dress. It would feel too much like hers (and now a few hundred other women's) to truly make it mine.