In Sickness and in Health

If I am honest, my very first thought upon seeing Kate in her beautiful dress was nothing to do with style, cut, general radiance, or even the magnificence of the occasion. It was this: “Oh god! I feel so fat!” Now, I’ll admit, this doesn’t exactly sound like a very healthy mental attitude to have.

The problem is, I could never pull off a dress like that. I would look like a cruise ship, for heaven’s sake. I mean, a pretty nice cruise ship, admittedly, with a formidable prow and a sleek exterior, and a hell of a lot of welly in the engine. But a cruise ship nonetheless. And no one wants to look like a bloody boat on their wedding day.

This is a great source of frustration to me, as I would love to wear a dress like that, to get married in, or to do anything else in for that matter. Washing the dishes say. Or going down the shops. It is one of my favourite styles. And that has nothing to do with Kate, or even Alexander McQueen. I have felt that way since I first fell in love with Grace Kelly, many years ago, while watching Rear Window for my Film Studies unit at university. She and her early-sixties, synched and gusseted sisters have been a source of style lust for myself and countless others for half a century. They epitomise certain ethereal ideas about femininity, which are unattainable to the likes of me. So seeing Kate attaining them so effortlessly, and tripping along as lightly and daintily as a fawn in her yards of silk, was just a bit heart-breaking. But that is nothing out of the ordinary. It is, in fact, a pretty standard reaction for me (and, probably, quite a lot of other women as well). It is just an extension of the familiar malaise which arises in my bosom upon seeing almost any fashion image. It generally goes something like: “I love that dress!”/”I hate my body!”, with occasional overtones of “I wonder if I can get my hair to do that swishy thing that the model’s is doing?” Some people might call this a sickness.
‘The Feminist Plight’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

For Richer, For Poorer

The second thing I thought when I first saw the dress was this: “I wonder how much that cost?” I wonder this about almost everything right now, because I am poor. And Kate is rich. I like her very much, (because she seems perfectly lovely, and hasn’t done anything to piss me off just yet) but it does stick in my stomach just a little bit that she was able to have the fairytale wedding of her dreams and will now live essentially happily ever after, never having to work for a living and spending the rest of her days swaddled in bespoke Katherine Hooker and Amanda Wakeley, while I have to buy my jeans from a charity shop because I can’t afford BHS prices. It feels like most young people in this country are watching their futures slowly disintegrate in front of their eyes: affordable education, affordable mortgages, a healthy job market, reliable pensions to look forward to – these are all things we are having to learn to do without. So it is almost perverse to be confronted with such luxurious excesses in the wardrobe and lifestyle of the young royals and the rest of the young rich elite. Yes, the impossible dream of a happy ever after has come true for one woman. The rest of us however are sadly screwed. And of course, I don’t blame Kate. I know it isn’t her fault. She can’t help who her parents are, or who she fell in love with, any more than you or I. It’s not like she did it on purpose.
But… it sometimes feels like she did it on purpose.

Til Death Do Us Part

I liked the dress, a lot, so of course I immediately wanted to know who had created it, so that I could go and ogle more of their stuff. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. (Good news for Sarah Burton.) But then I kicked myself for being so predictable. What is it about seeing a celeb in a dress – any dress – that immediately catapults its designer into the spotlight? I would like to think that I use my brain, my enquiring nature and my discerning taste to discover and appreciate the talent of the many brilliant designers and artists of our era. But I don’t. I use Heat magazine and the telly, just like everybody else. And as Kate’s dress is, has been, and will continue to be plastered all over both, as well as every other media outlet in the country for some time to come, it seems I am unlikely to escape it’s influence. Or that of every other piece of clothing that she puts on her back for the rest of her life. Because she has begun a lifelong relationship not just with her husband but with all the rest of us as well – from now on, she’ll be dressing a nation. No pressure, Kate! I know you can do it. Just think of Princess Grace and pretend we are not all looking on. With baited breath. Eager to pronounce judgement on even the smallest detail of your attire…

Christ, I’m glad I am not a royal. I think I will just go on a diet and order that lookie-likee wedding dress pattern from, and make up my own Grace Kelly dress. I’ll wear it in my kitchen where no-one can see, and do the dishes, and contemplate feminist principles in delicious privacy. While eating Go-Ahead snack bars. (Or rather, the Asda Price equivalent to Go-Ahead snack bars.)
Oh, the good life.

By Natalie Bramwell-Booth

First published in Figure One, October 2011