Wednesday 7 December 2016

Stylish royal party cuts a dash

The older contingent dressed with gusto, says Constance Harris, but others made classic wedding-outfit errors

Constance Harris

Published 01/05/2011 | 05:00

David and Victoria Beckham arrive to attend the royal wedding
David and Victoria Beckham arrive to attend the royal wedding
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, wife of Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, arrives at Westminster Abbey
Zara Phillips arrives at Westminster Abbey
Princess Eugenie of York, left, and Princess Beatrice of York arrive to attend the royal wedding
Prince Albert of Monaco arrives with his fiancee Charlene Wittstock at Westminster Abbey
Britain's prime minister David Cameron arrives with his wife Samantha at Westminster Abbey
Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and her husband Prince Daniel
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

It occurred to me earlier last week that Princess Diana really did start the trend for Big Fat Gypsy Weddings with her puffball, behemoth of a dress and the whole saga of how to get a ginormous dress out of a carriage designed for more modest garb. Remember those creases? And that unruly veil?

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I was glad to see that Catherine, the new Duchess of Cambridge, modelled her wedding dress on that most stylish and elegant of all royals, as well as of Hollywood, Princess Grace of Monaco. As a stylist, Grace Kelly has been my lifelong, key style influence. No one balanced sex appeal and elegance like Grace.

Kate Middleton as was, got it right, too, with her dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

By the way, did you notice that subtle shift in the renaming of the brand? Leading up to the wedding, most speculation was on whether it would be an Alexander McQueen gown. By Friday morning, it was a "Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen" creation. A new phase has now been full stopped in that house's history.

But what of Kate's wedding guests? London society is a place of tradition, one of its longest being that of the wars between wives and lovers, and their differences in style. It seems to me that at the wedding of Kate and William, the classic contingent wore hats, the floozie-styled wore fascinators. Reportedly, 28 of the 30-strong wedding party wore hats by our own Philip Treacy. No floozie style in those ranks.

But in recent years, the wives previously known as the "lie back and think of England" brigade have cut a much more dashing picture than their rivals. The royal establishment, arguably thanks to the late Princess Diana and other stylish gals such as Zara Phillips, has gone from being fuddy duddy to fabulous.

For William and Kate's wedding the royal party dressed with optimism and gusto. There was colour, style and dash. Especially among the older contingent. Knee-length coats with bracelet sleeves in mono colour, from flamboyant rose to subtle hues of aqua, abounded. I did like the Duchess of Cornwall's deep pleated coat with its dip-dye effect.

Mother of the bride Carole Middleton looked perfect and composed in soft blue, especially considering the intimidating company she was in. Nude to blush pink shoes with spike heels -- no wedges and only slight platforms -- were the preferred shoe of the day, guaranteed to make even the worst calves look shapely.

It was very much a style that Irish designers and brands have nailed. It looks smart in pictures and provides for all eventualities -- rain or shine.

And Ireland was beautifully represented throughout the event, illustrating clearly the recognition of the Brits of our talents. All the flowers in the abbey and worn by the bride's party were by Belfast-born Shane Connolly. The lace in the train was from Carrickmacross. William wore the scarlet uniform of the colonel of the Royal Irish Guards, while the page-boys' outfits featured shamrocks and buttons depicting the harp of Ireland. Gemma Billington, best friend of Carole Middleton, wore our own Eme Vandal, aka Alison Connelly of Connemara. Zara Phillips wore a Paul Costelloe bespoke outfit and Louise Kennedy reportedly dressed several attendees, including Amy Huberman. I still find it inexplicable that her husband, Brian O'Driscoll, declined to attend when the 85-year-old Queen of England, is expected to trawl around a country where her relative Lord Mountbatten was murdered and where her declared enemies live, still.

But though so many got it right, classic wedding-outfit mistakes were made. Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, wife of Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, wore a flamboyant, Spanish-style outfit of black lace with dramatic red flowers. But the back shot revealed bad panty line. If you have a choice between knickers and knicker lines -- I say, "off with the knickers". While it was often a deliberate technique of the House of McQueen to bring attention to the beauty of a bottom, as was exhibited in bridesmaid Pippa's stunning dress (and I think it was clear which side of the fence she sat when it came to knicker lines), poor Mrs Clegg came off the loser. Having said that, men never judge knicker lines the way women do. She looks to be a popular gal.

Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, married to her personal trainer, wore a bodycon dress (Irish label Michael H's Gold have one very like it this season) that from the front gave a fabulous figure, but at the side definitely revealed too much information, especially a very formed bottom. Methinks the princess is suffering from too much body building.

I am tempted to come down on her like a ton of bricks for her lack of style, but then, you are only young once and you only have a body like that as long as you can afford a personal trainer.

While I was initially a bit bemused by Samantha Cameron's decision not to wear a hat, or fascinator, I have decided that the woman did all right. She looked comfortable in herself and that is the primary rule of dressing for weddings in my book. She carried a bold orange pashmina and wore jewellery with a touch of the same colour, and she looked great. Her ruched dress by Burberry Prorsum flattered this new mum's figure. We gave her our vote for best figure and bum after Pippa Middleton.

But although the etiquette brigade say it is no longer verboten to wear black, or white, at a wedding, I believe Victoria Beckham's funereal garb was highly inappropriate and a sign of the woman's distorted view of the world. VB looked like Cruella de Vil attending Zoolander's funeral. It was wrong, wrong, wrong, and if it weren't for that gorgeous accessory of a husband, she would have looked dire.

Princess Beatrice wore a classic beige dress coat and dramatic Philip Treacy signature hat, but she suffers from the trademark mistake the Nineties to Noughties generation are prone to -- far too much eyeliner. Raccoon eyes are not a good look. Her sister Princess Eugenie exhibited her mother's unerring instinct for a loud outfit that is guaranteed to get her savaged by the press. Dressed in peacock-blue puffball skirt, with a too fitted jacket, which emphasised her big bosom, she looked out of step with the elegant mood of the day. She brought her own touch of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding to this occasion.

Look and learn, ladies.

In the long run, it never pays to dress too individually at an event where lots of pictures are going to be taken.

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