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Kate: Royally dreadful dress codes

The article appeared in the Sunday Style on 17/04/16

It’s interesting to recognise what forms your personal yoke of oppression. For instance, though it forms the bedrock of many of our fairytales, both classical and modern, I can’t see the appeal of being a princess.

I’m out of step, I realise that. For most, it’s a fine fantasy; to marry a prince and live in a castle and have ladies-in-waiting and courtiers and regular servants tending to your every whim.

To have salmon freshly caught from the streams that run through your inherited lands, to be chauffeured in limos and gallop about on immaculately groomed steeds.

Many a heart is thrilled by the thought of designer gowns and crown jewels and balls, of stepping down sweeping staircases in sateen slippers to a room hushed by your beauty and prestige.

To have the world oohing over your every handshake and analysing the way you accept crushed and lovingly proffered bouquets from your adoring subjects is seen as an existence close to divine.

I think it would be HORRENDOUS.

Not only because you’d be living in a fishbowl, where every passing exchange is microscopically scrutinised. And not even because you’d have to marry or be born into a family so fiercely and deliberately inbred that loyalties and feuds go back generations.

It wouldn’t even be the guilt of secretly despising all the moulting corgis wandering about, or the creepy family portraits where cold dead eyes follow you, that would do me in. It wouldn’t be lying in an ancient four-poster bed on 2400-thread-count sheets when you know other people are scrabbling about for bits of coal to warm their bedsits, or the fact you’d have to sit through interminable functions and feign interest in some backwater town’s new Community Recital Centre. 

No. The main reason I couldn’t cope with being a princess is that when you’re not swanning it up in Monte Carlo or roaming around clutching a brace of grouse, being a royal is to live life in the most dreaded of all dress codes: SMART CASUAL.

There are few words that cause my soul to slump the way these do. Just opening the invitations would depress me. Because there is something weird afoot in our world. No matter how elaborate the planning of most social functions – the hours of refining menus and polishing glasses and erecting marquees — event organisers simply hit the creative wall when suggesting what their guests should wear. If it’s not deemed formal or black tie, an invitation will nearly always contain the stultifying stipulation: smart casual.

And what does that even mean? It may as well say: “Men, wear collared shirts, with short sleeves neatly pressed, tucked firmly into slacks or chinos. Or, a polo shirt over shorts and boat shoes. If you wish to convey some slight nod to the free, fun-loving fella you once were, pop your collar. Look of despair, optional.”

And what about for women? For the joyous, beautiful, multi-hued ornaments of the world? More slacks? A pair of “nice” jeans? A blouse with a “pop” of colour and “statement” jewellery?

There are so many ways for people to reveal themselves through clothes. There’s “festive”, or “Hawaiian” or “vintage” or “Studio 54” or ANYTHING except the miserable, neat, mindless, public-service edict that is smart casual. Maybe I’ll turn up next time in Ugg boots and a nightie. After all, that’s definitely casual. And absolutely smart(arse). And I guarantee I’d have a royal good time.

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