If clothes maketh the man then one dress can sometimes change the course of a woman’s career in public life. Think the safety pin dress which took Elizabeth Hurley from the pretty girlfriend on the arm of Hugh Grant to a media magnet in her own right. The green Versace dress that turned Jennifer Lopez into international star JLo.
Last Tuesday, at the premiere for the new James Bond film, No Time to Die, the then Duchess of Cambridge (the former Kate Middleton, now Princess of Wales, future queen consort) established herself as everyone’s idea of a modern fairytale princess and a worthy successor to her superstar mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales. She did it, not by copying Diana’s outfits or latching onto Diana‘s personal vulnerabilities but by being herself over the past 10 years she has been married to the future king, Prince William and the 20 years she has been in a relationship with him.
I was lucky enough to be at the red carpet and I have never had so many messages from legal colleagues and readers of this site about one dress!
The first I knew that something special was afoot at the Royal Albert Hall was when those taller than me (pretty much everyone except small kids) saw over the barriers that the Royals had arrived. We had seen the celebrities but there is always an electricity in the air when royalty arrives on a red carpet. Security goes into overdrive and waiting fans instinctively become more respectful in what they shout out.
If jaw-dropping means people’s mouths falling open and their eyes widening, then this entrance was a jaw dropping red carpet moment.
The Duchess has always been elegant and I’ve seen her on other red carpets where her dresses have been beautiful:
But James Bond required something more. This was it:
Designed by Jenny Packham, the dress is part of a tribute collection to Bond and his leading ladies. It is undoubtedly a stunning dress. The detail and intricacy of the sequinned work on it was even more beautiful close-up than it looks in photographs. It will almost certainly end up one day, as Diana’s iconic outfits did, in an exhibition, probably at Kensington Palace.
But a week after the event I’ve thought about why the dress has had such an impact. It’s been on the cover of every newspaper and magazine across the world. People across the Internet and social media have discussed it for days. As I’ve said, I’ve had numerous messages asking if the Duchess and the dress looked as good close-up as they do in the photos.
The answer is yes.
And I think that is what makes it special. Usually when a celebrity wears a beautiful dress on the red carpet it is the dress that draws the attention. In this case it’s the perfect combination of the dress and the Duchess. It’s the seamless melding of regal dignity with Hollywood glamour. Of course, it helps that Catherine has the tall willowy figure to showcase such a dress but it’s her poise, her respect for her role and her evident enjoyment of the occasion that really made the look work. There was no ‘sexy’ pouting, no ridiculous standing in a ‘power stance’. It was a woman at ease with herself, dressing up for a special occasion because if you can’t be a goddess at a James Bond premiere, when can you?
The Duchess of Cambridge has had her critics in the past. People who said she wasn’t ‘feminist’ enough, that her enjoyment of being a wife and mother was ‘old-fashioned’ and that her loyalty and respect for Royal protocol was somehow not ‘exciting’.
But this is a young woman who can walk without clinging to her prince like a limpet, who, as a young girl, faced hounding and attacks from the media without complaint and has come through with grace, on her own terms, does not publicly air petty grievances in a self created role of perpetual victim, and has taken her time to learn her role, so that she can best represent the 1000 year old institution she married into.
Instead of endlessly talking about ‘feminism‘ and ‘empowerment’ she just gets on with her life and her work with a quiet dignity. Ultimately that’s real power.
This is her in the same week as the Bond premiere
Lifelong Bond fan Keeley has written her review of the film but here are my brief thoughts on No Time to Die:
It could have been 40 minutes shorter without losing the story
Daniel Craig is excellent and cements his position as one of the two best Bonds ever
Ana de Armas is a kick ass Bond girl
Naomi Harris is wasted as Moneypenny. She’s barely in the film and even then as only a receptionist
Rami Malek could have been a truly sinister villain if he’d been given more to do
The action and locations were classic Bond
That ending! Oh my!!!