What would you expect a new bride to wear? Especially if she got married in what was the wedding of the decade in a gown that started an industry of its own? Kate Middleton, now known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, isn’t breaking the royal bank for designer threads (which would have been appropriate considering she just got married and hello! She is a princess!). Instead she is repeating outfits within two months of wearing them and paying for them on her own.
Imagine the tabloid fate of an Indian actress if she decided to do the same! The cursor-happy clan of bloggers and tabloid reporters who are not known for mincing words when it comes to uncovering celebrity style and scandals, wouldn’t have spared a moment in robbing her and her stylist of a good night’s sleep. Because repeat offenders, as they are called, undergo piece-by-piece analysis in fashion blogs and tabloids of their outfits ‘then’ and ‘now’. With helpful suggestions like ‘Hire a better stylist’, ‘Couldn’t a designer supply her with a freebie?’ and ‘Why does SHE need to repeat her outfit?’ stacked generously in the comments section."We have become conscious of brands and celebrity style only in the past few years while, in the US, celebrity watching has been a trend for a long time. Our media, be it online, television or print, have started paying enormous attention to what a public figure is wearing only recently. Earlier anyone would wear anything they liked as long as they weren’t shooting," says celebrity stylist Vijayta Kumar, remembering how Karisma Kapoor even wore a grey-toned formal business suit and unkempt, long hair in 1997 as she collected her Best Supporting Actress award for Dil To Pagal Hai.
Low pressure area
But even the fierce paparazzi of the Hollywood-obsessed West mended its celebrity-dissing ways post-recession, allowing the emergence of Michelle Obama as a style icon. Frugal fashion had its day in the sun when MObama (as she is dubbed by the tabloids) cleverly repeated her cardigans, dresses and coats on major public appearances during the campaigning and after Barack Obama assumed office as the US president.
Turning from an average first lady to a fashion darling, appearing on the cover of US Vogue and other fashion magazines, MObama had her country’s press eating out of her daintily manicured hands. “One thing that people love about Michelle Obama is that she is such a real life woman, practical and pragmatic. In this day and age, it’s really tacky to think you would not repeat outfits,” said Kim France, editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Lucky, to a local magazine called Politico."I think the fact that [the first lady] re-wears pieces from her wardrobe shows deference to the economy... but more so, it’s normal," said Mary Tomer, author of the book Mrs O: The Face of Fashion Democracy and writer of the blog Mrs-O.org. "Even in the White House, it doesn’t seem practical that a dress or a pair of shoes would only be worn once," she remarked to Politico. The Huffington Post also wrote: "While many Hollywood starlets would rather eat dirt than be photographed in the same outfit twice, the recession-ready Michelle Obama makes no bones about wearing the same article of clothing again and again and again."
And now Kate Middleton is sparking a similar frenzy with her multiple repeats on her latest tour on the US and Canada. “Times are tough – I cannot be expected to wear a new outfit for every royal engagement. I am not a fashion model,” she is known to have said. Which is why she doesn’t just repeat her outfits but also complete looks, the latest being her official portrait for the upcoming North American tour, which sees her repeating an Amanda Wakeley jacket she had worn as recently as April, weeks before her wedding.
Even the normally acerbic celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has registered his approval for her recycled style. “Who says you can’t wear the same gown twice to different events? Anna Wintour is a repeat offender, and apparently so is Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. The gorgeous Middleton wore a black and white dress this past Saturday as she attended a wedding at St Michael and All Angels church. Middleton finished her look with a black hat, black clutch, and black heels. “Rewind to 2007 and Kate wore the same dress while out partying at Boujis Nightclub in London. Back then she wore the dress with a large black belt and a black cardigan. We’re liking (sic) both looks. And we’re especially liking (sic) that Kate isn’t afraid to pull out older outfits from her closet to reuse,” wrote Perez on his website recently.
The New York Magazine also agreed: “Over the course of three public appearances this past weekend, Kate Middleton brought out eight pieces of her wardrobe for the ever more frenzied fashion press (guilty as charged). And she’s worn at least six of them before! How thrifty of her.” They mentioned this against a slideshow that chronicles all her looks so far.End of an icon?
Even though these ladies have set new benchmarks with their recurring outfits, there is a feeling that this does strip them of their fashion icon status. As designer Anand Bhushan says, "Every day they should start a new trend with what they wear. The book by Jacqueline Kennedy’s personal couturier Oleg Cassini is called A Thousand Days of Magic for a reason. She created style with each one of her looks and specifically by not repeating them. If you are a starlet whom no one cares about then it works, but a style icon cannot go repeating her clothes every three months," he says.
Perhaps that’s why actresses and socialites have become extremely cautious of how they dress in public. Actress Sarah Jane Dias stoically says that she doesn’t worry about being seen in the same clothes on different occasions. But she does admit that there is a lot of pressure on celebrities. “With movie stars replacing models as cover girls of fashion magazines, there is increased pressure on celebrities as role models. I try not to repeat my red carpet looks in public. Fashion blogs and tabloids have caused me to experiment more with my look,” she says.
Wardrobe without end
But having faced the wrath of the self-proclaimed fashion police, all celebs are not as understanding. Jewellry designer Queenie Singh wonders what gives journalists the authority to dig out photographs from archives that are almost four years old and pass scathing judgments on celebs. “Do they think that we will spend $1,000 on an outfit and not wear it more than once? Women who think that they will be called fashionistas by not repeating their outfits are being foolish. I am known to indulge in fashion and style, but I make no bones about repeating outfits. Take a classic like a Herve Leger bandage dress; you should wear it as long as you look good in it,” she says.
Her ire is shared by stylists. “I wonder whether the people who put up these stories on websites and tabloids wear their expensive Louboutin shoes just once. Do they slip out of their McQueen after just one evening? It’s an absolutely ridiculous thing to expect and so not just,” says celebrity stylist Jayati Bose who does feel, however, that ensembles should be smartly mixed using different shoes, bags and accessories if they’re being repeated.
Though the fashion blogs and tabloids ensure that a celebrity steps on hot coals each time she makes a public appearance, do they equally recognise a good thing when they see it? Says stylist for many B-town actors and actresses, Vijayta Kumar, “Our media will not be interested in frugal fashion. And while it’s justified to criticise the looks of actors whose off-sets style is now as important as their acting, extending it to singers, directors, and businessmen is a bit much. AR Rahman was in the line of fire when he borrowed a pair of sunglasses to shield his eyes from laser lights at a concert and was widely written about the next morning,” she says, adding that it is unfair to comment that Saif Ali Khan looks better in a suit than Rahman does in a similar ensemble. “It’s an actor’s job to look good. Because of their unfair judgment, a lot of the bitchy fashion blogs out there have had to tone their posts down,” she says.
Shuffle the pack
We tried to contact the popular fashion blogs floating in cyberspace, but most of them refused to comment on the subject. Nandini Shenoy of the popular blog Pinkvilla was one of the few who responded. She said that she sees no problems if celebrities repeat their clothes. “Often these posts are written in jest and also to highlight the ‘human’ and ‘normal’ side of celebrities. But if the post is written in such a way that you depict the act as a crime, then I would call it inappropriate. It’s all about the tone of the post,” she says, supplying us with a few comments that are posted on the site, such as ‘So what? They are human too and goes to show that that they are normal and just like us’. But she adds: “If a celebrity repeats a bad outfit, you see comments like ‘Please someone buy her some new clothes’.”
We wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that they get a new wardrobe altogether. But if celebs are so keen on becoming fashion role models of an increasingly Internet savvy nation, then they might want to show some flair. Repeat, by all means, but show some imagination. And we’ll like you forever!
Amrita Rao: With her unending love for pageant-y gowns for most public appearances, Amrita sits right on top of the repeat offenders list. She makes very few public appearances, so her outfits get noticed more, and even then, she repeats her clothes.
Ekta Kapoor: Loyal to her prehistoric platforms which she mostly chooses to wear with black opaque stockings and a toe or two sticking out for good measure. We are beginning to believe it’s another one of her lucky charms!
Aishwarya Rai: We are convinced she has a warehouse where all her clothes are stored in a temperature controlled environment! But she too seems to be in love with her anarkalis and suits, wearing the same creations by Manish Malhotra and Sabyasachi on many occasions.
Lara Dutta & Preity Zinta: Known to accessorise their outfits differently, both ‘earn props’ for keeping it fresh even while doing a redux. They usually try and opt for a different styling when repeating a look
If you must, recycle with style
None of us boasts of a closet that’s like a bottomless pit. Carrie’s feather carpeted, walk-in closet which Big gifted her as a wedding present in the first Sex and The City movie is still what our fashion dreams are made of! But the constraints of a limited wardrobe mean that you would have to repeat outfits more often. So, we asked designer Anand Bhushan to help us sort out our ‘repeating’ woes!
Concentrate on buying classics that can be paired differently. Suppose it’s an LBD (Little Black Dress): pair with an evening jacket for a formal event and a denim one to keep it more casual.
Always invest in your accessories even if you don’t plan your look in advance. A different belt, handbag or shoes can make a huge difference in customising your look.
Keep one key piece in the entire ensemble and construct your look around it. It could be a blazer, a skirt or a dress. .
Be a trend setter and find out what hair and makeup looks work for you and use them to your best advantage. If your dress happens to have embellished sleeves, then show them off with a high up-do or a low pony depending on what suits your face.
Go barter! Get your girlfriends together and live in each other’s wardrobes for a week. This way you could try new styles that you have never tried before and integrate them into your own later.
From HT Brunch, July 3
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