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Let them be Kate

Kate Middleton is the princess icon every young woman in the UK is trying to emulate.
None | By The Washington Post
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2011 11:30 PM IST

“Why are you here?” James Pryce asks, meaning here beneath his scissors, not here in this world. Pryce is the stylist who cuts Kate Middleton’s hair. He coaxed it into its glossy bounce for her official engagement photos and, he now confides, will also style it for the royal wedding on April 29. He’s young, stubbly and scruffy, a slouchy cool that makes one think that Kate must be cool and edgy, too.

Without waiting for an answer, Pryce points to a magazine on his work stand at the Richard Ward salon in Sloane Square that features radiant Kate. “Because of her?” The Kate-alikes know where their muse gets her hair cut, just as they know where she buys her clothes or stops for a drink. They make appointments - around $150 - at the posh salon, tripping in with visions of Kate. (“Loads,” hisses a dishy shampoo assistant. “Loads of them come here.”)

Princess Di was cloistered in royal life at 19; her public never knew the pre-royal version. But Middleton, 29, has been in the public eye for nearly a decade. She has shopped among us. She brings her fans back to that Cinderella land they inhabited as girls.

She wears enormous hats.

The Kate-alikes are seeking... what, exactly? Not whatever they were seeking from 1980 Diana, with her shy smile and the gorgeous eyes that always seemed on the verge of crying. Middleton is a princess icon and all that it entails (the ball gowns, the title, the William), but she is also a style icon. She is also — with her bootstrap parents and her college education and her snagging the man who seemed unwilling to commit — a sort of uber-aspirational modern-woman icon. The kind who could appear in a flirty sundress on the cover of Self, if only she would deign to pose: “Kate Middleton says, ‘You can land your prince, too!’ In short: Yes. We, the Kate-alikes, are here because of her.

Who cares what Kate Middleton wears, anyway? Fame doesn’t guarantee taste. Professionals have questioned whether she has style or merely a giant ring from the future king of England, which can be a very good substitute for style. “There’s a whole generation of women who have not been exposed to a role model who is modest and alluring and conservative-chic,” fashion impresario Simon Doonan says.

For a culture dominated by hypersexuality and stripper culture, “Kate Middleton has the old-school values of Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn.” Kate Middleton represents the third generation of royal obsession, the third princess figure to embrace with tours and collectibles. Will there be Kate collectibles? There will! At Leicester Square you can already buy plates, coasters, ashtrays and shot glasses emblazoned with her face.

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