Friday, July 06, 2012

Thoughts about fashion and news on a Friday night...

I saw an item the other day while I was reading on the Internet that Kate Middleton - excuse me, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; not being British, I don't understand the ins and outs of properly referring to royalty, so I had to look that up - wore a dress to Wimbledon the other day that she had, heaven help us all, worn before.

This item - I refuse to call it a news story, because it is my position that what anyone wears, even royalty, isn't important enough to rise to the status of news - has been on my mind every since. I don't understand the mindset that, above a certain rank or social class or level wealth, there is something, I don't know, untoward, about a woman wearing an outfit more than once.

Yes, I understand the concept of conspicuous consumption and that it is one of the ways that people impress upon the world that they are of higher class, rank, or wealth. That is, I understand it intellectually. Emotionally and logically, I don't get it at all, especially the part where the press, the gossips, and sometimes people in general, take such people to task if they don't cooperate with the program and go ahead and wear something more than once.

I have to admit that my first reaction when I read the item was to think, "So what?" Still, the very fact that someone thought to write about it, and someone else facilitated its publication on a widely-enough website (I think it was Yahoo! News) that I would run across the item. I don't seek out gossip columns or stories about British royalty.

Later on, however, it occurred to me to wonder what message such stories send to the people who read them, and whether these message are inadvertent or deliberate. Are we meant to envy the person, this time the Duchess, who can afford to be seen in public only once in an outfit? Are we to admire the wealth that it takes to be able to do that? Are we to aspire to such wealth? Or are we meant to simply feel put in our places or reminded that we are certainly not the equal of someone of that rank and wealth, and probably never will be?

Or is the message meant not for the masses, but for the Duchess herself, that she should be ashamed of herself for betraying her adopted station in life? Was it meant to shame her into getting with the program of conspicuous consumption?

I suspect that Kate doesn't give a rip that anyone noticed that she was wearing something she had worn before. There have been items published previously detailing her fondness for shopping at stores those who are not married to the future King of England can also afford. She might even have laughed, had she seen the item.

The question is, should we care? Obviously, someone wants us to. After all, the story was written, and it was published. And whether or not there was a deliberate message intended, the item set off this string of thoughts in my mind. I assume that I am not the only one whose thoughts wandered in the same direction when they saw the story

I don't think we should care what the Duchess wears, or how many times she wears each item of clothing. But I think I do care that this is what we get in our daily news feeds, with a prominent enough headline that I noticed the item. There are important and serious things going on in the world. What someone wears, even if that someone is the future Queen of England, really isn't important in the grand scheme of things.

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