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Hot Fashion, Lukewarm Style From Royal Wedding


The music that accompanied Kate Middleton, as she walked down the aisle at Westminster Abbey yesterday.

The royal wedding served as a public viewing of traditional pomp and cutting-edge Brit style - from Kate Middleton's classic wedding dress to amazing headgear - hats that ranged from the refined to the ridiculous.

Who better to consult on matters of glamour and pageantry than Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York and a columnist for Slate.com. He joins us from Shelter Island in New York where he's presumably recovering from wedding week.

Simon Doonan, welcome back to the program.

Mr. SIMON DOONAN (Creative Director, Barneys New York): It's great to be here.

WERTHEIMER: Let's begin with the wedding dress that was the subject of so much speculation. It was designed by Sarah Burton, who is now the creative director of Alexander McQueen. Silk overlaid with intricate Chantilly lace, a V-shape neckline, an eight-foot train. It was a very classic, modest look. What's your take?

Mr. DOONAN: Well, I'm glad you used the M word. I mean I was struck by the modesty of the dress. I thought it was really gorgeous, appropriate, beautiful. But what you have to realize is that there's a whole generation who's grown up seeing nothing but sort of people with fake breasts and porno chic and stripper poles and cheesy reality show. Never had a Jackie O. or an Audrey Hepburn or a Grace Kelly.

And this is like a role model for a bunch of gals that have never had that sort of model of modesty and restraint, combined with glamour and excitement and elegance.

So it's, you know, I once had a conversation with a guy who designed a lot of the royal attire. And he said to me the royal family can never be chic, because chic is very unkind. There's an unkindness and a coldness to chic.

WERTHEIMER: Which brings me to Queen Elizabeth in yellow, which the palace called primrose. What did you think of that outfit?

Mr. DOONAN: Well, I'm not a big monarchist, but I do love the queen. She inhabits that role that she plays perfectly. She's a public servant. She's not some bizarre Marie Antoinette figure that's indulging herself. So the queen's approachable frumpiness is an important part of her shtick.

And I got that really from the horse's mouth, from this guy Sir Hardy Amies, who used to design her outfits...

WERTHEIMER: Right, of course. Yes.

Mr. DOONAN: ...and he told me Her Majesty can never be chic. She must be friendly and approachable.

WERTHEIMER: I guess Hardy Amies was the inventor of the whole dyed-to-match thing - the dress and the coat and the hat that match.

Mr. DOONAN: Yes. I find it very charming. I mean, I'm a fashion person. I work in the world of fashion. But I wouldn't want everybody to be high fashion. And I think the queen's, you know, dressing basically like an oven mitt. I find it very endearing and very charming.

I was born the year of the coronation. And I represent, I think, a lot of the British people who maybe could care less about the rest of the monarchy, but they do love the queen or at least they respect her.

WERTHEIMER: I was searching for a way to talk about dishing the hats. But so many of those hats did look like dishes - like satellite dishes, like very strange architectural phenoms, like the hats worn by the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie of York - the daughters of the infamous Fergie. They were wearing those peculiar-looking hats that appear to have been nailed to their foreheads.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DOONAN: I was very entertained by the fact that they were sitting directly behind the queen, so one got sort of endless views of them in their extraordinary hats. I think that's part of the British upper class scene, dating back to Ascot and probably before.

The outlandish hat has a place, which is kind of something to celebrate, I think, because in general upper-class traditions tend to be stuffy. They tend to be restrained. They tend to be conservative. So this is the one area where the aristocratic women of Britain allow themselves this extra piece of flamboyance.

WERTHEIMER: What were your favorite moments in the wedding?

Mr. DOONAN: I think seeing Kate Middleton arrive in the church and her husband look at her and say you look beautiful. You would have to be made of Teflon not to be touched by that, especially as they look so archetypal. You know, I've been - I keep thinking if Kate Middleton was sort of four-foot-ten and enjoyed eating pasta, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation.

You know, they're both glamorous, glamorous looking people - tall, statuesque. They have a lot of presence. So that's why we've been able to project so many romantic fantasies onto them.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barneys New York and a columnist for Slate.com. Thank you.

Mr. DOONAN: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.