Margaret Atwood became the latest in a line of women to publicly call out Kate Middleton when Atwood claimed Kate is an “uneventful” dresser in a talk Atwood gave last month at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Unfortunately for everyone, Atwood invoked the name of the late Princess Diana to make her case against Kate.
Atwood said of Kate:
“I think she dresses quite uneventfully. I think she’s watching her back. I think she probably has people who pretty much tell her what is appropriate for her to wear. I don’t think she’s become the fashion plate that Diana was, and I think she’s probably doing that advisably, wouldn’t you say?”
The press is turning this into two battles: 1) Kate v Atwood; 2) Kate v Diana.
The Express even did an article quoting Kate fashion followers coming to her defense:
Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said: “You’re a bit limited if you’re a member of the Royal Family. You’ve got to dress as if you’re going to a wedding every day. I think Kate’s style is really classic and elegant. Diana did quirky things… but I don’t think she was a fashion plate.”
Susan Kelley of WhatKateWore said: “The biggest difference in Kate and Diana’s style is the women’s ages and personal histories when stepping onto the world style stage. Kate was much older when she married into the Royal Family, and that age difference gave her time to develop a personal style. Diana didn’t have this time to develop a style aesthetic… Diana’s youth when marrying Prince Charles allowed her to be influenced more by fashion trends of the time, as well as designers and some in the fashion press. Kate has been less influenced in this regard; she clearly knows what she is comfortable wearing, and what doesn’t work.”
Here’s the thing, I’m not so sure Atwood was even being that critical of Kate in the first place. Lets go through this:
1) Kate “dresses quite uneventfully” – True fact. Kate does not take fashion risks and doesn’t really follow fashion trends. Atwood does not say this is a negative; she’s just pointed out this true fact.
2) “I think she’s watching her back. I think she probably has people who pretty much tell her what is appropriate for her to wear.” – This is an opinion and we have no real way to know this, but I would say this is probably true. As with most things about Kate, she and her team play it as safe as possible to avoid causing controversy. Atwood does not say this is a negative; she’s just stating her opinion on something she perceives (which is most likely true – but, you know, that’s just my subjective opinion).
3) “I don’t think she’s become the fashion plate that Diana was” – True fact. Diana definitely played more into the fashion trends of the time she lived than Kate does currently.
4) “and I think she’s probably doing that advisably, wouldn’t you say?” – This could be taken two ways: A) Atwood is saying it is a good thing for Kate not to become a fashion plate as Diana did. I looked up the word “advisably” just to make sure and the definition is, “wisely, sensibly, or reasonably.” So inserting that definition into Atwood’s quote, she is saying, “and I think she’s probably doing that wisely/sensibly/reasonably, wouldn’t you say?” Which isn’t actually criticism. Or B) Atwood is saying Kate is not becoming a fashion plate on the advise of her team. Which, if that were the case, would be a true fact and not actually critical because there is no opinion given on that true fact.
Clearly others read Atwood’s comments as criticism, but I don’t see anything to get riled up about in her comments. I mean, the Kate/Diana comparison is more annoying than anything given how much people compare the two and how much Kate courts that comparison, but Atwood’s comments aren’t that negative. It’s more just pointing out the obvious, and then (depending on how you read it) stating that the difference is a positive.
I can’t even get that riled up about Atwood’s other comments: that she judges women on how they dress. The initial statement of “Atwood judges women on how they dress” peaked my interest as a feminist, because my initial thought was “women are more than how they dress”, etc. But after reading her comments explaining her thoughts, I can’t actually take offense to them.
On judging women based on their clothes, Atwood said:
“Let’s pretend you’re meeting a person for the first time, as you do when you meet a character in a book. What do I see? Your dress, I see your face of course, I focus on that. I see your earrings, I see your necklace, and those are all part of you. They are all part of the total image of who I’ve just met.”
I actually can’t object to this. It is true that one sees another person’s appearance as the first thing they see (and if one says otherwise, one is lying – unless one first met the other person over the phone or online). Also, how one dresses is usually very indicative of one’s personality. You can determine a lot about a person based on how they dress. And that’s not sexist, that’s just a fact, for both women and men. So… none of Atwood’s comments are really that worth getting riled up over and I think the press is trying to start drama where there is none.
Now, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t actually know who Margaret Atwood is. She’s an award-winning writer, apparently. And she is old, going off her picture in the DM article. That’s all I know. So her comments may have been critical and derogatory based on her past history, writing, and actions, but I have no knowledge of any of that. From my very limited experience and knowledge of Atwood, I don’t see anything super critical or even really negative about her comments about Kate. They are just kind of stating the obvious. And the obvious isn’t a bad thing. Again, the press is trying to start drama where there is none.
A quick comment on Kate v Diana: These two women have different styles. Why their style is different – Diana’s youth versus Kate’s maturity, or whatever – doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that they are different. One is not objectively better or worse than the other; they are just different, and everyone is free to subjectively prefer whichever style they happen to like best. However, Kate does sometimes Single White Female Diana in her fashion. So there’s that.
Some of the other criticism Kate has received over the last two years (if there is any I have forgotten, please let me know and I’ll add it to the list):
January 2013: Wendy Holden called Kate a “retrogressive” and “depressing”, saying: “What happened to having a fulfilling job and your own money? I can’t stand educated women who don’t work. We’re losing so much talent that way and it’s a pathetic role model for young girls.”
February 2013: Hilary Mantel described Kate as a “shop-window mannequin with no personality of her own” who seemed to be “designed by a committee… with a perfect plastic smile”.
March 2013: Sandi Toksvig criticized Kate for not holding a “single opinion” of her own.
May 2013: Joan Smith called Kate “unambitious, uncontroversial and bland” and the “Queen Wag”.
May 2014: Camilla Tominey wrote an article criticizing Kate for a lack of public personality (that many did not see as critical, instead seeing it as sugary, but I still think it was at least somewhat critical).
More Diana pics, because why not: