Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Queen's frocks

Lefties, the pure kind, don't seem to like royalty.  It doesn't take much analysis to deduce why campaigners for a level playing field kind of society abhor institutions of inherited wealth and privilege.

Once again, it seems that I am impure.  Firstly, I didn't grow up in a left-wing environment.  My freezing worker dad thought that there was nothing wrong with capitalism, except that he was at the wrong end of it.  My mum never ever came from Addington when she introduced herself to people, always Canterbury.  That should tell you enough.  It's not their fault that I did or didn't like royalty though.  Dad's heroes were All Blacks and Mum had her own weird mix of wealth and privilege and supposed meritocracy in the form of her allegiance to the Pope. 

Books on the royal families were in good supply at the Richmond Public Library when I was a kid.  I had a particular interest in Queen Victoria's progeny.  I recall writing up family trees of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Windsors for fun, to show myself what I had pieced together.  Funnily enough, I didn't bring them along for news at Intermediate - it paled in comparison to who was going out with who and how some girls (whose mothers didn't share an allegiance to the Pope and old fashioned values with my mum) had dyed their hair and shaved their legs.

Over time, I found some better hobbies.  Feminism, gardening and drinking have endured whereas genealogy and exercise waned.  Housework never made it on the radar.  In recent years, I've added sewing to my arsenal of housework-avoiding activities.  Which leads me to why I think I'm so interested in gawking at pictures of an 86 year old woman endlessly opening parliaments or riding on boats or collecting posies of flowers.  Sometimes I look at her younger female relatives as well, though I'm not much interested in the men.

Elizabeth Windsor's clothing is made to measure, fitted precisely and the product of years of accumulated wisdom on what suits her and what is uncomfortable.  Although she seems to have a perfectly lovely figure for a post-menopausal woman, and hardly a stoop for 86, she remains one of the very few women continuously in the public gaze who isn't young and svelte.  I've read, and eventually written, quite a bit about the impossibility of finding clothes which fit me, or many other people, properly, off the shelf at the local Warehouse/Postie Plus/insert almost-if-not-every clothes shop in New Zealand.  Elizabeth, and Camilla, demonstrate to the home sewist what can be achieved with a personalised fit.  I'm about a zillion miles from achieving it, particularly given I mostly nod tiredly to my sewing machine of an evening and decline to even turn it on, but looking at other people looking rather good in their new outfits, people who aren't frighteningly thin, remains at least mildly interesting.

I thought it might be relevant to look at Hillary Clinton's apparently unmade up pictures from a recent news conference in Bangladesh, after a tip off from the Hand Mirror.  But she still looks pretty elegant and coiffed to me.  Bright red lipstick, a tailored and well-fitting suit, expensively dyed hair, immaculately shaped eyebrows - the woman is wearing thousands of dollars of grooming, surely?  Apparently this is what Hillary Clinton had to say on the matter:
"I feel so relieved to be at the stage I'm at in my life right now. Because you know if I want to wear my glasses I'm wearing my glasses. If I want to wear my hair back I'm pulling my hair back. You know at some point it's just not something that deserves a lot of time and attention. And if others want to worry about it, I let them do the worrying for a change."
Quite, Mrs Clinton.   Please carry on using your very good brain to do your highly influential job.  I will carry on considering it dressing up when I put on leather boots instead of gumboots and I will also carry on observing the clothing of older women with a budget to dress gorgeously with interest.  For me, it doesn't take away from respecting the brains and achievements and actual words of Hillary Clinton or Julia Gillard (I wouldn't put Queen Elizabeth's words and achievements in quite the same category) to acknowledge my own interest in clothing and presentation.


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