Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A waist that made Nicole Kidman look dumpy and why Kate deserves to be more than just a clothes horse

By Catherine Ostler

Disappearing Duchess: Kate made even the trim Nicole Kidman look less than slimline

The Duchess of Cambridge has achieved the impossible. At the Bafta dinner on Saturday night in Los Angeles, she made the normally giraffe-like Nicole Kidman look almost in need of a pair of Spanx slimming knickers and a few weeks on the Dukan diet.

Though not even the most zealous body fascist could describe Kidman as large, when the actress posed next to Kate there was no doubt who was the more slender.

And this was Tinseltown — the place that pioneered size zero, the miniature dress size that equates to a British size four.

Certainly, the Duchess looked stunning in her Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen couture lilac chiffon dress, with its sparkling belt emphasising her teeny-tiny waist, estimated by onlookers at 23in at the very most (goodbye Waity Katie, hello Waify Katie).

It was the culmination of a two-week North American tour during which Kate dazzled at every turn. But there is a small matter of concern.

For though William and Kate were received ecstatically wherever they travelled, there is no escaping the fact that most people’s abiding memories of the trip will have been the Duchess’s wardrobe.

At times, this wasn’t so much a royal tour as Kate’s Clothes Roadshow, not least because she said so little.

Yes, she painted a red snail at an inner-city arts centre, cooked at a Quebec catering college, presented a cup at the polo and went down a river in a raft. But in the main, her role was to look princess-perfect in a succession of pretty dresses from an audacious range of designers.

Waify Katie: The belt on the Duchess' Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen chiffon dress emphasised just how tiny her waist has become

And the fact is that when a woman is feted for her fashion sense, the more pressure she will feel to show off those dresses to their best advantage — which means being super-slim.

Fashion doesn’t favour natural curves or, indeed, shapeliness of any kind. You need only look at the catwalk for proof of that.

It would be a travesty if, in her determination to become a style ambassador for Britain, Kate felt pressured to conform to the standards and sizes of the fashion industry.

It’s to be hoped she never believes there was something in the late Duchess of Windsor’s mantra: ‘A woman can never be too rich or too thin.’

Carole White, founder of Premier Model Management, which has managed the careers of countless supermodels, would put Kate’s vital statistics at 32-24-35.

That’s almost the same size as Kate Moss at the height of her career — the differences being that, at 5ft 10in, the Duchess is three inches taller than the supermodel, while her waist is half an inch smaller.

‘With those measurements and her height, Kate definitely could be a model,’ says Carole. Lingerie expert Keeley Toomey of Figleaves.com estimates the Duchess is even smaller, just a 30A bra size and a dress size six.

It wasn’t always like this. In the earliest days of her relationship with William, Kate was a comfortable size 10 to 12 and always looked fantastic and fit, being a naturally sporty girl.

It was understandable, of course, that she would want to drop a dress size in the build-up to her wedding day. What bride doesn’t — especially one wearing a McQueen gown?

But if anything, Kate looks even slighter since her big day.

Perhaps, like her mother Carole — who kicked off a Dukan diet craze after her elegant appearance in a Catherine Walker outfit at the wedding — Kate laid off the carbs to prepare for her first big royal tour.

Kate's Clothes Roadshow: Much has been made of the Duchess' wardrobe during the Royal Tour

But while it might be hard to imagine her tucking into a big bowl of spag bol, those who know her say she has always had a healthy appetite.

A fellow diner at a recent charity gala hosted by hedge fund tycoon Arki Busson noted the Duchess ate everything put in front of her.

Plum Sykes, contributing editor of U.S. Vogue, says people have got it the wrong way round: Kate looks slimmer only because she’s dressing better than ever.

‘It’s not necessarily that she is too thin — and I don’t think she is — it’s that expensive, well-cut clothes make you look taller and thinner,’ says Sykes.

‘That’s the whole point of them. By wearing floaty dresses in expensive fabrics that emphasise her narrowest point — her waist — she outshines everyone else. Plus she has the advantage of youth.’

Even so, some lessons must be learned from the triumphant debut tour. For all the positive headlines, the Palace must be careful not to turn Kate into little more than an ever-shrinking clothes horse with an increasingly fixed smile.

Apart from anything else, it changes expectations at home.

Out-doing the A-List: Here, even actress Reese Witherspoon looks heavy in comparison to the Duchess

Having raised the temperature to fever pitch in a succession of Jimmy Choo platforms and sparkling public appearances, it will be hard for the Duchess to slip back into the role of an Anglesey housewife in Hunter wellies and a Barbour.

As many have found before her, once you light the fire of public interest it is very hard to put it out again. Not even the Royal Family can hope to have one rule for America and another for Britain.

Courtiers may find to their dismay that there is renewed interest in the Duchess when she appears in the Waitrose car park, on a yacht in the Med or in tweeds in Scotland during the two months off the Queen has so generously given her and William before their next public appearance in September.

When she does return to the public eye, the Palace may well find that in order to avoid the impression that we are exporting a Royal Barbie, it might be an idea for Kate to ‘have a voice’: to find charities to make her own and causes to champion.

Of course, you must have sympathy with the awkward position the royals are in.

When Charles gets over-excited about public affairs and calls meetings with ministers, he’s described as interfering and overbearing. But William seems to have found a tactful line between not staying silent, but not overstepping the line.

How heartening it would be — and surely, for young girls, a better example than just looking fantastic in an expensive designer dress — if Kate were to be encouraged to sound good as well as look good.

The Disappearing Duchess: How Kate has lost her curves

Drastic wedding diet: Kate was a size 10-12 seven years ago, left, and still had her curves prior to her engagement two years ago, centre. But by her wedding day three months ago, right, she was super slender

Still shrinking: Kate hasn't put on weight since the wedding, cutting a slight figure when she met the Obamas two months ago, left, and last weekend in the U.S.


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