Fanfares, please. The Duchess of Cambridge has posed for her first Vogue cover. Inevitably, there are the charmless raspberries of criticism and comparison from those who feel qualified to judge these matters.
Kate has been likened to a smug, middle-class catalogue model in one photo in which she wears a £35 Petit Bateau Breton top and leans on a gate with a knowing smile, like a busy nursery-run mum pausing to count her blessings. But it’s “all a bit brochure”, apparently.
It’s all a bit snobby, unsisterly and downright mean, actually, although it’s hard not to smile at the suggestion that Kate is channelling Jane Seymour as Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman for the cover shot in a vintage fedora and Burberry suede trench coat, as she leans on another gate with the Norfolk prairie behind her. Meryl Streep in Out of Africa has also been mentioned.
But some comparisons are more unsettling, no matter how inevitable. In particular, the compare-and-contrast analysis with Princess Diana’s 1991 Vogue cover by Patrick Demarchelier, all cropped pixie hair and arty black roll-neck, transforming her from Sloane Ranger to fashion princess. Where, commentators demand, is our new style queen?
Comparisons between family members are rarely helpful, yet parents fall into the trap, often with the best of intentions, wanting each child to feel special. Two daughters might be defined at an early age as “the clever one” and “the pretty one”, although neither is ugly or stupid. The result of making such contrasts may be that the so-called clever one forever feels disappointed in her appearance, while the so-called pretty one gives up any pretensions to academic success. Self-fulfilling prophecies.
Kate has clearly tried to avoid comparisons with her mother-in-law. She’s not dripping with diamonds as Diana was for her first Vogue cover in 1981. She offers no arch poses and there appears to be no airbrushing, with one smiley photo showing fine eye crinkles.
The photographs, by Josh Olins, are a collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery, of which Kate is patron. Yet they were also taken for the 100th anniversary Vogue cover, an indication of the style icon that she already is, and how much more will be expected of her in the future.
There will be other Kate + Vogue cover shoots, no doubt, which will do the important job of raising the profile of British fashion across the world, just as Diana’s did. But let’s avoid the comparisons. Kate sets her own agenda and style trends. She is her own Medicine Woman.