Samantha Cameron

I was struck last night at the British Fashion Awards by Samantha Cameron’s appearance to present the New Establishment award to Erdem Moralioglu (that’s them, below). This marks Mrs C’s third time at the awards — she’s actually officially an “ambassador” for UK fashion — a record that is unequalled by any First Lady in any other country; certainly, any other country where fashion represents a meaningful part of industrial exports. So here’s what I wonder: why hasn’t Mrs Cameron had more impact on fashion? Or rather, on the global perception of UK fashion?

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Much hoo-ha in the UK today over the fact that the Queen and First Lady Samantha Cameron seemed to be a little too matchy-matchy, thanks to their startling similar choice of dress shade, at the Number 10 lunch held yesterday for current and past PM’s as part of the Jubilee. Personally, however, I think the one-two message actually works in Britian’s favour. Indeed, it has been a good couple of days for women in the public eye, fashionably-speaking.

The general take appears to be this was a mistake for SamCam, since one is NEVER supposed to in any way steal thunder from the Queen – even though details of HM’s dress is never revealed beforehand, so how, exactly, the minefield is to be avoided is unclear. I guess you could do what Sarah Brown did and wear black. As far as I know, it’s a pretty safe bet the Queen, who believes in the power of the bright, will avoid that shade.

Personally, though, I think the one-two message actually works to Britain’s favour, especially in this pre-Olympic period, even if it happened by accident. The two most public women in the country look like…teammates! They look coordinated. Unified. And all those good sporting adjectives. They are on the same sartorial page.

Besides, if you want to get nit-picky, one is wearing a dress (by Jonathan Saunders, btw) and the other a skirt and jacket (presumably by her in-house dressmakers)

In fact, this has been a pretty good few days for women in the public eye in general: Hilary Clinton also eschewed her recent I-don’t-care-hair scrunchies-and-lank-locks looks for a bouncy blow-dry in Israel, followed by a really elegant twist. It’s a whole new hair stage for the Secretary.

So is there something in the water?

Indeed. It’s called Olympic/pre-election fever, in which those on the public stage are hyper-aware of the fact that they represent a country or a candidate, and must look, at all times, the part. Get ready, get set, let the image race begin.

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Should first ladies dress for themselves or their country or their
husband’s agenda? This is what I thought last night when Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron made their much-anticipated appearence at the White House’s “official” dinner for the British Prime Minister.

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There is a tendency, among political leaders, especially of the UK-US variety, to engage in sartorial covert diplomacy during state visits; for the visitor to effectively mirror the dress of the visitee in order to suggest a discrete sort of understanding of the agenda — at least as far as photo ops go. Yesterday, however, when David Cameron showed up for his current US trip, the changed nature of the relationship seemed to be reflected in his wardrobe. One day in, there’s been zero matchy-matchy.

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Yesterday Emilia Wickstead, the woman who has been one of the more consistent, and under-the-radar crafters of Samantha Cameron’s image as British First Lady, turned up in my office. She was in town to meet Bergdorf Goodman, with an eye toward breaking the market overseas. So far, so typical for any UK designer with ambitions to extend her association with global power players. But interestingly she had some atypical ideas for how to do it.
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