First Ladies of Fashion

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With the United States boasting a new and highly attractive first lady, and former top model Carla Bruni adding a touch of joie de vivre to Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, following the style and bearing of the world’s leading ladies has become a fashion follower’s dream. ‘Royalty’ pays tribute to the the newest additions as well as some old favourites. The newcomers (although Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy has long been a fashion icon) to the high profile world of international relations are not having it all their own way as royal consorts, from Europe to Arabia, have made their own marks. Conservatism can be chic and an understated sense of continuity, elegance and refinement delineates the style of Crown Princess Mathilde of Belgium. This Belgian aristocrat has a noteworthy acknowledgement of her fashion sense having being selected by Vanity Fair magazine for its International Best-Dressed List 2008. The blonde, blue eyed Mathilde, gifted by a most beautiful complexion, favours suits and tailored dresses. She has the elegant figure of a model, but her style is far from the brash catwalk. She is always appropriately regal in the most simple outfits. By way of contrast Queen Rania of Jordan’s story combines the harsh realities of life in the Middle East with a modern fairytale. Rania is the daughter of a Palestinian doctor who lived in Kuwait until Saddam Hussein invaded and the family left to live in Jordan, where she met her future husband Prince Abdullah. When her husband ascended the Jordanian throne in 1999 she became queen at the age of 28. Rania is a slightly different sort of fashion icon, as well as an aspirational figure for many Arab women. Among her favourite designers Rania includes Roland Mouret, Armani, Elie Saab, Prada, Chloe, Givenchy. Rania, the mother of four, is tall but being very slender she has the figure of a model and her looks are stunning.Fashion Feature vol 2106Today a fashion fixture, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark burst onto the royal scene through her marriage to Crown Prince Frederik in 2004 and immediately became a huge hit, not just with the Danish public or in her Australian homeland, but worldwide. Mary dresses with style and is always immaculately groomed; combined with her stunning eyes and beautiful skin, she still looks very natural. Mary’s physical attributes combined with an accessible personality and her easy charm, have hugely endeared her to the Danish public. All of which has made her an ideal fashion ambassador, a role which she carries out with great energy. Mary has a lovely, svelte figure which allows her to enjoy a wide variety of styles. She looks good in trousers and blouse as much as in her stunning evening gowns. Designer Susanne Rützou describes Mary’s style as classic and relaxed, with a refined sense for detail and femininity. Mary’s love of fashion has been compared to another Scandinavian princess – Ingrid of Sweden who married Crown Prince Frederik and became queen when her husband ascended the Danish throne as King Frederik IX. During the 1930s it was Crown Princess Ingrid’s confident sense of style that made her stand out amongst her contemporaries. With her own classic and cool confident style Princess Mary is her successor. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy wears no royal tiara but the first lady of France is undeniably a fashion aristocrat. Carla, the Italian former supermodel, has embraced the role of the president’s wife with a degree of conservatism, wearing the most famous labels such as Christian Dior, dressing in a classic and elegant style. As a former model Carla has made her daring fashion statements and she still pursues her career as a pop star and song writer. A little restraint in her fashion choices counterbalances Carla’s undoubted glamour.

Letizia, Princess of Asturias, née Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, has come a long way since the day she accepted Crown Prince Felipe as a husband. Letizia, a very modern royal bride as a divorcee and former TV anchorwoman, has become one of the most stylish European princesses. Letizia, a cool-headed journalist, has a little surprisingly looked nervous at times in her role as crown princess. But she is naturally graceful and rather petit next to her husband who is six feet four inches tall! The moment when Letizia came of age as a fashion icon was during the recent official visit of President and Mrs Sarkozy to Spain. Letizia and Carla looked like they were on a catwalk but there was no hint of a catfight – just two very attractive ladies at ease with one another. They wore similar hugging-figure dresses in different colours, Carla in royal blue and Letizia in cherry. Carla was wearing Dior with black Louboutin while Letizia was dressed by Felipe Varela. Another favourite designer for Letizia is Miriam Ocariz, considered one of Spain’s most talented fashion designers.

As a royal bride Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby was a controversial choice with her troubled past. But love won out and Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon married the single mother who has gone on to give him two children of his own. Crown Princess Mette-Marit is a very Norwegian blonde and has a very feminine, folksy, almost girlish style. She always look pretty wearing simple clothes but, always, has something added to the collar, or accessory to make an impact. Graceful and gentle Mette-Marit has great legs and is very tall. In the flesh she is even prettier and she has charming manners. Crown Princess Maxima brings an unbounded exuberance to her role as consort to Holland’s Crown Prince Willem-Alexander. The daughter of a wealthy landowner in Buenos Aires, she has adapted to the role of a future queen without looking back, despite the political storm that took place just before the wedding in which Argentine politics prevented her father from being at the wedding. Maxima is tall and statuesque. Sometimes photographs do not do her justice. In person she is very handsome and she has such a unique radiance about her. Her choice of clothes reflect her personality, she is Latin and in one outfit she will happily combine three shades of pink. A fashion choice that might seem over the top for some is an expression of joy to Maxima. At the time of their marriage Willem said he did not want to change anything about the woman he had fallen in love with. The couple’s public demeanour speaks volumes for their happiness together.

Fashion Feature vol 2106Sarah Brown, wife of British PM?Gordon Brown, is an attractive lady who has evolved her own style since her husband took up residence at 10 Downing Street. But Sarah is also a conscientious and thrifty person and the expense of haute couture designs are not her preferred choice. Instead Sarah hires clothes for big occasions. The rentals cost around ten percent of the retail price, still running to hundreds of pounds for which Mrs Brown foots the bill herself. This attitude reflects a calm, very grounded personality. Sarah dresses simply and pleasantly without trying to compete with some of the glamourous ladies she meets. She is always polished but practical. A striking contrast to Sarah is provided by the new leading lady of the?United States. Michelle Obama, for a variety of reasons, is fast becoming a fashion and, indeed, a female icon. And with regard to fashion there are already several books celebrating the First Lady’s style. Direct, accessible and bold are all words fashion writers are using to describe Michelle’s look. Her personality comes through in every choice she makes and she is certainly savvy. Michelle is comfortable with pricey haute couture from designers such as Isabel Toledo, Thakoon and Narciso Rodriguez; but she’s just as happy in something affordable to the average mum like the $148 dress that she wore during the 2008 presidential campaign. As she told chat show host Jay Leno, “You can get some good stuff online.” The ‘Michelle effect’ has already swept the United States and is sure to reach much further afield. Different backgrounds, careers and personalities, but today’s leading ladies would all agree that it is as much who you are as what you wear. From haute couture to cheap and cheerful, these confident ladies make fashion work for them. (Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol. 21/06)