The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Di who' Duchess dresses to dull

Washington, Nov. 4: At Wednesday nightís black-tie White House dinner for the Prince of Wales and his consort, Camilla, the royal missus committed the selfless act of wearing such a dull ensemble that she made first lady Laura Bush look as though she had stepped from the cover of a glamourpuss magazine.

Standing alone, Mrs. Bush looked lovely. But next to Camilla, whose Robinson Valentino blazer and skirt made her look like a large rectangle, the first lady reminded one of a bride shining brightly next to a dutifully bland bridesmaid.

Camilla took an aesthetic bullet. She looked plain and unremarkable ' except for those magnificent jewels encircling her neck and snaking down toward her tastefully concealed cleavage ' ensuring that she did not distract from the prince in his nicely tailored tux.

And for anyone tempted to bring up the memory of Princess Diana and her visit to the White House 20 years ago, Camilla so firmly announced her unwillingness to compete that she made it unseemly to even offer a comparison.

Judging from the simple suits that Camilla has been wearing since her arrival in New York, one might assume that her aesthetic goal is simple: Do no harm.

She has worn little that is distinctive and nothing that has been surprising. Observers have noted that the duchess is appropriately dressed for her age. But that just seems like a diplomatic way of admitting that one doesnít have anything particularly nice to say. Who among us would be pleased to hear a spouse respond to a new ensemble with: ďItís perfect for your age!Ē

The raspberry suit Camilla wore at the British Memorial Garden in New York was a lovely colour and made her look lively and cheerful. You look alive , darling! (How low is that aesthetic bar') The more sombre aubergine suit worn to the SEED school in Washington was a bore. (But then Mrs. Bush wore a rather bland taupe suit, so at least the two were a matched pair.) Camilla looked her most glamorous on Tuesday night when she wore a navy velvet cocktail dress to a champagne reception at the Museum of Modern Art.

Designed by Anthony Price, the dress showed off her cleavage and hinted at a womanly shape. She looked pretty, feminine and dynamic and not like a cardboard cut-out in a Prince Charles photo op.

Those who have met the duchess say that she is warm, intelligent and substantial. She is not a clotheshorse, they say. And that is wonderful. But she is also a public person about whom Americans know very little. (We are only just now learning about her work in fighting osteoporosis.)

Mostly, she has been known as one of two leading characters in a tawdry, public affair. Now, that tale is being played as a love story. The leading manís love interest needs to get better costuming.

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