Back in high school, I used to love to flip through Glamour magazine while waiting in line at the store. One of my favorite features was DOs and DON’Ts. It was just inside the back cover and consisted of candid photos of celebrities or random people on the street, along with comments about their fashion choices. DO pair leggings with a slouchy, oversized top. DON’T rock more than one animal print at a time. DO remember to wear a bra under sheer styles. DON’T sport head-to-toe matching logo apparel. To my teenaged self, it was quite informative and highly entertaining.
And it apparently really stuck with me, because last year, when Kim Kardashian and Princess Kate were both expecting at the same time, DOs and DON’Ts was the very first thing that came to mind. All the ingredients were there: Two celebrities. Two distinct senses of style. And too many photographers to count, all poised to capture each moment of the entire nine-month ordeal. Not surprisingly, the two moms-to-be had very different approaches to dressing the bump, which provided a continuous stream of photos to compare and contrast. It was like the back page of Glamour had come to life, and – what do you know? – my middle-aged self was just as captivated as my teenaged self had been two decades earlier.
The fact that my middle-aged self had absolutely no business judging maternity fashion didn’t seem to matter at all. Yes, that was me in the summer of 2005, pairing stretchy shorts with thigh-high compression stockings in a desperate attempt to cope with the heat and varicose veins – a DON’T if there ever was one! But let’s not dwell on that. After last year’s prenatal spectacle, I think we can all agree on a few things: Expectant moms DO want to consider a little extra support up top and DON’T want to go for tight, all-over florals. Looking chic and pulled-together? A DO. Forcing swollen feet into strappy shoes? Ouch! That’s a DON’T.
By summertime, Kim and Kate had each given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby, and I forgot all about DOs and DON’Ts. That is, until a few weeks ago, when the April issue of Vogue hit newsstands, with a big photo spread of Kim, Kanye and baby North. Within days, a new family photo of Kate, William and baby George was released. And just like that, it was DOs and DON’Ts all over again.
The Vogue photos were shot by Annie Leibovitz, and the one that tops the article shows the whole family reclining on a velvety sofa: Kim is wearing a lovely white gown, but Kanye is shirtless and little North is naked, with only her mother’s hand covering her bottom. It’s not exactly a happy picture – Kim and Kanye are expressionless, and poor North looks like she’s about to cry. I’m sure it’s meant to be artistic, and the effect is certainly arresting, but it’s also kind of strange. It just might be the ultimate Awkward Family Photo.
In contrast, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with Prince George and their dog Lupo, are seen in a relaxed pose looking out the window of their apartment. They are dressed casually and everyone is smiling: William and Kate are smiling at the camera. Prince George is smiling at Lupo. I think Lupo may even be smiling back at Prince George. It looks just like the kind of family picture that regular people might put in a frame in the living room or send out in a Christmas card. Until you pull back and realize that the window is in Kensington Palace, of course.
Is there any chance that the timing of these photos is a coincidence? My theory is that there’s a top-secret operative within Buckingham Palace whose sole mission is to find opportunities for the British royal family to one-up America’s reality TV royals. Picture a lone figure in a dimly-lit basement office with walls of flat screen TV’s and piles of tabloid newspapers. “So, it’s a family picture now, is it? Well, we’ll just see about that.”
Of course, the more likely explanation is that Kim and Kate and their families are simply playing to their audiences and doing exactly what’s expected of them. Think about it – Kim and Kanye’s fortunes depend on keeping our interest. Thus, their family portrait is artsy and provocative rather than endearing. It sparks conversation and makes Kimye a permanently trending topic. The royals, on the other hand, owe their lifestyle to the benevolence of British taxpayers, so it’s to their advantage to be as likeable and down-to-earth as possible. That’s why their family portrait looks a lot like the ones we have in our own homes. It helps us identify with them and narrows the gulf between the aristocracy and the common folk.
So what can we non-celebrities take away from all this? First of all, DO be thankful that you’re not famous – your family pictures will never have to withstand this level of scrutiny. DON’T take naked photos of your baby – they will only embarrass her later. DO smile – it just makes the world a happier place. DON’T leave a child unattended near an open window – keep an eye on the dog, too.
And DO stay tuned for Kim and Kanye’s wedding this summer. But DON’T be surprised if pictures from William and Kate’s wedding suddenly pop up out of nowhere. The guy in the basement is on a mission.