Why it’s time to slam the door on these ill-mannered fashion critics ...
I understand why Michelle Dockery, Downton’s Lady Mary says that, while she treasures the personal freedoms modern women enjoy, she regrets the decline in old chivalries like “men standing when women arrive at the dinner table”.
It would be lovely to have men whip out the overcoat whenever a looming puddle threatens to splatter the hem of our maxi-dress. But I fear human nature dictates that men behaved in such a fashion when they were confident that women knew their subservient place in other walks of life — the ones which wielded power.
In fact the confusion over gender roles and the emergence of capable and ambitious female workers which the First World War sprang on the nation has become the most compelling aspect of Downton itself lately.
And I reckon we’ll see less generous displays of gentlemanly conduct the more the chaps realise their wives and girlfriends are keen to join them in the office as well as at high tea.
If they weren’t fictional, my guess is that Mary (right) and her sisters — as well as those feisty downstairs girls — would squeal with excitement if we were to tell them that within a few decades women like them would be high-ranking politicians and company executives, travelling solo around the world without raising an eyebrow. They’d probably be willing to contend with the odd door swinging back in their face for the privilege (though I don’t agree with Dockery that young men these days ‘wouldn’t think about that for a second’ — plenty of teenage boys still do it.)
However, I wonder how they’d feel if we also told them that, despite a little bubble of hope towards the end of the 20th century, almost 100 years on their appearance would be under more brutal scrutiny than it was even in a time when the maintenance of decorum was regarded as more crucial to a smoothly running society than fairness or equality.
Yes, women may be more free to choose what they wear in the 2010s. But God help them if they venture outside the parameters dictated by women’s worst enemy, the fashion industry, and the bloodythirsty envoys it sends out to proclaim ‘disaster’ whenever there’s a colour clash, a dodgy haircut or any evidence of weight-gain in the public domain.
This week it was Coleen Rooney’s turn to have her exterior dissected like a sliced-up frog in a science lab when her attendance at husband Wayne’s 26th birthday party sparked a post-party outfit-autopsy in a national paper.
Helpful arrows aimed at various locations on a full-body image of Coleen pointed out the six howlers she had made getting ready, including ‘far too much hairspray’, make-up that ‘would look more at home in panto’ and a tan which looked ‘more Alderley Edge salon than Arabia’.
Coleen tweeted enthusiastic thanks to her dress designers before the style commentators laid into her but I doubt the idea of disheartening the 25- year-old keeps the fashionista fascists up at night.
Of course Coleen isn’t the only one to get a fashion kicking this week. There isn‘t room to list every woman who’s been attacked for looking tired or wearing the wrong shoes. In the meantime, the demand for boob jobs and lip plumps in the impressionable under-25s just goes up and up. I can get over a man not standing up when I enter a room, but the modern penchant for publicly undermining imperfect women is a drop in manners that really leaves me fretting for the future.