October 14, 2008

An Open Letter To…: Victoria Beckham

By Jackie Hunter

Posh Spice yesterday stepped out in an Audrey Hepburn-style monochrome shift dress and won compliments from the fashion world. It's the latest in a string of sartorial hits by the woman for whom too much was once never enough

Dear Victoria,

The only occasion on which I've seen you in the flesh (and let's use that term sparingly) was five years ago at a Vogue party in New York. The sighting prompted a sharp double-take - who on Earth let this ten-year-old child wearing a sparkly handkerchief attend a louche, late-night bash in the Meatpacking district, I wondered. Then your husband appeared and it became clear that you were actually the distaff half of the couple once branded Thick'n' Thin.

On that occasion you were wearing a tiny, peach chiffon dress by Dolce & Gabbana, replete with Grecian-style pleats and bearing so many silver sequins it was a wonder your frail body didn't buckle under the weight. Your exposed skin was layered with fake tan - you looked like one of the Terracotta Army headed for a gay disco - while your hair contained more extensions than the average suburban housing estate.

Twirling round with your heavily braceleted arms stuck out at 180 degrees, you were evidently super-delighted with your look that night, but the general consensus in the room was that you'd gone somewhat over the top - this in Manhattan, where a mile past "over the top" was where most fashion-conscious women aspired to be back then.

So when you, David and your three sons decamped to Los Angeles last year, the style commentators collectively covered their eyes and held their breath, waiting to see what fashion faux-pas you might unleash upon the West Coast beau monde.

Not that many among the current ranks of Hollywood celebdom exhibit an iota of good taste, but they do adhere publicly to a strict (if strange) behavioural code that extends from the amount of alcohol they drink (none) to the time they go to bed (9pm, sober and hungry) to the way they dress in public (overpriced designer tracksuits with flip-flops and a prominent melon-shelf). Woe betide the incomer who fails to conform.

Initially, it seemed, they were right to worry. We all saw the loony high-heeled "trainers" you wore for a photo opportunity pitching a baseball at Dodger Stadium; the asymmetrical peroxide bob; the matchy-matchy frocks and Birkin bags in bubblegum shades; the bizarre flared jeans designed for your own label that left you looking as though your feet had been amputated.

Then, on red-carpet occasions, came the full-length white lace bed jacket with the Desperate Housewives hairdo and the "I- remembered-my-corset-but-forgot-my skirt" ensemble.

But get a load of you now, flying in to London from LA this week in a beautifully fitted, unadorned black dress that keeps your knees and chest demurely under wraps. The tabloids have described the look as "Audrey Hepburn-inspired" and it seems to me you are channelling Audrey in her most elegant film role: no, not Breakfast At Tiffany's, but The Nun's Story. Check out that crisp, white collar - it's practically a wimple!

In addition, your low-maintenance pixie crop is far better suited to a mid-thirties woman than those naff additions of glued-on Ukrainian-peasant hair, of which Cheryl Cole seems so fond. You've toned down the beauty queen make-up, too, giving your skin a chance to breathe and fade from Tango to California tan. You are moving on, at last, in the right direction.

You've figured out that dressing in one colour is the best way to showcase your teeny silhouette; that subtle accessories and toned- down hair mean you don't completely eclipse your expensive garments, thereby rendering the investment somewhat pointless.

You've also started to dress your age: if I might paraphrase a 1930s music-hall number, nobody loves a Spice Girl when she's 40 (especially her mortified children, dreading the guffaws when she turns up at the school gate in a zebra-print cocktail frock). So let's hope you've now firmly put behind you the "zig-a-zig-ah" element that resided in your wardrobe for far too long.

Yours sincerely, Jackie Hunter

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