The easiest way to understand Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry’s epically-named girlfriend who is currently in the hot seat to be his bride, is to think of her as the anti-Kate.
Where Kate is mild-mannered and middle-class, Cressy, 24, is a wild, blue-blooded aristocrat with bohemian heritage. Her mother, noted Sixties beauty Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon, has been married no less than four times and posed topless covered in engine oil for a gentleman’s magazine, back when posing topless covered in engine oil was still considered rather daring.
While Kate was horrified when Prince Harry was photographed naked in Las Vegas, Cressy – who was actually going out with him at the time – told friends that she really didn’t see what all the fuss was about. After all, what self-respecting Prince wouldn’t get naked with a bunch of blondes one had just met in the casino downstairs on lad’s weekend in Sin City?
And while Kate was always rather eager (too eager, some said) for William to put a ring on it, Cressida is really rather hoping that Harry doesn’t rush into things, and is careful to put him off marriage and baby talk at any opportunity.
That's just how Cressy rolls.
The concept of Cressida being the anti-Kate extends very naturally to their dramatically-opposing senses of style.
Let’s start with the hair: where Kate is perfectly primped and preened at all times, with the arrival of her personal hairdresser at the hospital to tend to her glossy locks being the best hint she was about to exit with baby George, Cressida is almost entirely reliant on one single hair accessory; exhibit A), the much-maligned scrunchie.
Wherever Cressida goes, you can be sure that a scrunchie won’t be far away, trying (and usually failing) to hold her tangled bird’s nest of blonde hair in place.
The scrunchie is in many ways the perfect fashion metaphor for the woman who may one day be Princess Harry. The whole point about scrunchies is that they are comfortable - and who cares if they are messier than a hair band or more overtly anti-fashion than hair clips or a blow dry? Not Cressida, because being Cressida is all about getting on with the business of enjoying life with a minimum of fuss (and grooming is nothing but fuss), a defiant reproach to Kate’s cult of perfection in favor of a belief that there really is nothing so wrong with having unplucked eyebrows, a little bit of dirt under the fingernails and a very small make-up bag. It shows that one isn’t affected, doesn't need to show off and hints at the supreme confidence – arrogance even – of the pure aristocrat who, unlike the arriviste middle-class Princess, has nothing to prove.
If you doubt that, then allow me to refer you exhibit B); Cressida’s dungarees. Now, admittedly, Cressy was photographed wearing this pair of overalls at a music festival (Cressida and her crew are huge fans of music festivals, and she dragged Harry along to the Womad festival of world music and Glastonbury) where normal fashion rules don’t apply -- but her willingness to be seen in overalls is a clear telegraphing of her fashion priorities: comfort and practicality are her watchwords. Wearing patched dungarees with the legs rolled up non-ironically is surely a statement of complete confidence in one’s own fashion sense, just the right side of North Korean-style isolationism. It’s hard not to be impressed by the rest of this very Cressy look too – the neon sunglasses, the manky trainers, the friendship bands on the wrist. What does it say? My guess would be, “I’m free!”
This brings us neatly to exhibit C); the Doc Martens. Cressida is always wearing DMs. Okay, so she’s not quite going for the purple ones with green laces, but even a pair of black DMs is so retro that, again, it defies the easy categorization of the wearer. DMs are of course incredibly popular among students and gap-year students traveling around the world because of their remarkable durability, and its clear that Cressida – who only graduated from the Laban Dance Academy this year - owes much to classic student fashion. Cheap and cheerful is the Cressida way. She proves that by authentically following a strong personal sense of style its hard to go too far wrong.
But even Cressy has to dress up some times, and when she does its either a simple white or black long maxi, or a colorful print. The colorful prints are surely exhibit D) as we consider Cressida’s style: young, friendly and not afraid to stand out without showing off. You'd never catch Kate in these.
One interesting similarity is that both Kate and Cressida do much of their shopping on the high street instead of at couture houses. But the reasons are very different. Cressy shops on the high street because, despite her family's extensive wealth, she is basically a broke student, Kate does so for PR reasons. For this reason, Cressida has an authenticity about the way she dresses that Kate sometimes fails to achieve as easily.