It’s an old adage of addiction that you have to hit bottom before you can start to recover. But who knew the same principle applied to people with a fashion problem?
Well, it seems Princess Beatrice does now. The redheaded granddaughter of the queen (mom is Sarah Ferguson, pop is Prince Andrew) was widely ridiculed for wearing a Philip Treacy fascinator that resembled an overly complex pretzel to the royal wedding, but it seems the incident has sharpened her fashion sense and led her to hire one of the U.K.’s top stylists.
The “hat thing,” as Beatrice apparently now refers to the incident among friends, wasn’t totally her fault. Treacy must bear some of the blame for creating the item that was placed upon the minor royal’s head in the first place, for the truth is, that hat wouldn’t have looked good on anyone. (For evidence, click here.)
But such was Beatrice’s mortification at the global headline lashing she received as a result of her ill-advised foray into excessively dramatic millinery that she has now hired a stylist—the £1,500-a-day former fashion editor of British society glossy Tatler, Charlie Anderson—to help her improve her dress sense.
Recovery, of course, is generally considered impossible without a little humility, and it seems Beatrice’s wedding-day disaster was the trigger that finally forced her to ask for help. But the day of reckoning has been a long time coming. For Beatrice was never one of the better-dressed royals. (Maybe her mum, the appalling and venal Duchess of York, who was pointedly not invited to the royal wedding, was too broke to shout her any pretty frocks, but apparently her father, Andrew, is now paying the stylist’s bills.)
There may be a still simpler explanation than simple royal poverty for Beatrice’s fashion disaster—namely, a misplaced confidence in her own fashion vision. For, according to several photographers and stylists who have worked with her on shoots, she didn’t readily accept sartorial guidance before her very public front-row fail.
“Her sister, Princess Eugenie, was very open to suggestion, but Beatrice had a lot of opinions” is the icy comment of one fashion editor who worked with her and struggled to get her appropriately dressed for a shoot.
The good news is that even though Beatrice is still in the delicate first 90 days of fashion recovery, she seems to be seeing positive results thanks to her new sponsor already. At the Wimbledon tennis championships this weekend, for example, she looked pretty and summery in a cute white blazer and innocuous blue dress. At Elton’s White Tie and Tiara ball she looked completely inoffensive in a bias-cut Elie Saab affair. So what’s happened?
Well, not to beat about the bush, she’s lost a ton of weight since the wedding. Anderson (who through her agency declined to comment for this piece but has previously confirmed that she has got the Beatrice gig) is known for dressing curvier women—but there are limits even to her talents.
“She’s no Pippa Middleton, but Beatrice can actually fit into many more clothes now, and it gives her a lot more options,” says one London stylist who knows Anderson. “Charlie has amazing access to the best clothes out there, but there’s only so many favors you can pull if your client is actually a bit dumpy. Losing a bit of weight will definitely be making Charlie’s job easier.”
Charlie Anderson is well known in London fashion circles as a stylist with the ability to harness English sensibilities while also lending a hint of aristocratic raunch. Her most high-profile client is the actress Emma Watson. She has worked on shoots such as the Agent Provocateur campaigns, but although she can turn out sexy work, she is also trusted as a safe pair of hands.
During her time at Tatler, Anderson at one point assisted Isabella Blow (probably the only woman who could have actually carried off that hat). “Issie saw her counting out money very professionally one day and had one of her strange premonitions,” says Blow’s widower, Detmar. “Issie said to Charlie, ‘Did you used to be a croupier?’ and, slightly amazed, Charlie replied, ‘Yes, I did, actually.’ ”
Hannah Teare now holds Anderson’s former post of fashion director at Tatler, having taking over when Anderson left three years ago. (Charlie went on maternity leave “and never came back,” fed up with the famously bitchy office politics of Tatler, says one former colleague.) Teare says, “Charlie’s style can be quite provocative, but she is essentially classic. And, of course, working at Tatler would have been great training for working with the royals.”
So what does Teare think went wrong for Beatrice at the wedding? “The outfit, by Valentino, was actually wonderful; the color was beautiful, pale peach.”
Yes, but what about that infamous hat? “It may be that she is just not used to wearing such extravagant pieces," says Teare. "Usually, people wear clothes, but at other times the clothes wear them. Everyone seized on it in quite an unfair way and it became this comical thing. But so many people play it safe that I always commend people who wear something a bit more daring.”
In fairness, Beatrice did manage to emerge with at least some respect from the affair when she auctioned the hat for charity on eBay and raised a staggering £81,101 for children’s charities.
Well, it’s one way of making amends.