Little black dress, move over; other gowns deserve reprise

Little black dresses get to attend all the parties, while other gowns have to settle for a single appearance, according to fashion lore. 'No more,' Keira Knightley says by wearing her wedding dress for a third time. Who says the little black dress is the only outfit that gets a red carpet reprise?

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Actress Keira Knightley drew criticism for wearing her wedding dress for a third time. Perhaps the wedding dress is just her version of the little black dress. Shown here, Keira Knightley arrives at the premiere of "Can A Song Save Your life" in Toronto, Sept. 7.

Keira Knightley may have been branded "thrifty" by sneering fashionistas for making her Chanel haute couture wedding dress a "Little Black Dress" equivalent for a third public appearance. But by breaking the pricy, one-off Hollywood mold, the actress lived up to designer Coco Chanel’s guiding principles.

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”  Ms. Chanel once said.

To be “different” does not necessarily mean wearing something different at every public appearance, but being different, standing out by celebrating both a gorgeous, versatile design and her new marriage. It’s a classic example of how the fashion mavens send us mixed messages of “Wear a little black dress for any occasion” and “Never wear the same thing twice.”

This also reminds me of all the kids who ever wore a Buzz Lightyear costume or a princess dress 24-seven until the next feel-good fashion came into their lives. Hollywood has an enormous impact on our kids from the time they are small and want to be the characters in their favorite films right up through adulthood when we want to be the actors who played them.

The examples set by celebrities resonate through our families every day via images of stars dictating of what “trendy” and “happy” look like.

When a star steps out, the public has come to expect them to be going to monstrous expense and to be clad in something different every single time.

I suspect this comes from the fashion media who seem to take it as a personal slight when someone wears a repeat because they are left with nothing to do but snipe about being "thrifty” as if it were on a par with war crimes.

“Keira Knightley Wears Her Chanel Haute Couture Wedding Dress on the Red Carpet for the Second Time!” howled the headline on E! News about the dress worn to the Serious Fun gala in London on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

Apparently, fashion is more serious than fun to those reporting on it exclusively.

Fashion reporters need to step off the red carpet, sit down, and re-read some of the things Ms. Chanel said in her lifetime.

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” Chanel said.

When I saw the story about Ms. Knightley I called my mom in New Jersey because in our family, fashion news is always phone-call-worthy on a par with birth, marriage, and death.

My mother is a retired New York fashion designer who told me bedtime stories about her visits to the Paris collections in the ‘50s.

Mom visited the original Chanel shop in Paris right after the collections were shown there in 1953, 1955, and other years while Ms. Chanel was still living.

I have always kidded Mom about her almost familial attachment to the “French navy wool Bouclé ( a kind of novelty yarn)” Chanel suit with the gold Chanel buttons and the gold chain fixed to the silk lining of the skirt to weigh down the hem.

Mom bought the suit, which was a sample, for $250 and tells me it is worth close to $5,000 today.

“I still wear it every chance I get,” Mom told me when we were discussing Knightley’s repeat of her own dress. “It’s a classic and it reminds me of Paris.”

There it is. The truth about fashion is that it takes both design and emotional attachment to create a classic look that never gets old.

My mother is 83, but when she puts on that suit she is 25 again in Paris.

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” Ms. Chanel said. From her lips to Hollywood’s ears.

I think we should teach our kids to follow Ms. Knightley’s fashion-forward trend toward wearing what we love as often as we like.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.