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Fashionism: can a generation of princess wannabes be happy ever after?

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Duchess of Cambridge; Princess Elsa

Duchess of Cambridge; Princess Elsa

There’s been much talk about role models for girls this week. But then isn’t there always? I don’t hear half as much fretting about whether David Beckham or Prince William are good role models for boys as I do about whether The Duchess of Cambridge or [insert any woman in the public eye] is providing a big hurrah or a fantastic fail for our next generation of females. Although anyone who ever believed the Duchess was heading to the throne on a feminist mission, hell-bent on overturning the status quo, was always setting themselves up for a fall. She’s not even going to stop wearing flesh-coloured tights. Ever.

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We are a world obsessed with princesses. Today’s Metro newspaper devoted page three to 22-year-old Gemma Beard, a woman who dresses as Disney heroines to cheer up little children. I admire her altruism and it sure beats other female-focused Page 3 options, but still, national news? And when Ms Beard, tells us – whilst sitting on a wall dressed as Tinkerbell – that ‘the classic fairy tales have… good role models for children, especially the princesses’, I have to take issue. Everyone knows Tinkerbell’s a *****.

I’m perhaps particularly sensitive because my five-year-old daughter has suddenly become obsessed with ‘Frozen’. I thought we’d escaped the whole Disney princess thing, but two weeks ago she attended a princess-themed birthday party (there’s another kind?), hosted by a ‘real life’ version of Princess Elsa (20-something woman in blonde wig, revealing perilous amount of cleavage) and ever since it’s been ‘Let It Go’ before breakfast and tiaras at bedtime. The demands for capes and skirts that ‘cover my toes’ and a long blonde plait are constant. She is yet to discover that there is an official costume (sold out at The Disney Store and going for crazy prices on Ebay), so she has taken to taping together sheets of blue paper to make a train that trails behind her.

As my friend, another mother, said this week, ‘At least there’s no wedding’ and that is one thing to be grateful for. ‘Frozen’ is a film about Elsa and Anna, two sisters, betrayal and friendship. But they’re princesses all the same and princess as a life goal just isn’t all I dreamed of for my daughter. With apologies to Mr and Mrs Middleton.

Does it matter? Should I fight it? Will an obsession with pink and long dresses and sparkly shoes at age five lead to an obsession with femininity at 15, 25, 35? And does me working in fashion make all this a matter of some hypocrisy?

No way! Well, how could I live with myself if I thought it did? All the same I’m want to make sure that I push the female pioneers and the punks and the peasants and the truly powerful at the same time as princesses are being pushed on her.

If I play her a soundtrack of Salt’n’Pepa, Neneh Cherry, Kate Bush, Astrud Gilberto, Nina Simone, Hole and Debbie Harry; if I tell her about Josephine Baker, Frieda Kahlo, Virgina Woolf, Marie Curie and Mary Somerville; if I read her ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and ‘The Worst Witch and Lady: My Life As A Bitch’ and everything by Meg Rosoff; if I introduce her to Doc Martens and run around in my trainers; if I let her get holes in her trousers and don’t mind about dirty socks and not go on about how pretty she looks (even though I think it all the time); if I wear a lot of denim and exercise with enthusiasm and roll down hills wherever possible… then maybe, in the reign of Queen Catherine, she’ll turn out ok.

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