Vanity Fair’s annual International Best Dressed List is a thing of many peculiar splendours. Like all Best Dressed Lists, it provokes howls of scorn each year, much sucking of teeth, and a great deal of everyone on both sides of the Atlantic pretending they don’t care one iota about it.
But we do care. In particular, that Samantha Cameron is not merely on it, but at the top, cited for her “conservative charm”.
Some US readers will approve – conservatism is the back-bone of American style and Vanity Fair, in particular, is known for prizing the safe over the experimental.
Some will be mystified: not having a clue who British Prime Ministers are, let alone their wives, is another hallmark of many Americans.
Many Britons will be gratified. Here is a woman who navigates her way past the modern Scylla of needing to be fashionable and the Carybdis of doing so age appropriately, with knee-length dignity – and on a reasonable budget.
Yes reasonable. Agreed, Mrs Cameron is often seen in Preen, Peter Pilotto, Emilia Wickstead, Jonathan Saunders, Osman, Erdem and Alexander McQueen (interesting, by the way, how often McQueen is name-checked in this current list by both the women and men featured on it; Charlize Theron, Eddie Redmayne, Jemma Kidd, Francesca Amfitheatrof, FKA Twigs. Considering the giant brands and budgets McQueen’s up against, that’s a feat not to be underestimated).
These are not cheap labels. However as an Ambassador to the British Fashion Council, Sam Cam has inside access to the a pool of talent, most of whom are happy to lend her clothes in return for precisely the kind of exposure they’ll be receiving in the afterglow of this list.
Lend is a key word. Whether nor not you buy the idea of Samantha Cameron, Creative Consultant of Smythson, daughter of Sir Reginald Sheffield, as Every Woman, on an Every Woman’s budget, she is smart with her money. She really does shop on the high street, is no stranger to Zara (she “loves, loves Zara”) and knows her way around Cos, Reiss and Uniqlo, which she highly recommended to me for its cashmere. Having met her on many occasions, she is always polished, elegant and just fashion-forward enough to inspire, without frightening the horses.