From time to time my Instagram algorithm will taunt me with a dress. It is — unequivocally — the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen. Satin, emerald green, halter-neck. The dress retails for about $250, and is always sold out in my size. The ad that Instagram teases me with is a rental, which you can pick up for the eye-watering sum of $90.
This is the latest fad in so-called eco-activism. Rent a dress for an astonishing amount — usually a dress that’s sold out or rarely re-stocked — and you will save the world! Fighting back against the mortal sin that is fast-fashion. The trend is so popular now that even the British monarchy is getting involved.
At the Earthshot Awards, which were held in Boston, Catherine, Princess of Wales, wore a bright-green, rented Solace London dress. For the record, the dress was wonderful. Stylish, modern, and in no way an extension of the green carpet that was rolled out for the 2022 Earthshot awards. Ahem. The Princess of Wales paired the rented dress with Diana’s famous emerald choker, and looked more princessey than ever. The problem wasn’t the dress — which she rented for $91 — it was the message.
In fairness, Catherine was following the rules. All attendees of the Earthshot Awards were asked not to wear new clothing for the sake of sustainability. But a move that was no doubt supposed to present the princess as relatable has instead made her seem out of touch.
From King Charles III lecturing us about littering to Prince William scaremongering over “how long we have left to change,” the monarchy rambling about environmentalism has to be one of the most grating features of public life — and the one that opens up the royals to the most scrutiny. It’s patronizing to suggest that, at a time when many are having to choose between full tummies and turning on the heat, the environment is the most pressing issue.
Call me old-fashioned, but if I’m forking out close to $100 dollars for clothing, I’d like for it to stick around for longer than three days. Are we normies evil, greedy capitalists for wanting to own things? Eco-activism is a privileged worldview — just look at the vandals who are throwing mashed potatoes at priceless art. Most people have bigger things to worry about.
This isn’t a criticism of Catherine, but an observation that these empty gestures don’t really mean anything. Whenever the princess wears a dress twice, she is hailed as a progressive environmentalist. At the last Earthshot Awards, she re-wore a dress from a few years ago, which saw her commended for “recycling.” Is wearing something you own more than once now counted as recycling? If so, I deserve an OBE for services in tackling climate change. As much as I love and appreciate the British monarchy, re-wearing a gown while being in a family that owns multiple castles with thousands of bedrooms is hardly worth praise.
It’s not just the royals who are virtue-signaling from across the pond. Former British prime minister Boris Johnson’s wife, Carrie, was once branded the “first wife of all things green” by one publication because she’d rented a few outfits. Their wedding party, which was held in a country retreat, saw guests feast on “eco-friendly BBQ food,” whatever that is. While bragging about sustainability, it seems the couple forgot to mention that multiple guests arrived in helicopters.
If these people really want to provide the public with a meaningful gesture, they could. Donate money, roll up your sleeves and get yourself to the nearest food bank. Or provide blankets to the growing number of homeless. The Princess of Wales, quite honestly, doesn’t have to do anything to help the world. But that’s just the point. If you aren’t going to do something meaningful, sometimes it’s better not to do anything at all. Next time, just buy the damn dress.