“no sleeves, in a house of god”: sam cam and summer dressing

so the prime minister’s wife wore a sleeveless dress to an event at st. paul’s on friday afternoon.

cue the moral panic at the daily mail.


i got a giant bit of the way through this article assuming that william hanson was grant “sit like a lady” harrold. he is not.

he is, the incredibly reliable wikipedia informs me, “the UK’s leading consultant in etiquette & protocol.”

he has a sense of humor, which i appreciate.

he sorta looks like prince william…



he is, he tells us, “a teacup and saucer in a world of mugs.”

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.46.22 AM

he is amazingly brave in his willingness to be photographed eating for this daily mail tutorial on how to have afternoon tea



and i imagine he had no say in the selection of this font…

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 8.35.40 AM

which is waaaaaaaaay more evocative of the tudors that what i imagine an etiquette expert would aim for in an article about arm exposure.


so that’s william hanson.

samantha cameron is a businesswoman and the wife of the current british prime minister. on friday, she bared her arms.

via the daily mail)

(via the daily mail)

fyi, this is what beachwear looks like:

via google image search)

(via google image search)

this is what cameron wore:

via LK bennett)

(via LK bennett)

so maybe not the same thing.

which, were there no photographs, would not at all be apparent given the use of language like “One can only presume she was going straight to the beach” and the parenthetical “scantily-clad.”

it’s important to note that this article, as the headline suggests, is about “why everyone should stick to the dress codes.” hanson is implying that cameron has not done so.


(via the daily mail)

via the daily mail)

(via the daily mail)

conform to the dress codes, ladies!

except, it would maybe be worth mentioning that st. paul’s cathedral has no official dress code.

in a less alarmist piece on the alarm prompted by this sleevelessness, the telegraph notes:

hanson’s contention that cameron would be banned were she elsewhere is questionable as well.

via the daily mail)

(via the daily mail)

had this event been occurring at certain roman catholic churches, indeed her outfit would have been problematic. but, even then, the outcome would not have been as clear cut as hanson suggests here. it is likely not that cameron “simply would not have been let in.”

when i went to st. peter’s (years ago, admittedly, so perhaps this has changed), she would have been given a plastic poncho.

st. peters

or perhaps now she would be allowed in regardless of her attire, as jennifer aniston was in 2012. (a big enough brouhaha at the time that i remember it four years later.)

hanson’s certainty is misleading here as the dress code policy at the cathedrals is more complicated and bendy than he suggests (cathedrals actually want people to come in, y’know), and the event cameron was attending was not in a catholic church so the comparison is apples to oranges.

but i honestly don’t think william hanson was too concerned about cameron offending the prelates of st. paul’s. for it seems he is the offended one here.

via the daily mail)

(via the daily mail)

(1) what about this article about the horror of sleeveless dresses is going to help anyone feel comfortable in their own skin?

(2) i’ve seen no evidence that cameron’s bra straps were visible during this event. (picture, for a moment, william hanson’s response had cameron attended this service without wearing a bra.)

(3) “this sort of weather” = HOTTT.

on friday afternoon, in looking at the original coverage of this event- before it devolved into sleevelessness equating to being “scantily-clad”- i was struck by how seasonally inappropriate the duchess of cambridge’s ensemble was.

it was 75°. doing yoga in my flat, i’d felt like i was at bikram.

the duchess’s coatdress seemed bizarrely winter-ready for a sunny day in mid-june.

cameron, in contrast, appeared practical.

the duchess’s coatdress also begs the question of why william hanson isn’t all OMG, KNEES!!! i suppose arms and the threat of visible bra straps are the battle ‘o the day.

i’m reminded of that one time when michelle obama wore a sleeveless dress to the state of the union in 2009.

via ABC.com)

(via ABC.com)

a look that is so mainstream now that, in 2016, it drew raves…

via CNN.com)

even from the daily mail

but hanson’s cri de cœur is getting at something bigger.

what he is oh-so-snappily calling “Can’t-be-bothered-itis”…

hanson is, here, using sleevelessness and sam cam to make a larger point about how people don’t know how to dress anymore.

this isn’t limited to men, thanks to the inclusion of a teeny tiny anecdote about david beckham’s morning dress and OBE.

but it is telling that the clutching of pearls primarily occurs around cameron’s attire.

it is cameron’s comfort that is called into question, cameron’s bra straps we are in danger of seeing.

cameron was not alone:

via the daily mail)

(via the daily mail)

there are fewer photographs of frances osbourne, but her crime, too, appears to have been wearing a sleeveless dress.

(perhaps she warrants a special look from hanson because her dress appears to have been above-the-knee? idk.)

while this is not an article in “femail”, it is, nonetheless, clearly an article targeting female readers.

via the daily mail)

(via the daily mail)

an article wherein a male etiquette expert is policing a well-known woman’s body in the guise of coaching us into being ladies through a cluster of arbitrary rules seen as sacred simply because they are old.

follow the dress code or stay at home! that is literally the headline.

clearly, CLEARLY, in the hierarchy of horrible things written about what women wear, this article doesn’t even begin to approach the horror of the mail‘s article on theresa may last october. but it’s still indicative of the way we use well-known women to tell stories, to tell other women what they should wear and how they should behave, and the dangers inherent in the female body.

2 thoughts on ““no sleeves, in a house of god”: sam cam and summer dressing

  1. Had it been a man I would have pointed out that they were wrong, too. The fact she is a woman is irrelevant to me. But I enjoyed reading your article. Good use of screenshots.

    • Ah, I see. But I’d think that women’s sleeveless dresses can be formal wear, whereas there really is no sleeveless formal equivalent for men. So, were David Cameron going sleeveless at St. Paul’s, that would be a whole other story!

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