Ellie Levenson: It's OK, Angelina. We've all done it

Wearing your dress the wrong way round is a bold feminist statement

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From speaking to friends who have young children, I know that getting dressed to leave the house in the morning is not necessarily an easy feat once you are a parent. Not only do you need clothes that have escaped any bodily fluids coming out of your child, but you need the time to ensure that your outfit is cleaned, ironed and has matching accessories, not to mention finding your hairbrush and remembering to clean your teeth.

Angelina Jolie has six children. Even with Brad Pitt on hand to baby-sit, kissing all of the kids to say goodbye means running the gamut of 12 sticky hands and six runny noses before leaving the house, with plenty of scope for having to get dressed all over again.

So reports that Jolie wore her cornflower blue Max Azria gown backwards when she attended the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday are no surprise. After all, we've all done it.

I may not be quite as busy as Angelina Jolie, what with the weight of both saving the planet and making films on her shoulders, and I may not have the excuse of having children, but only the other day a woman tapped me on the shoulder while I was on an escalator on the London Underground and discreetly told me that my cardigan was inside out.

I was embarrassed at the time though rather thankful to find out before facing the room full of people waiting for me to speak to them. If it were still the 1980s of course, my inside-out cardigan and Jolie's back-to-front dress would have been de rigueur.

When I was at primary school the must-have item was a reversible jumper that could be worn on either side. The one I most coveted had one large dalmatian on view if you wore it one way and 101 of them if you wore it the other way.

Although Jolie's dress looked great backwards – exchanging a plunging cleavage and a flash of leg for an altogether more demure high-necked look from the front, while keeping an edgy feel from the back with a full view of her tattoos – I suspect that it was not meant to be worn in more than one way. By doing so, Jolie rather cleverly, though perhaps unconsciously, managed to show both sides of her personality – caring earth mother and sexy vamp – in one outing. It's not virgin or whore, but virgin and whore.

Jolie may not have intended the dress to interpreted in this way, but by turning it around she has made a feminist statement as bold as the plunging neckline itself, and reminded Hollywood and fashion that it is not as easy to pigeonhole women as they might think.

And if Jolie did make a conscious decision to wear the dress the "wrong" way then I applaud her. For in the world of high fashion, designers try very hard to control exactly how their product is used once it leaves the store.

That's why many designers don't make clothes above a size 14, and turn their stores into rather frightening and unwelcoming places. But while they may be able to stop fat women and poor women and shy women from getting hold of their creations, they can't control what the thin and the rich and the confident do once they leave the store.

If Angelina Jolie deliberately subverted her dress, then she reminded the designers that when someone pays hundreds or thousands of pounds for an item of clothing it is something the designers should be grateful for, and not the other way round.

ellie@levenson.net

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