Susie Faux: Rosie was the medium, but became the message " /> <span class="h2">Susie Faux: Rosie was the medium, but became the message </span> - Commentators - Voices - The Independent

Susie Faux: Rosie was the medium, but became the message

'When Rosie Millard landed the job of reporting from the Oscars last Sunday, the BBC's arts correspondent was at a loss as to what to wear. '

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"I took four dresses with me, but was in a complete fashion panic," she admits. She eventually chose a chocolate-brown floor-length £800 Vivienne Westwood dress with puffed sleeves and a plunging neckline.

Her outfit reaped a whirlwind of criticism. Michael Buerk, the anchorman who received her report, turned to the camera after she had signed off with the comment: "That was Rosie Millard in the best supporting dress."

His ungentlemanly reaction was hardly surprising. Millard looked inappropriate. She wore something eye-catching because of a lack of confidence in her style. She comes across as an intelligent woman and must have had someone unsuitable advising her. I hold the dress shops responsible for coercing their customers into garments that are totally unsuitable.

Her gown looked like it came from a hire shop. It was terribly dated. I kept trying to work out whether the puffy sleeves were attached to the dress, and if so, how?

"Making a bad impression on someone takes five seconds," claims Ros Taylor, director of Plus Consulting, a London-based psychological consultancy which aims to improve business people's success rates. "It takes 30 seconds to make a good impression and reversing these visual messages will take several minutes ­ which you don't have if you're doing a short piece to camera for the news." I agree with her.

In Britain, bright women tend towards a dowdy look, particularly in the media. Then, when it comes to dressing for a big event, they go to a friend they think has good taste and end up making a foolish mistake. These TV women can't carry off anything flamboyant. They are reporters, after all, and if they try to dress in an outré outfit they look as though they are in someone else's clothes because their personalities have not been addressed.

Taylor claims that "if you're going to create a business-like impression, a plunging neckline isn't helpful. Rosie was sending out conflicting messages of 'I'm a cerebral woman' and 'Look at my bust'." No wonder people got confused.

This caused such a furore because, in effect, Millard was an ambassador for Britain on Oscars night and should have looked good. Americans are quick to spot good-quality clothes. They will have noticed that the presenter teamed the expensive designer dress with a £19.99 pair of plastic high heels from Miss Selfridge. They will have been baffled by her lack of style.

Why would a woman in her high-profile position not get the appropriate advice? The British are known in Europe as the poor relation when it comes to style and Millard reaffirmed that. It is a shame, when companies are trying to address this problem with so many women who have jobs that take them abroad.

In my opinion, the most suitable outfit for her would have been a cream trouser suit from Piazza Sempioni (£899) or Hlam (£1,299), teamed with some Cividini strappy sandals in Burgundy (£249). Then she would have felt, as the French say, more comfortable in her own skin.

Women who do a lot of public speaking say that wearing pale colours gives them a lift and a TV presenter needs to look credible so that people will want to talk to her.

As for the report that Millard gave, what can I say? If you are spending time wondering how a dress is staying up, you are not listening to what the wearer is saying.

 

Susie Faux is managing director of Wardrobe, the businesswoman's advisory service on fashion.



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