Leading article: Defrocking for the future

Click to follow
Diana - ever alert to the twists and turns of modern manners - is downshifting, embarking on a programme of "voluntary simplicity". This is the meaning behind the divesting of the royal dresses and the official appearances in khaki slacks and sleeveless shirt. We half-heartedly approve. In fact, even as Diana was buying up Versace last June our Review was already offering a comprehensive guide to the fashionable American phenomenon of trading frantic work and consumption for time and contemplation. Since then, readers of the quality press have had ample opportunity to study the lives of many more downshifters, most recently in the Telegraph, whose sample drop-outs have exchanged the Gucci pump for the (nearly as expensive) green wellington; the mobile phone and secretary for the homeworker's laptop; the dinner at San Lorenzo for the home-grown vegetables. So committed are some, that they've taken the nanny to downshift with them. They make the simple life seem frightfully attractive but rather costly: more Marie- Antoinette bucolic than a plausible way of paying the mortgage.

Thus, only our lukewarm approval for that symbolic simplification ritual: clearing out the wardrobe. True, 65 evening dresses is about 64 too many. But the first rule of downshifting must be to make the best use of all your assets. Don't give away the frocks. Cut them into nightdresses (the Galliano will require little attention), gardening clothes, beaded curtains, dusters. And the wedding dress? Offer it to the nation by all means. But offer it as the centrepiece for a new Museum of the Republic.