Oh, look. It’s Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, at the state reception held for her and her husband in Wellington. She’s wearing an elegant black gown with a silver fern motif on the shoulder, designed by UK designer Jenny Packham.
It’s been praised in the media for its referencing of New Zealand’s national emblem. But wait – it’s a strangely familiar design. Let me think…
Oh, that’s right. It’s what almost every Miss New Zealand wore in the national costume section of Miss World and Miss Universe in the 1980s.
As I discovered recently when I trawled through two decades of Miss World and Miss Universe contests, there’s a certain awkwardness and uncertainty when it comes to New Zealand’s national costume. It seems no one’s really sure what it should be, but the one thing that keeps recurring is the black frock with a silver fern.
So ok. The Duchess of Cambridge has officially made it a thing, so let’s declare it once and for all: New Zealand’s national costume is a black gown with a silver fern motif. For both men and women.
It might not be to everyone’s liking, but let’s just be thankful that the duchess didn’t take inspiration from Miss New Zealand 1985: