Last Monday at the Golden Globes, Reese Witherspoon looked lovely in a Chanel couture dress. The problem was that another young, blonde acress, Kirsten Dunst, had also looked lovely in the same dress, at the same event, three years earlier.
Why should RW be upset that Chanel -- or her own stylist -- hadn't warned her of the earlier borrower? After all, the idea behind fashion houses loaning gowns to frequently photographed starlets and socialites is to sell more of those gowns (as well as to draw attention to the brand as a whole). And for those who can't afford the original, the knockoff artists who stalk winter awards shows will provide replicas in time for the prom. A measure of the loan's -- and the celebrity's -- success is the number of people who covet the dress.
But wait. Even a teenage prom-goer in a knockoff Oscar dress doesn't want her chief rival -- or even her best friend -- to show up to the same event in the same dress. (And as McLuhan would remind us, the all-at-onceness of a modern media world reduces a three-year gap to naught.) Just like RW, the prom-goer's cache comes in part from being the first among her peers to claim a particular design as her own. As a celebrity actress, RW is more valuable if she presents a unique image.
In that case, why did Chanel pimp the same dress? Well, the repeat play was likely a mistake, since Chanel doesn't want to send the message that wearing its gowns is a ticket to embarrassment on the red carpet, whatever the reason. (A week later, rumors abound regarding which other "vintage" Chanel dresses have had multiple recent outings.)
On the other hand, Chanel is more interested in its own image than RW's, and the house is known for repetition of iconic designs. If a dress is worn by an interchangeable series of young starlets, that perfect dress becomes the star. The response of the Chanel publicity machine to the situation is revealing in this regard: "A Chanel dress never goes out of style. It's timeless."
Unlike the actress of the week.