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Camilla has some style

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Let the dishing begin.

Britain's Prince Charles and his much-scrutinized wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, have gone back to their kingdom, leaving Americans free to prattle on about the most examined aspect of their eight-day USA tour: her clothes.

"She dressed in a lovely, appropriate way," says Bridget Foley, executive editor of the fashion magazine W. "Is she a fashion icon? No, and no one expects her to be. But there's nothing more fun than dishing a famous person's wardrobe."

Indeed, some people in New York and Washington couldn't wait to hold forth on Camilla's fashion sense (or lack thereof) before she left these shores. A New York Post headline proclaimed "Frump Tower" after Camilla wore a navy velvet cocktail dress with a cream chiffon collar, by British designer Anthony Price, for a reception her first night here. An "unfortunate balcony-bosomed number," sighed fellow Brit Tina Brown in her column for The Washington Post, while praising Camilla's "very good legs."

The Washington Post's fashion critic, Robin Givhan, pronounced the dress "her most glamorous" -- while ripping the rest of her ensembles. The Robinson Valentino black cashmere sparkle-trimmed jacket over a floor-length skirt she wore to the White House dinner made her look like a "large rectangle" next to Laura Bush in an Oscar de la Renta amber silk gown.

Camilla "looked plain and unremarkable," Givhan wrote.

Camilla's suits and dresses-with-jackets were often in dark colors and the opposite of flashy. But she wore a raspberry-pink suit the first day in New York. She chose a cream-colored suit for a visit with hurricane victims in New Orleans and a sea-foam green suit with a matching tartan plaid scarf to wear to church on Sunday. And she stood out at a showing of Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco in a bright red skirt with beading and embroidery. She left the tiara at home but wore one hat, a black-with-white-trim number that bordered on the Mad Hatter's, to lay a wreath at the World War II Memorial. Her accessories included mostly low-key jewelry -- a double strand of pearls, for example -- and unremarkable shoes and handbags, except for her sequined Union Jack clutch.

It was unavoidable that many comparisons would be made to Camilla's predecessor, the more fashion-conscious Princess Diana, who was 25 when she first came to the USA; Camilla is 58. Such comparisons are "unfair and a little mean," Foley says.

True, she could update her hairstyle (get rid of the wings) and wear more dresses, which are flattering to her, but overall Camilla succeeded on her first official visit to the USA as a royal, Foley says.

"One thing she had to do was prove she is her own woman with her own style -- a more classic, a what-works-for-me style," Foley says. "She's not trying to be a second Diana, but a woman for whom fashion is not an obsession. And that's a very good thing."

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