When Amal Clooney, née Alamuddin, was photographed disembarking a boat in a Giambattista Valli dress so abbreviated an errant gust of Venetian vento could start an international incident overshadowing her wedding, I knew—this was a new sort of celebrity.
Sure, she had the requisite looks—more even, with that whiff of Camelot-ian razzle-dazzle—but there was a crucial difference: She was smart. And for once, a not-small amount of the media coverage was putting her smartness first.
For all the "get you a girl who can do both"-ness that circulated on social media not long ago, this expression of female duality, already limited, reduced women to "cute but psycho but cute." Or Uggs vs. Instagram brows-slip-dress-and-stilettos-on. But there was never one that said hot *and* clever, which makes Clooney's brand of braininess and unabashed beauty still interesting and still semi-mysterious. Because every time she steps out in a mini hemline—Monse or Miu Miu or Oscar de la Renta—I'm weirdly, personally proud of her.
It might be that we still still live in a society where intelligence and objective attractiveness seldom intersect (girls with glasses), and when they do, they collide in messy tropes (the nympho librarian). It might be that we now have a president who only thinks of women in one of two ways: f*ckable or "nasty." (Not that anybody in her right mind would want to fall into either.) It might be that I still have to categorize fashion as "boy hot" (long hair and short skirts) or "girl hot"—the more cerebral kind, with Prada and Dries van Noten and non-wobbly shoes. It might be that other women continue to do the "You're so brave to wear an exposed bra to work" dance with me, even when it's a scientific fact that a sheer shirt has no affect on my ability to internet. (Meant as a verb.)
So with a few Hedy Lamarr-type exceptions, no, there haven't been many prominent girls who could do both, certainly not enough to reflect the real-life population. But with the new narrative surrounding Amal Clooney, and with every skirt she trots out that hits mid-thigh, bookish, stylish women everywhere rejoice. "What's 'appropriate' attire for an international-law barrister who's got a movie-star trophy husband?" her very existence prompts. Answer: Anything she pleases. And same goes for us, damn those who can't wrap their heads around "what you wear ≠ what you can do."