How did Meghan Markle follow in Princess Diana’s footsteps? Let me count the ways. These two working women took the royal family by storm, tossing out royal protocol and manifesting a lineage of iconic non-royals who married in and opted out instead. Both Meghan and Diana ultimately retired from the Firm (what royals call the royal family), the Duchess of Sussex with Harry by her side and Diana on her lonesome, after finalizing her divorce from Prince Harry and William’s dad, Prince Charles. But their political independence wasn’t all that made these ladies stand out — time and time again, they proved themselves as rebellious with fashion as they were with formalities. New Harry and Meghan bio Finding Freedom has pinpointed the revealing dress style that got both Meghan and Diana in hot water for showing too much skin, and we have the exact same reaction to that as we do to sexist school dress codes: Boy, bye.
In detailing the relentless criticism that led up to Meghan and Harry deciding to leave the royal family, royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand focus on a particularly vindictive judgment thrown at one of the looks from Meghan’s maternity wardrobe.
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“No sign was too small to be considered an act of defiance — even her black nail polish and the one-shoulder gown she wore to the British Fashion Awards in December,” the book notes.
Another royal reporter Richard Kay quoted a source as saying this about the pregnancy look: “There was something ostentation in the way she posed holding her bump, plus she was wearing dark nail varnish that the Queen hates.”
While Scobie and Durand admit that royal tradition is to stick to more neutral tones, they note that royals Princess Eugenie and Kate Middleton had previously sported red or plum polish without criticism. But the criticism of the off-the-shoulder gown — not the first criticism of this sort Meghan faced — reminded them distinctly of a different royal.
“Princess Diana had worn red nail polish and off-the-shoulder gowns,” Scobie and Durand explain. In fact, an off-the-shoulder gown that had gotten Meghan in trouble early on, at her first Trooping the Colour appearance, had been based on a pale pink off-the-shoulder gown Diana once wore to the Berlin Opera in 1987. While we’re struggling to see how Meghan’s sleek Givenchy set could be interpreted as anything other than a tasteful homage, royal critics found a way to spin the extra two inches of visible skin as a slight to royal protocol.
You don’t have to look far in royal history to see Kate don similarly “revealing” gowns without a tabloid peep about it, but we should be used to that by now, right? In making it clear that she would never try to step beyond her royal role as William’s supporter, Kate won the support of those who view upheaval to the status quo as a danger to be stamped out. For Diana, Meghan, and Harry, whose vision went beyond what a royal life dictated for them, that was never an option.
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