The Duchess of Cambridge was described as an “angel” in her one-shoulder dress, just weeks after Meghan Markle was deemed “controversial” for doing the same. Why?
As the current President of BAFTA, it made sense that Prince William would attend last night’s star-studded ceremony to present the BAFTA Fellowship to film editor Thelma Schoonmaker. It also made sense that Kate Middleton would accompany her husband to the red carpet event, and that she would don a formal dress by Alexander McQueen (her favourite designer) for the occasion.
What didn’t make sense, though, was how the tabloids responded to the Duchess of Cambridge’s one-shoulder white gown and sparkling Jimmy Choo pumps combo.
“Kate Middleton was a modern princess in a white one-shoulder gown at the 2019 BAFTAs,” noted one.
Another stated: “Kate Middleton looks stunning in one-shoulder dress at BAFTAS.”
The Express went for the headline of “Royal GLAM: Kate Middleton and Prince William CHEERED on red carpet at BAFTA Awards 2019” (because they have to write at least one word in full capital letters, apparently, otherwise what’s the point?).
And the Mail Online kept things simple, opting for: “Kate Middleton stuns on BAFTAs red carpet in white gown.”
If you keep scanning through the headlines (and the many reader comments), you’ll soon discover that Kate was an “angel” at the BAFTAs – a “vision in white”. She was “beautiful”, “stunning”, and “a true princess”. She was even described by one fan as being “so perfect I could cry”.
All of the above opinions are fine, I suppose – even if it does get a little tiring to see such hysteria over a woman’s physical appearance. What isn’t valid, though, is the fact that Kate’s sister-in-law, the much-maligned Meghan Markle, was ripped apart by the tabloids just a few weeks ago for was ripped apart by the tabloids just a few weeks ago for…
Well, for wearing a one-shoulder gown to a glitzy celeb-studded event. Funny, that.
“Royal SHOCK! Meghan Markle BREAKS Royal protocol AGAIN with ‘VULGAR’ fashion move” wrote the Express at the time. The same journalist also insisted that an exclusive ‘palace source’ had told them: “Meghan is being told she needs to start dressing less like a Hollywood star and more like a Royal.”
Others banged on about Meghan’s inability to “follow royal fashion rules”, and Belgravia Bugle, an author and etiquette tutor, was even invited to speak about the Duchess of Sussex’s “controversial” behaviour on Channel 5 News.
“She’s a new member of the Royal Family, a controversial member,” said Bugle, seemingly fighting the urge to clutch at her pearls. “I think I would be more careful.”
Warming to her theme of “shame, shame, shame”, Bugle went on to note that a member of the royal family is expected to conduct herself as one and cannot be seen in one-shoulder dresses.
You know, despite the fact that the Queen and the late Princess Diana have both been photographed in similar dresses in the past.
So why on earth is it one rule for Meghan and another for Kate? Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: because the media is afraid of Meghan Markle.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen the Duchess of Sussex lambasted for daring to wear dark nail polish. For wearing too much black. For being visibly pregnant. For wearing a bra. For eating avocado on toast. For sitting on a goddamned chair. For sending a Christmas card. For having too much energy (dubious sources claim that Palace staff have dubbed her “Hurricane Meghan”). For having knees (because apparently those knees have become a receptacle for the ghostly face of her young niece, Princess Charlotte). For being “too American”. For waking up early. For countless other ‘crimes’ too numerous and ridiculous to mention.
Essentially, Meghan can’t do anything right (just as Kate couldn’t do anything right when she first married into the Royal Family) when it comes to the media, and that’s born out of a very deep held fear of the Duchess of Sussex and what she represents. Here is a woman – a divorced, biracial woman at that (the horror!) – who has proven that she has ideas and opinions and wants to use her new position of immense responsibility as a force for good. Who has spoken out on the subjects she is most passionate about, including abortion, the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, and the good feminist fight. Who has refused to let years of royal tradition stop her from throwing open the windows of Buckingham Palace and allowing a big old breath of fresh air to swoop through those dusty corridors and breathe new life into the monarchy.
Is it any wonder, then, that certain media outlets can’t stand her? After all, research has repeatedly shown us that a woman can’t step outside of her traditional role without making waves, or experiencing a backlash.
“To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype,” researchers have theorised.
Essentially, what it all boils down to is this: two members of the royal family wore a one-shouldered gown to a red carpet event. The only real differences that I can see between the two are this: one wore black, while the other wore white. One opted for Givenchy, while the other selected McQueen. And one was heralded as a “true princess”, while the other was described as “vulgar” and “inappropriate”.
With this in mind, it’s high time we follow the advice of Jennifer Aniston and take a long hard look at the messages we are being fed by the tabloids. Because, as the Friends star noted three years ago, only “we get to decide how much we buy into what’s being served up, and maybe some day the tabloids will be forced to see the world through a different, more humanised lens because consumers have just stopped buying the bullshit.”