Fashion

Why Meghan Markle wore *that* navy dress for her feminist speech

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Kayleigh Dray
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WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 28: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a reception at Government House on October 28, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand.. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on their official 16-day Autumn tour visiting cities in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Once again, there’s more to the Duchess of Sussex’s outfit than meets the eye…

On 28 October, at a reception attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the city of Wellington, Meghan Markle delivered a stirring speech to mark New Zealand’s 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Praising those New Zealand women who had campaigned for the right to vote, she noted: “Yes, women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.”

The Duchess went on to explain that “suffrage is not simply about the right to vote but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of all people, including those members of society who have been marginalised whether for reasons of race, gender, ethnicity or orientation, to be able to participate in the choices for their future and their community”.

“So bravo, New Zealand, for championing this right 125 years ago,” she said. “For the women who well deserve to have an active voice and acknowledged vote, and for all of the people that this effort has paved the way for globally.”

It was a brilliant speech – and one that demonstrated just how committed former United Nation Women ambassador Meghan is to her feminist agenda.

And it seems the Duchess made a point of using fashion to help hammer her point home, too.

At a first glance, Meghan’s gown looks like a simple navy number. However, it has since been confirmed that the £1,900 cocktail dress – which was custom made with cap sleeves – was designed by none other than Gabriela Hearst.

The New York-based designer is well known for her political activism and sustainable methods, and has made a name for herself with collections inspired by empowering female figures, such as Tammy Duckworth, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Kamala Harris.

Indeed, the muse for Hearst’s A/W 2017 collection was none other than civil rights activist, educator, and feminist revolutionary Angela Davis, who cut a powerful figure during the Civil Rights Movement of the Sixties and the Women’s Movement of the Seventies.

It makes sense, then, that Hearst has stated that she prefers to dress formidable women.

“I’d love to dress the CEO of Planned Parenthood [Cecile Richards] — she’s amazing, I’ve heard her speak a few times now,” the designer, who won the 2016/17 International Woolmark Prize, previously told Coveteur

“Angela Davis I’d like to dress, and Robin Wright. I love people who use their attention and focus to enlighten or serve others. Robin Wright won’t go to an event unless it’s for a charity or a cause that she feels strongly about.

“I love people who have those types of values.”

We can understand, then, why Hearst agreed to dress Meghan. Not only has the Duchess become something of a fashion icon (every single piece she wears – including the white LINE coat she wore for her engagement shoot – seems to sell out almost instantly), but she has openly stated on her official royal biography that she will never stop fighting for “social justice and women’s empowerment”.

And, when you consider all she has done since her wedding to Prince Harry – think speaking out in support of Ireland’s abortion referendum, donning black as part of the Time’s Up movement, working alongside the women who were affected by the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, and using her first royal tour to shine a light on feminist organisations – it seems more and more apparent that this was no empty promise.

With that in mind, we eagerly await Hearst’s official statement on Meghan’s dress.

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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