For her interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle looked like she was mourning
Meghan Markle was well aware of what she was going to tell Oprah Winfrey in the most touted celebrity interview so far this year. Her tell-it-like-it-is would be so explosive that her words were all she needed to make an impact—no resplendent, In Style-worthy outfit required. So, she wore a matte-black, silk georgette, wrap-dress by Giorgio Armani that did not stand out against the set-like manicured garden of a third-party residence, where the televised chat took place. As she was seated on a patio chair—her back propped up by a large white cushion—throughout the time in front of Ms Winfrey—in Brunello Cucinelli, we could not really see the dress in its entirety. On the right shoulder, some abstract, white, leaf-like motif (reportedly a “botanical print” of lotus flowers) cascaded down to her right antenatal bosom. The not-too-plunging V-neck of the dress framed a small insignificant pendant. On her left wrist, what appeared to be a trio of skinny bracelets, one of them—a Cartier—reportedly belonged to Princess Diana. On her feet, pointed-toe stilettos, once popular among the secretarial profession. The styling was deliberately gloomy.
The Duchess of Sussex wore her hair centre-parted, pulled back to what appeared to be a low chignon. The do—face-framing fringe—looked self-styled, as if she used barbeque tongs instead of curling tongs. Her make-up was for lunch at a burger joint: actress-off-duty smokey eyes, cheeks—in her case, typically—over-rouged, and lips, deliberately not red, so that her words won’t come out flippant, and to better suit the glum she was radiating. It was, of course, going to be serious and she needed to look the part. She was not on Ellen’s set. Cheeriness was not required. The moment you tuned in, you might have thought she was at an appointment with her gynecologist, not a session with the most famous talk show host on our planet. For an IRL appearance on reality TV, Meghan Markle would have benefitted with a tip from one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But, when one is going to put up an affront to the most-known and watched royal families in the world, one would need to look like happiness has dissipated, even if conjugal well-being is intact.
The choice of attire was, therefore, crucial. The outfit needed to underscore her distress, her pain, and her conflicts, but not her anger
When it comes to Ms Markle, it’s hard not to stand on one of divided sides. Was her TV performance-as-discourse noble or vile? The litany of her woes since joining the British royal household—her struggles with the in-laws, the British media (tabloid press in particular) and their criticism of her, and her fashion choices—culminated in the opening up to Ms Winfrey. Was this one-sided account to set the record straight or to air grievances? Or both? The choice of attire was, therefore, crucial. The outfit needed to underscore her distress, her pain, and her conflicts, but not her anger. Black—dead foliage aside—symbolises eternal struggle that seems to characterise her role as a royal, and contrasts with the white of her wedding dress, which might have meant a new, strife-free beginning. Black also relates to racism, an issue that has, as revealed in the interview, affected the Duke and the Duchess deeply. It is connected to mental health and, in the attendant darkness that Ms Markle claimed consumed her, the contemplation of devastating self-harm. No other colour would be as suitable as black, never mind if the wearer could look dour in it, or pity-arousing.
Her colour choice for a global TV appearance may be spot on, but it is hard to say if her incendiary revelations were just as good a decision. Ms Markle is American and an actress schooled in the candidly communicative ways of Hollywood in the post-#metoo era. She told Oprah that during her time in the UK, “there was no class on how to speak and how to cross your legs,” yet she was eager to open up, legs well-placed, about her grievous distress. It is unsurprising and is exemplar of the reason why American talk shows have no shortage of guests wanting to feel how “liberating” it is to “talk”, as Ms Markle put it to Oprah. But, a royal family is not the Kardashians. Members of the monarchy need no such scandalous, press-ready “bombshell” exposure. Or, frankly, any family. Meghan Markle may be wearing a clean dress for her appearance with Oprah Winfrey, but the laundry she aired was what so many could see as dirty. Yes, that’s a conservative stance, but, in this generation of easy exposé, aberrant nosiness, and talk show as psychiatric clinic, the less we lay open our discontent or disappointment publicly and sensationally, the less we divide those around us, familial and societal. Black or not, in black or other.
Screen grab: Harpo Productions/CBS