The feminist significance of Meghan Markle’s post-birth dress

Lifestyle

In the early hours of May 6, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry welcomed their firstborn baby son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor.

Two days later, the proud parents appeared at Windsor Castle with Archie in tow, proudly introducing the sleeping baby to the world.

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The Duchess of Sussex wore a white, belted, sleeveless trench coat dress by U.K. designer Grace Wales Bonner, and royal expert Victoria Arbiter says the 37-year-old was making an explicit statement with her attire.

READ MORE: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry reveal their son’s unique name

“(Markle) wasn’t nervous about showing what a post-natal body looks like,” Arbiter told Global News.

“It’s empowering when we see figures like Meghan and Kate not scared to show what a woman’s body looks like after she’s given birth.”

Arbiter believes that Markle made a conscious decision to show off her remaining baby bump in defiance of societal expectations.

“So many people are under the impression that we just (return to) being as thin as a supermodel” after giving birth, said Arbiter.

READ MORE: The royal baby’s name is Archie — here’s what it means

“It’s very much in keeping with Meghan. She’s proud to show who she is. There were no airs and graces, there was no pretence, there was no Hollywood. She was just real and authentic.”

Amanda Briggs-Goode, head of the department for fashion, textiles and knitwear at Nottingham Trent University, agrees.

“I noted one of (Markle’s) buttons wasn’t done up. That’s confident, and (it) says ‘take it or leave it, this is a post-partum body,’” she said.

The belt on Markle’s dress served to further accentuate her still-round belly.

According to Briggs-Goode, fashion is a form of social exchange that communicates immediately who we are and what matters to us.

In picking this dress, the Duchess of Sussex was saying “authenticity and honesty are important to her identity,” said Briggs-Goode.

WATCH: Meghan Markle, Prince Harry reveal unique name of royal baby boy






As for the colour, white is timeless. Arbiter thinks Markle chose it with the history books in mind.

“These photographs are so significant… they will live on for centuries,” Arbiter said.

“By choosing to wear white, I think it was an effort to keep things very neutral, classy and sophisticated with something that will stand the test of time.”

Briggs-Goode echoes this sentiment — the colour white makes for a good photo.

“I think it was orchestrated and designed to ensure that (the Duke and Duchess would) glow in this vividly coloured environment,” she said, referring to the traditional decor of Windsor Castle.

READ MORE: Prince or earl? What royal title will Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s son have?

“It creates a contrast, and white is strongly associated with birth and goodness.”

Choosing to wear a design by Bonner was also a thoughtful decision by the Duchess, according to Arbiter.

“For a photo this significant, the designer would’ve been chosen purposefully… From what I’ve read, her ethos is very in keeping with Meghan’s,” she said.

According to Business of Fashion, Bonner has a similar background to the Duchess. She’s a London native with a Jamaican father and an English mother.

Jamaica is also one of the Commonwealth nations, which makes this a nice nod to the countries around the world that have been sending the Duchess well wishes in anticipation of the baby’s arrival.

WATCH: Prince William welcomes brother Harry to ‘sleep-deprivation society’ with birth of new baby






Introducing Archie to the world

Newborn babies in the Royal Family are always presented to the public a few days after being born. However, it’s a tradition that is often criticized by mothers and the larger public alike.

“It would be very difficult,” Arbiter said of what it must be like for a new mom to face public scrutiny mere hours or days after giving birth.

And yet, it rarely seems that way.

For each of her children, a beautiful and seemingly rested Duchess of Cambridge posed for cameras as she exited the hospital less than 12 hours after giving birth.

In fact, Middleton looked so elegant after delivering Princess Charlotte that a Russian conspiracy theory emerged suggesting that the Duchess had not given birth when the palace said she did. Instead, the baby was born days before.

Pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda printed the claims.

READ MORE: How did Kate Middleton look so good after giving birth to Princess Charlotte?

Markle waited two days to make her first appearance with Archie, allowing herself a bit more time to rest and prepare.

Arbiter predicts that should the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have more kids, they will follow the same schedule.

“They were able to get to the hospital and back without being seen, which was amazing,” said Arbiter. “I think this will probably be how they proceed in the future.”

If it was difficult to confront the public so quickly, the Duke and Duchess didn’t make that obvious.

Arbiter says this is likely because the parents were genuinely excited to introduce Archie to the world.

“They want to thank the public today (for) the good wishes. The way they do that is by sharing the family photos,” said Arbiter.

These are public figures, and this is a historically significant moment… It kind of comes with the territory.”

WATCH: 3 things Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s child might endure being biracial






The Duchess of Sussex was beaming with pride when she and her husband introduced Archie for the first time.

“It’s magic,” Markle said of becoming a mom. “I have the two best guys in the world so I am really happy.”

Markle said her son has “the sweetest temperament.”

“He’s really calm… he’s just been the dream so it’s been a special couple of days,” she said.

— With files from Laura Hensley and Patricia Kozicka

Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca

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