Oh, the royal wedding. Maybe you watched, maybe you didn't, but you definitely saw what Meghan Markle (the bride) was wearing, right? Thousands of photos were posted within seconds so it was hard to miss. And just like that certain body part, everyone's got an opinion. From what I gather, many were negative: people didn't love her dress. I deduced this from the second wave of posts which were largely about how we should leave her alone and let her wear whatever she wants. Which I both wholeheartedly agree with and disagree with.
Women are sometimes like a bucket of crabs. When you put crabs in a bucket you don't need a lid - they restrain themselves. When a woman (I mean crab...) starts to crawl out, the other crabs pull her back down, so nobody ever rises to the top. A lot of hating on a royal wedding dress can feel like that. I mean - what is the expected outcome for sharing our dislike? Should she time travel and change into something else? Find something that suits your own style instead of hers? And isn't this whole event about love and marriage and not really about what she was wearing anyway?
I'm definitely not into being negative about what someone is wearing. I'm all about freedom of expression - you do you - and embracing the "audacity to enjoy yourself" with personal style (aka the mission of this blog and also the thesis of my book).
But here's the thing. To be truly free as a woman and have freedom of expression, that also means having an opinion about style. "You do you" does not mean you are required to go around loving everything everyone wears, or faking like you do. What being free (also) means is having a constructive opinion and being welcome to share it.
For the past 5+ years, I've been a regular on Daytime - a syndicated morning show in Tampa. I've appeared in more Fashion Wrap segments than I can count. Our segment is a lot like Fashion Police, where we share our opinions on what celebrities are wearing (only nicer, lol). Over the years we've had viewers get upset with us for not liking outfits, so I've had a lot of time to think about this:
- A celebrity and your co-worker are not the same. In general we take the whole "you're in the public eye so I can say whatever I want to you" thing too far. But at the same time, celebrities on the red carpet are literally posing and being photographed for the purposes of their outfits to be shared and discussed in the media. Your co-workers and friends who did not ask for your opinion maybe shouldn't receive your unsolicited style thoughts, but your thoughts on a fashion blog, the red carpet or a largely publicized royal wedding - go nuts (please just keep #2 and #3 in mind).
- Consider where you are commenting. A private conversation at home or via group text about a wedding dress is not the same as using your influence and voice on social media, or saying it directly to that person. Your voice is powerful, no matter how many "followers" you have!
- You should have a voice about fashion, but how you use that voice is absolutely everything. Don't say anything about anyone's outfit you wouldn't want them to say about yours. Express your opinion, but ALWAYS leave room for the person wearing it to be correct, too. As in "This is my opinion, I would wouldn't wear it or I would change this, but you should also feel free to wear whatever makes you happy." Comments should focus on what the person is wearing and their style choices, not their physical body or traits they were born with. Comments should be constructive in nature and have actual value - like "try this instead" or "this would be better" - versus catty and offering nothing helpful, or are essentially tearing the person down. (And maybe as a general rule make sure you are praising at least five outfits for every one you dislike!)
When we hold back too much, we are actually undercutting our dignity and power as females. Meghan Markle married into the royal family of her own free will. I would bet that as a successful actress, she already knows what it's like to be in the public eye, and some lighthearted opinions about what she is wearing are 1. literally nothing compared to gross things like the death threats she will get likely get as the family's first bi-racial, divorced spouse, 2. totally expected. I can't imagine she went into this wedding not knowing that her dress wouldn't please everyone (no dress could ever do that). She does not seem to me like a delicate flower who can't possibly hear that not everyone loved her dress, but rather a woman who is confident and empowered, so we should really start treating her that way.
One important caveat and I'm opening Pandora's box here, but if you want the full scoop it's in my book. All of the above applies to opinions about what women are wearing save for for one important topic - modesty, or rather, any type of style criticism that is based in faith or religion. In those cases I think it would be better for everyone if we just keep our thoughts completely to ourselves, or at the very least limited to private one-on-one conversations. Cool? Cool.
What are your thoughts on style opinions? Is her dress any of our business?