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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

The dress failed to win me over – but Meghan Markle herself most certainly has

While the dress may have divided opinions, all the women I have spoken to this week are united in their admiration for the new Duchess of Sussex

One of the official wedding photos of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle, Windsor, England. Alexi Lubomirski / Kensington Palace via AP
One of the official wedding photos of Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, on the East Terrace of Windsor Castle, Windsor, England. Alexi Lubomirski / Kensington Palace via AP

Has anyone talked about anything other than Meghan Markle this week? In my corner of the office, there have been protracted (and sometimes heated) discussions about “the dress”.

I loved the idea of it: elegant, simple, Audrey Hepburn-esque. I loved the boat neck, and the fact that it was designed by the first ever female artistic director of Givenchy. There was just enough symbolism (in the 53 flowers embroidered into the veil to represent each country of the Commonwealth); just enough bling (that stunning tiara that was suitably regal but somehow also very modern); and just enough laid-back LA chic (that messy bun and minimal make-up).

Nonetheless, I must admit that I find myself in the unexpected and entirely unwelcome company of Katy Perry, who, when talking about Markle’s gown this week, declared: “I would have done one more fitting.” She continued: “I’m never not going to tell the truth. One more fitting, but I love you.”

I get that the look was supposed to be more relaxed and laid back than that of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, let’s say, whose highly structured, corseted, lace-covered wedding dress was meant to be befitting of a future queen. But I do think Meghan’s Givenchy gown could have had a slightly more pronounced silhouette. It was a little unshapely for me, a little too subtle and underplayed (I say all this with the caveat that I think she looked utterly amazing and probably would have looked amazing if she had walked down the aisle in a bin bag).

My colleagues, meanwhile, argue that it hit exactly the right chord for the second marriage of a relatively low-key bride to a prince who will probably never be king.

But here’s the thing. While the dress may have divided opinions, all the women I have spoken to this week are united in their admiration for the new Duchess of Sussex – her poise and grace as she walked down the aisle; her extreme courage in making the first part of that seemingly endless walk on her own; her refusal to be “given away”; and the fact that she apparently broke with tradition to give a speech at her wedding lunch. In a world dominated by hyper­sexualised pop stars and the Kardashian clan, young girls these days have very few positive role models. But Meghan Markle could be a game changer.

She’s smart, successful in her own right and naturally beautiful but, with her dysfunctional family and failed first marriage, she also feels very real. Her newly published page on the royal family’s official website highlights her commitment to social issues, her charity work and her role as UN Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist” reads the pull quote. Anyone who used to read her now-defunct blog, The Tig, will know this is more than lip service. Markle is legit.

The big question, of course, is whether the Duchess of Sussex will become fettered by her new role – whether that title is essentially a muzzle. There is every possibility that she will be reduced to a heir-making clothes horse, like her sister-in-law. I, for one, hope not. The world needs a few more women like Meghan.

I may not have loved the dress, but I’m a big fan of the lady herself.

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Read more from Selina:

Ramadan offers us all the chance to reassess and reset

Paying tribute to the extraordinary life of my dad, the ultimate expat

Why eating meat makes me feel like a hypocrite

Phone etiquette? I need some guidelines please

After a decade, Dubai feels like it has come of age

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