When Kate Middleton arrived at the 2018 British Academy Film Awards in a breathtaking green gown, she turned many heads. However, on this rare occasion not everyone praised the princess’ sartorial choices. Instead, she faced some vicious backlash online.
Late 2017 marked the turning point in the way the world saw and talked about sexual assault. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal – in which several woman made sexual misconduct allegations against the film producer – it appeared that many women had found their voices. And they were not afraid to use them to highlight the harassment they had experienced.
As more and more women spoke out against sexual harassment, the #MeToo movement was born. Many people used the hashtag to highlight the prevalence of unwanted advances, including celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lawrence.
So powerful was the movement’s effect that Time magazine named it as 2017’s “Person of Year.” The annual accolade is presented to an idea, individual or group that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.”
With that in mind, lots of women entered 2018 feeling empowered for change. As a result, The New York Times announced the Time’s Up movement on January 1, 2018. The campaign intended to reach more people than #MeToo had, extending the invitation to those with less media influence to speak out against sexual harassment.
When it began, Time’s Up had four major initiatives. The campaign launched a legal defense funds to help lower-income women seek justice. It advocated legislation to challenge companies that tolerate multiple cases of harassment. It wanted talent agencies and studios to strive for gender parity and to raise awareness. It called on women attending the 75th Golden Globe Awards to wear black as a sign of solidarity.
So when the Golden Globes came around in January 2018, many actresses, including Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz, opted for black gowns. Furthermore, some men, such as Kit Harrington, Chris Hemsworth and Ewan McGregor also adopted the monochrome dress code. Meanwhile, others simply wore Time’s Up pin badges to show their support for the movement.
As awareness of Time’s Up spread, more and more celebrities got on board with the movement. At the Grammys in late January 2018, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga and Kesha were among those to wear black. So with the British Academy Film Awards just around the corner, it seemed likely that the trend would continue.
While the BAFTAs were due to attract stars including Margot Robbie, Angelina Jolie and Frances McDormand, suddenly all eyes were on just one person – the Duchess of Cambridge. She would attend the glitzy event with husband Prince William, who was presenting the prestigious Fellowship award on the night.
Speculation was rife whether Kate would wear black to show solidarity with Time’s Up. The princess is known for her support of women’s issues, specifically those posed by motherhood. So perhaps the movement would be right up her street.
Interestingly enough, at the 2017 BAFTAs Kate had worn a black-off-the-shoulder floral print dress by Alexander McQueen. Consequently, it hadn’t been completely out of the question that she would opt for a similarly gothic hue this time around.
However, coming out in public with support for such a campaign would not be easy for Catherine. The royal family avoid making political statements and don’t even vote in elections to avoid swaying public opinion. And while Time’s Up was not a political movement as such, it was still considered a controversial campaign by some sections of society.
So with the will-she-won’t-she debate in full swing, when the BAFTAs came around in February 2018, it’s safe to say that all eyes were on Kate. The royal soon arrived on the red carpet alongside Prince William, wearing an emerald green empire cut dress by her go-to designer Jenny Packham.
Upon seeing the Duchess’ decision to stay away from publicly endorsing the Time’s Up movement, many fans were disappointed. “I know the Royals aren’t supposed to get involved with ‘protests’ or anything… but would it really have been THAT bad for Kate Middleton to wear black?” asked one Twitter user.
Berating the princess – who was seven months pregnant at the time – another tweeted added, “Disappointed in #KateMiddleton #DuchessofCambridge not wearing black to the #EEBAFTAs It’s not a political thing. It’s a woman thing!”
However, not all royal commentators were as scathing when it came to Catherine’s outfit choice. Noting the black ribbon tied round her middle and the black bag she carried down the red carpet, some believed the royal had indeed given a subtle nod to Time’s Up.
Elsewhere, outspoken Brit Piers Morgan suggested that criticizing the Duchess’ outfit choice went against everything Time’s Up stood for. “Duchess of Cambridge being abused by ‘feminists’ on Twitter for not wearing a black dress at tonight’s #BAFTAS,” he tweeted. “Apparently, she’s not allowed to exercise HER feminist right to wear whatever color dress she chooses.”
When asked what she thought about Kate’s green dress during the awards, actress Allison Janney echoed Morgan’s sentiments that she had the right to wear whatever she wanted. However, the I, Tonya star perhaps put her thoughts across in a more diplomatic way.
Speaking of the Duchess in the winners’ room after receiving the Best Supporting Actress award, Janney said, “I would never judge anyone’s choice. She looked absolutely beautiful, and I’m so happy for them that she’s pregnant again. I think she’s an extraordinary woman, and she can wear whatever she wants to wear.”
At the end of the day, when it came to wearing black at the BAFTAs, Kate was always in a no-win situation. Showing her support for Time’s Up could have been construed as her endorsing a political movement. So by wearing dark green with a few black accents, perhaps the princess had found some middle ground.