The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) this evening at Royal Albert Hall in London. This is certainly one of the more glamorous events on the Cambridges’ calendar and personally I always enjoy their red carpet appearances because it gives us a chance to see slightly more daring formal wear – more on that in a moment.
Tonight Kate accompanied William in his capacity as the president of the academy. This marks the couple’s second time attending its annual awards show. Many will remember last year’s appearance with Kate wearing a black floral gown by Alexander McQueen, which remained one of her strongest sartorial moments all year.
Beyond that, the couple last attended a BAFTAs event together when they were in California in 2011, which makes this year’s appearance all the more notable. It seems that William and Kate intend to make this an annual occurrence, or at the very least a more regular pillar of their calendar.
And that’s great, but let’s cut to the heart of the matter: all of the women tonight were asked to wear black in support of the Time’s Up movement in a show of solidarity begun by Golden Globes attendees in the United States. The movement, of course, is in support of women who have suffered from sexual assault or harassment. Started in the aftershock of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, among its priorities is a focus on collecting donations to finance a legal fund. Thus far it’s raised about $20 million, as well as over 200 volunteer lawyers.
The Time’s Up movement (surprise, surprise) has begun to garner significant criticism in the last couple of weeks for generating a conversation that is too aggressive, too strident and too inflexible. Not so ironically, those are the same adjectives too often used to describe women when they do push back on the status quo. And while there is – and should be – room to discuss the implications of a cultural climate that is driven by anger or, at the very least, heated emotion, none of that undermines the objective of the cause itself, which is to help provide resources and options to address injustices that have for too long been ignored as the cost of doing business for women.
Actresses and Hollywood executives taking to the red carpet in black may well seem like a frivolous gesture, but it was on the menu this evening. Kate was one of the few women who didn’t. She chose a green Jenny Packham own with emerald jewelry that is reminiscent of an inky blue gown she’s worn on a number of occasions in the past. The gown features a long black sash, which some believe is a nod to the movement, but in reality the blue gown featured a similar one, so if it was meant to symbolize anything it fell short.
The British Royal Family is meant to stay politically neutral and there are many that are going to hang their hat on that, arguing Kate couldn’t wear black so as to not pick a side. Bullshit. The BRF isn’t meant to endorse a political party and, yes, there is a fine line to tread. But if Time’s Up is political then what isn’t? The BRF supports causes related to veterans, mental health, the environment, women, children, drug addiction and homelessness – all have policy implications and all boast a number of organizations with a royal patron. Royals wear poppies, broaches and ribbons regularly without blinking – supporting women this evening didn’t have to be any different.
I understand that Kate would have been criticized regardless of what she did tonight, but there were two appropriate choices this evening: make a firm acknowledgement of Time’s Up or stay home. Let’s face it, the audience for tonight – and the audience that cares what Kate wears – are women. If there was discomfort from Kate or the Palace in wearing black then it would have been so, so easy for her to bow out this year – it’s not an event she regularly attends and she’s seven months pregnant. Choosing to turn up and wear a color feels like an altogether different kind of statement and I doubt it was meant as one.
In a gown that would been a massive win on any other evening, this was a big, big loss on pretty much every front.
The text from William’s forward below: