Princess Eugenie’s dress proudly shows scoliosis scar
She asked designers to add deep V to the back, showing stigma can be erased by openness
The first glimpse we had of Princess Eugenie as a bride was peeped through the windows of the 1977 Rolls-Royce Phantom that bore her and her father, the Duke of York, to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The first surprise was that the thoroughly modern princess, a working woman after all, had forgone a veil in favour of the stunning 1921 Greville Emerald tiara, a loaner from her grandmother, the Queen.
But the big reveal came when she stepped out of the car to accept Prince Andrew’s hand and climb the stairs to the church. Eugenie had asked her gown designers, Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos, to put a deep V in the back of the dress.
The plunge is a dramatic design element for the overall elegant and conservative dress. But it also revealed Eugenie’s personal choice to proudly display her scoliosis scar from surgery she had as a preteen. (Eugenie is also a patron of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where the surgery took place.)
Eugenie’s decision to draw attention, unapologetically, to what might traditionally be viewed as an “imperfection” on a day when the whole world is watching her was emblematic of the change disrupting the British monarchy. This new generation of royals is using its platform to advance social awareness on topics close to their hearts: from Kate Middleton, Prince William and Prince Harry’s initiative on mental health to Meghan Markle speaking up about her feelings about feminism, the younger royal crew is making a difference. The very literal example Eugenie set has a symbolic depth: it makes the point that we should be proud of our journeys. And that stigma of all kinds can be erased by openness.
Further symbols were woven into the cloth of the dress itself: thistle for Balmoral — where “Granny’s” Scottish retreat is; a shamrock for mom Fergie’s family; and the York rose, in honour of her family’s title (her parents received the Dukedom of York upon their marriage, and so that is the family crest, so to speak).
Eugenie had previously confirmed that she would choose a British designer. And the winning duo, who have a studio in London’s East End, are longtime favourites of the Princess. Their creation, made of jacquard silk, cotton and viscose, boasted a long train, which is necessary for an event of such royal pomp, and a way to lead all those adorable junior attendants down the aisle.
It featured a portrait collar, with a wrap effect that just covered the princess’s shoulders. This is a necessary element of decorum traditional for English church weddings, especially royal ones, where more modern displays of flesh would be frowned upon.
But from a fashion point of view, it is also a discreet nod to the ’90s revival on the runways right now in that shoulder-emphasizing collar. Yes, wedding dresses are effectively timeless in many ways. But a dress such as this (and the Duchess of Sussex’s earlier this year) are also considered directional couture pieces.
And the showstopper tiara: Eugenie had been expected to wear the York tiara, which now belongs to her mother as it was a bridal gift to Fergie from the Queen. But as was the case with Kate and Meghan, Eugenie probably was presented with “a selection” of tiaras from which to choose.
The full name of this one is the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara, in the style of the Russian Imperial Court. Mrs. Greville was a British philanthropist who loved tiaras and loved to make them famous by giving them to royals, thus ensuring her name would live on amongst the Crown jewels. She willed this particular one to Queen Elizabeth in 1942. It boasts six emeralds, with the huge one in the centre weighing in at 93 carats.
Princess Eugenie completed her look with Charlotte Olympia shoes and emerald drop earrings (the latter were a gift from her new hubby), and her stunner of an engagement ring: a huge padparadscha sapphire of the palest pink, which is quite rare. The design, ringed by diamonds, seemed to pay tribute to her own mother’s ruby engagement ring from Prince Andrew.
In the royal wardrobe, everything is loaded with hidden meanings. But Friday, Princess Eugenie made a very visible statement to try to reduce stigma around her childhood struggles: to use the spotlight to add something to the conversation.
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Princess Eugenie’s dress reveals the long scar on her back from surgery she had at age 12 to correct scoliosis.