SECRETS BEHIND MEGHAN ’S TOUR-DROBE
Hollywood actor Selma Blair has revealed that she has multiple sclerosis. Hilary Freeman, 46, who also has MS, applauds her honesty about the misunderstood condition...
ANY PREGNANCY CAN be exhausting. Your hormones are all over the place, your body’s changing rapidly and you develop random aversions to the simplest foods, scents and people that you encounter – not least your blameless partner. Ideally, this is a time in which to keep life simple: pare back, snuggle up, stick on a box set. Or, you could embark on a 16-day, 76-engagement-strong tour 10,000 miles away, on the other side of the world.
Alas, there was no hiding under the radar for the Duchess of Sussex as she set off (flying commercial) on her gruelling trip to Australia – her first official royal tour since marrying her prince in May. Instead, the eyes of the world were upon her, watching gimlet-eyed to see which designers she would bless with her munificence – and what her bump would look like as she did. Of course, she was always immaculately coiffed, in a selection of outfits chosen so diplomatically that even the most critical pundit would have to high-five the efforts of her stylist(s).
It was a given than the duchess would shine a spotlight on up-and-coming Australian designers, and she did, kicking off the first day of her tour in a $1,285 sleeveless ivory fitted dress, aptly named Blessed, by ethical designer Karen Gee. Blessed, indeed: Gee’s website promptly crashed as customers rushed to buy it.
It was the same story when the duchess stepped out in Melbourne wearing a navy Folded Sail dress with an asymmetric hem, by Dion Lee. ‘It’s a whole other level… I can’t say our website has ever crashed as a result of anyone wearing our clothes,’ the designer shared on Twitter. Then, on Friday, she wore a brown-andwhite striped maxidress by Paris-based, Aussie-born Martin Grant – a relaxed choice for an outing to Bondi Beach, which saw Meghan and her husband kicking off their shoes and sitting crosslegged in the sand. ‘ The dress is not
designed as a pregnancy dress but she’s not really showing, so it works well,’ said Grant, who saw orders for the $1,420 maxidress rise sharply. The Duchess also wore Grant’s $1,690 beige trench coat – twice – on outings in Sydney and Melbourne, proving that she re-wears clothes just like anyone else.
On day four, she paid her first tribute to a British designer, choosing a £1,299 sleeveless dress with a full skirt by Serbianborn, London-based designer Roksanda Ilincic – a favourite of Michelle Obama, Samantha Cameron and, er, Melania Trump. In navy blue with a pale blue border, the ’50s-inspired dress was the perfect choice for her visit to Macarthur Girls High School in Sydney, the full three-quarter length skirt allowing her to crouch down freely among the pupils.
Another Brit was in the spotlight on Saturday, with the duchess choosing the Camila, a simple black dress, again with a full, three-quarter length skirt, by Emilia Wickstead – a magnanimous choice, some might say, given that in May, a British tabloid reported Wickstead as saying that Meghan’s Givenchy wedding dress was ‘identical’ to one of her designs. Wickstead later professed to be ‘extremely saddened’ by the report. Luckily, it didn’t sadden the duchess to the extent that the label was off-menu.
Meghan didn’t forget to support American talent, either. On Tuesday she wore a $145 blazer from her friend Serena Williams’ clothing range, aptly named The Boss. It sold out immediately – as did the black Harriet jeans she wore with it, by Aussie brand Outland Denim. She was also spotted in a black Miguellina dress by Club Monaco, priced $325. This she wore with her trusty black $145 flats by Rothys, an eco-friendly brand made from 100% recycled plastic water bottles. No doubt sales have hit the roof: Net-a- Porter reports a 176% increase in sales of Veja sneakers since Meghan wore them on her tour, as well as a 442% lift in Castaner’s black espadrilles.
And then there was the evening wear, tricky at the best of times, never mind when pregnant. All credit to Meghan’s ‘unofficial’ stylist, close friend Jess Mulroney, that she looked flawless at Tuesday night’s dinner in Fiji in a slender blue Safiyaa gown that diplomatically mirrored the colour of the Fijan flag. She could have added a tiara, but opted instead for borrowed diamond drop earrings – a less formal choice, but a wise one, in keeping with the informality of her wardrobe throughout the trip.
And if her only slip-up during her 16 day, multi-outfit odyssey was neglecting to cut off the tag from the back of her red £345 Self-portrait dress? Well, nobody’s perfect. Although in her wardrobe choices throughout this inaugural trip, the duchess came pretty close.
MY MS CAME of age this year. Unbelievably, it’s now 21 years since I was diagnosed with the incurable condition, since the words, ‘I’m sorry, but you have MS,’ instantly transformed me from a carefree 25-year-old, worried about my career, boyfriends and travelling, into someone forced to confront my mortality and reassess my whole future.
So I know how actor Selma Blair, who last week told the world that she’d been diagnosed with MS, must be feeling. The neurological condition causes the immune system to attack the protective coating of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in mobility and vision problems. So Selma will be experiencing a contradictory mix of emotions: relief at finally knowing what’s wrong, shock and grief, and terror of an unknown and potentially frightening future.
The 46-year-old star of Cruel Intentions revealed in an Instagram post: ‘I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS.’
In the wake of my own diagnosis, I remember feeling strangely calm as I comforted my mother, who irrationally blamed herself. I also wondered if my boyfriend would stick by me ( he did, although we later divorced), whether I’d lose my job or ever have children.
I’d been having weird symptoms for a few years: patches of numbness, blurred vision, clumsiness, all of which I put down to youthful excesses. But one day I woke up and couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. It was as if my lower body was encased in a plaster cast. When I tried to get out of bed, my legs collapsed underneath me and I crumpled to the floor. After months of tests, I finally learned what was wrong.
About 100 people in the UK are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis each week. For reasons as yet unknown, it disproportionately affects women: we are around three times as likely to develop the condition as men. The good news – if developing an incurable, disabling condition can ever be seen as such – is that being young at diagnosis generally means that your prognosis is better.
When someone well-known like Selma Blair goes public about having MS, I applaud, because I know that she’ll raise awareness and help to dispel the myths about the condition. And there are a lot of them: that it’s an old people’s problem (most, like me, are diagnosed in their twenties or thirties); that it’s a muscle wasting disease; that it’s what Stephen Hawking had ( he had motor neurone disease); that everyone with it ends up in a wheelchair ( in fact, most don’t need to use one, and rarely permanently); that it’s a terminal illness – people can live with it for 50 years and it actually only shortens lifespan, on average, by six or seven years.
Two decades on from my diagnosis, I am doing better than I ever believed possible: still mobile, active and able to work. And although I put off having children for a long time, partly because I was afraid of giving a child the responsibility of caring for me, I now have a gorgeous three-year-old daughter with my partner. Doctors now know that giving birth doesn’t make MS worse in the long term, and it actually has a protective effect while you’re pregnant, with relapse rates going down, especially during the third trimester. I’m incredibly lucky that my MS is classed as benign, which means that although I still have symptoms, such as numbness and tingling, blurred vision and fatigue, I have no residual disability.
MS is actually a very individual disease; no two people have exactly the same symptoms or experience. I wish I didn’t have the condition, but I’ve learned to live with it – and it’s now as much a part of my identity as having curly hair. MS Society Helpline: 0808 800 8000
WE’RE ALL FAMILIAR with the more typical military garments – from field and flight jackets to khakis and camouflage – to have hit the runway. But the balaclava? Well, that one’s new.
Gucci’s Alessandro Michele dressed up his balaclavas with blingy crystals, GG monograms and knitted deer illustrations. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi made theirs a balaclava from Brideshead Revisited, replete with eiderdown florals, lace trimmings and crafted in gauzy chiffons. Richard Malone’s looked like a sophisticated rain hood worn by grandmothers during a downpour, while at Calvin Klein, Raf Simons said his stripy-knit headwear was representative of protection. Perhaps from the President.
Fashion loves a good gimmicky accessory. Look only to the pavements on the streets around you to see how the ugly ‘Dad’ sneaker trend has experienced unexpected yet enduring prevalence. Remember also Christopher Kane’s fluffy-lined Crocs, or those hideous Balenciaga versions that were finished with cartoon brooches.
But, where the Balenciaga Crocs failed in their impracticality – with towering platforms that would no doubt incite an ankle injury – is where the balaclava might gain traction: no one can deny its warmth and its functionality – a hat and a scarf in one.
The first time the Gucci balaclava (as seen on Rihanna) was stocked on Lyst, it sold out in days. There was also a 19% spike for the brand in 24 hours.
‘It’s likely balaclavas on the catwalks has caused an interest in people viewing them online, but it’s been interesting to see the correlation between searches and sales. The hype around the piece of headgear is clearly visible in searches,’ said Lyst’s senior communications executive and micro-trends expert, Yasmine Bachir.
‘I wanted to create a refined urban balaclava that is fun and that has the bohemian flair of ’70s style,’ says Esra Bezek Dikencik, founder of Cashmere in Love, which has a striped pom-pom version this season. ‘I walk a lot to work or to the gym, and I cycle, so I feel the cold most of the time. I like the feel of the cashmere against my skin.’
But how would she recommend wearing it? ‘It’s quite versatile, since you can roll it up and use it as a beanie or pull it back and use it as a neck-warmer,’ Esra says of the design, which has eye holes big enough to allow sunglasses to be worn. The balaclava, then, is the incognito celebrity’s best friend. Will it be yours?
RO C K I N G TWO - TONE
a t r u ly regal fijan a r r i va l
Selma Blair out in LA last week and (right) her revealing Instagram post
Logo, £43, Puma ( farfetch.com) Striped, £315, Gucci (doverstreetmarket.com)
Bunny appliqué, £260, Gucci (matchesfashion.com)
Red, £231, Le Kasha ( farfetch.com)