When Princess Eugenie stepped out of her wedding car and revealed her breathtaking ivory gown, we actually gasped out loud. The dress, designed by British sartorialists Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos, instantly became a huge talking point with people analysing everything from the fabric through to the glamorous train that her father had to work very hard not to tread on. Beyond the gorgeous physical details and symbolic embroidery, there was actually a deeper body positive meaning behind Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress.
Princess Eugenie has always been open about her battle with scoliosis as a child, a condition in which your ‘spine twists and curves to the side’ according to NHS. After undergoing corrective surgery at age 12, she continues to bear the scars of that operation and she insisted on putting them on full display at her wedding with a low backline.
If you look closely, you can see a scar that goes all the way up her spine to the small of her neck. She also skipped out on the traditional veil, which could have potentially covered up the dress’ low back and hidden them from sight.
Choosing to bare your scars is a difficult thing for many people, but Princess Eugenie’s choice to showcase them was a beautiful message we can all take notes from.
According to The Telegraph, the low backline was a detail incorporated at the ‘specific request of the bride’. She also hinted in the lead up to the wedding that she would be putting her scars on display, while speaking out about narrow beauty standards on This Morning.
She said, ‘I had an operation when I was 12 on my back, and you’ll see on Friday [at the wedding], but it’s a lovely way to honour the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this.
‘I think you can change the way beauty is,’ she continued, ‘And you can show people your scars and I think it’s really special to stand up for that.’
Well said, Eugenie. Aesthetically pleasing or not, our scars are signs of the life we’ve lived and things we’ve been through — they’re beautiful because they’re part of who we are.
Although Princess Eugenie isn’t technically a working royal and actually has a day job at an art gallery, she shares her family’s strong humanitarian streak. Scoliosis treatment and awareness in particular are understandably causes that are very close to her heart and she serves as a patron to Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, where she underwent her own corrective surgery.
She worked tirelessly to raise funds for the hospital’s Redevelopment Appeal in 2012 to support those also fighting the condition and a new wing has since been named after her. In fact, Doctor Jan Lehovsky who performed Princess Eugenie’s surgery as well the team from the hospital were invited to Eugenie’s wedding.
For Princess Eugenie, walking down the aisle with her back totally exposed and with her head held high was something she wanted them to see. Sarah Ferguson told The Mirror that Princess Eugenie wanted them to know that ‘she is walking up that aisle with a straight back because of them’.
Eugenie recounted her own experience with scoliosis in a personal essay on the hospital’s website, writing, ‘During my operation, which took eight hours, my surgeons inserted eight-inch titanium rods into each side of my spine and one-and-a-half inch screws at the top of my neck. After three days in intensive care, I spent a week on a ward and six days in a wheelchair, but I was walking again after that.’
She also posted an image of an X-ray which displayed the resulting rods in her spine on her personal Instagram account and said she was ‘very proud’ to share them. She also thanked ‘the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital who work tirelessly to save lives and make people better’.
‘My back problems were a huge part of my life, as they would be for any 12-year-old,’ Eugenie said. ‘Children can look at me now and know that the operation works. I’m living proof of the ways in which [the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital] can change people’s lives.’
Major props to Princess Eugenie for using her platform for good, especially on her big day. Here’s hoping the rest of the royal family take a leaf out of her book and make more meaningful statements like this one.
This article originally appeared on marie claire UK