Matt Sayles/Christian Monterrosa/Lee Morgan/The Duke of Sussex/@SaveChildrenUK
Meghan Markle left royal life with a bang. After first announcing their intention to step back from their roles in January 2019, and reaching an agreement later on with their fellow Windsors about what their new lives would look like, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to the UK for one final time as working royals in March—a visit often referred to as the couple’s “farewell tour.”
Many of their meetings with patronages and the like took place behind the scenes, leaving royal watchers with only a handful of events to see the couple performing their public-facing roles—and Meghan didn’t miss a single opportunity to impress. But it was her last appearance, at a Commonwealth Day Service alongside the rest of the senior Windsors, when she really pulled out the stops: an emerald green Emilia Wickstead cape dress, paired with a matching William Chambers hat and Gabriela Hearst bag. The fabric fluttered behind her as she arrived, adding an air of drama.
And then it was over. Whatever sartorial choices Meghan made after that appearance in March—save, perhaps, for her future looks at the odd royal event, like Trooping the Colour—would be entirely her own. Not that the Queen’s staffers were ever lording over the Duchess, dressing her up like a doll; rather, the clothes Meghan wore during her time as a representative of the Queen inherently reflected on the monarchy, and as such, had to reflect certain values: a degree of conservatism in hemlines and necklines; a professionalism at formal events, and a studied casualness at informal ones; a style that occupies the (admittedly large) space between avant-garde and unfashionable.
Meghan has been free of these constraints now for some time. And what has she done with this newfound sartorial liberty? Not all that much, it turns out.
The Duchess’s new front-facing wardrobe—meaning the clothes she wears when she knows she’ll be photographed, (or, in the case of digital appearances, screengrabbed)—has stayed remarkably close to her royal one. She still opts for solid colors, white button-down shirts, and blazers for the majority of events; when she and Harry visited a cemetery in L.A. to commemorate the UK’s Remembrance Sunday, Meghan wore a belted A-line coat and carried a matching clutch, recalling several similar outfits she’d donned as a Duchess.
There are changes around the edges. She seems to wear fewer dresses these days (though it’s a little hard to tell, given that many of her virtual appearances are waist-up, and she hasn’t had the chance to attend any of the formal soirees that she frequented when she held her HRH title), and in casual settings, she lets her California roots shine through, wearing chambray shirts and faded green shorts. Perhaps her biggest departure was during her August conversation with Gloria Steinem, when she paired a wide-brimmed sun hat with striped white pants and sandals—very “wealthy SoCal woman on vacation.”
Still, these are tweaks, not a wholesale fashion reinvention. So what are we to make of this sartorial continuity? There are, essentially, two options: the Duchess of Sussex was always wearing more or less as she pleased, and her style naturally adhered to royal standards, or that she’s still dressing for those across the pond. (The latter was definitely the case at least once—why else would she bundle up in a full-length coat in sunny California, if not to visually resonate with the Brits weathering the winter back in London?)
In time, as Meghan has more opportunities to make appearances—and, theoretically, to do so in-person rather than virtually—it may become clear who the Duchess is dressing for.
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