Tuesday marked a month since Meghan Markle married into the British royal family, effectively becoming Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. And since the date of her wedding to Prince Harry, eyes around the world have been watching to witness—and critique—the former actress’s royal style.
The duchess got off to a great start; her wedding dress, designed by Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy, was generally lauded as elegant and minimalist, although some questioned the fit. But it was Markle’s second gown of the day, a high-necked silk crepe halter gown designed by Stella McCartney, that was proclaimed universally flattering and a subtly sexy start to royal life.
However, McCartney recently shared an interesting take on the honor of being chosen to design the evening look for the new duchess, telling the BBC:
The role that she’s taken on is very austere, it’s very serious and I think there’s a great weight that she has acquired though that and I think she takes it very seriously ... I think it was the last moment that she could reflect, sort of the other side to her and, you know ... the joy, and the human within her.
Judging from the ensembles the duchess has sported since her marriage, McCartney may be on to something. While Markle certainly looks happy (and has called her groom “the best husband ever”), when she emerged mere days after her wedding wearing a very conservative pale-blush-colored day dress by Goat—plus the requisite royal hosiery and hat—it was clear that she’d crossed the threshold into her new role.
In the weeks since (which included a brief honeymoon), Markle’s choices have been seemingly safe, if not smash hits. But while the duchess reportedly gets fashion advice from her new husband, don’t count her independence out. For instance, her outfit for the Trooping of the Color (the annual celebration of the queen’s birthday) went slightly against protocol.
For the typically formal day event, the duchess bared her arms in an off-the-shoulder, custom-made Carolina Herrera suit—once again in blush, and once again paired with the custom Philip Treacy hat she’d worn to her first public appearance. (Notably, sister-in-law Kate Middleton reportedly hasn’t appeared at the event in sleeves above the elbow since her 2011 wedding—and it’s customary for the women of the royal family to keep their shoulders covered at formal events.)
If the queen minded, Markle certainly course-corrected before their next appearance together, when she joined the monarch for a bridge opening wearing a sleek, beige, cape-topped dress by Givenchy with black accessories, and her hair flowing free. The look was a tailored and fashion-forward spin on conservative dressing, though it’s worth noting that the queen seems far more adventurous with color than her new granddaughter-in-law.
So, it should’ve been refreshing to see Markle throw on a little color to attend the wedding of Harry’s cousin Celia McCorquodale on Sunday. But unfortunately, the blue-and-white bohemian-style Oscar de la Renta that she donned for the ceremony seemed to swallow her whole, as viciously noted by several royal-watchers, including South African designer and “influencer” Simon Rademan:
Frankly, we think this look might’ve been saved by a fitting, a belt and a better hat (put the froufrou fascinator down, Meghan), but we must agree, it was a fail—though she did at least bring the “something blue” to the wedding.
However, we were pleased to see the duchess step up her hat game for day 1 of the Royal Ascot on Tuesday—thanks again to Philip Treacy. As for her dress ... let’s just say it left us flat.
We’re sure it was lovely close up (it should’ve been, for the reportedly $8,500 the entire outfit cost), but there seemed to be something profoundly underwhelming about Markle’s lace-appliqued, three-quarter-sleeved white shirtdress, again designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. Among the more tailored silhouettes of the royal family (including her husband’s top hat and morning coat), the duchess looked, dare we say, a bit underdressed.
Honestly, we would have loved to see the duchess in something like her new cousin-in-law Princess Eugenie’s stunning white wrap dress and hat. And is it weird to say that Markle’s dress might have read more formally if she had opted to close the top button?
But while we have our critiques, let’s be honest: Markle has been a royal for all of 31 days, and after years spent on Hollywood step-and-repeats, she may need a second to find her sartorial stride in her new role. In fact, we suspect that she may be overcompensating a bit with the conservatism; not surprising, when one considers how much vitriol was directed her way prior to her marriage.
So, along with the rest of the world, we’ll be keeping our eye on the evolving style of the Duchess of Sussex. As we recall, it took her husband’s iconic mother a moment to find her style, too.