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Meghan Markle Isn't Ripping Up The Royal Style Rulebook - And That's OK

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After all the fanfare – literal and not so literal – that surrounded Meghan Markle’s wedding gown (a Claire Waight Keller for Givenchy original that could have been plucked from a frame of an Audrey Hepburn movie) and the sleek Stella McCartney design she wore for the evening reception, what would the Duchess of Sussex’s next sartorial move be? Yesterday, at a Buckingham Palace garden party marking the 70th birthday of her new father-in-law, the Prince of Wales, we had our answer: a simple pencil dress in blush pink by Goat Fashion, a British label synonymous with simple shapes, quality fabrics… and Meghan’s new sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge.

If the dress (a £590 ‘Flavia’ silk-crepe shift, custom made for Meghan) came with Kate Middleton’s implicit seal of approval, the accessories complied with the royal family’s strict style rubric, too: the hat was by royal go-to Philip Treacy, the clutch by Wilbur & Gussie (a British accessories brand put on the map by – surprise, surprise – the Middleton sisters) and the flesh-coloured tights were present. It’s no shock to learn that the dress not only sold out, but that Goat’s website buckled under the surge in demand, going offline for 40 minutes – by now, the ‘Meghan effect’ is well documented to the point of ubiquity. But it is interesting to note that her conservative yet, let’s face it, entirely occasion-appropriate outfit doesn’t quite fit in with the media narrative around Meghan’s fashion choices to date.

Since she’s been officially welcomed into the royal fold (ie. ever since Kensington Palace’s Twitter account started referring to her as Ms. Meghan Markle) tabloid headlines have scrambled to position Meghan as a low-key royal rule breaker – and, by extension, to obliquely roll an eye at the Duchess of Cambridge’s more conventional wardrobe choices. Carrying an outlandishly large tote bag? Breach of royal protocol. Bare arms in a church? Queen Victoria is turning in her grave. Skipping the skin-coloured tights? Might as well hand back your engagement ring now, love. It’s an easy way for publications to do two things at once: to compare the two women (at Kate’s expense) while, by emphasising how ‘modern’ and ‘non-traditional’ she is, othering her without explicitly talking about race. Who said coat dresses didn’t mean anything?

As one of the most photographed women in the world, Meghan is doubtless more aware than anyone of the subtle signals that our clothes can send. Yes, she’s played it safe and stuck closely to the royal dress code for her first engagement since her marriage – but think of this as her high-profile equivalent of your ‘first day at work’ outfit. Being a royal is, after all, a job (albeit one that sometimes involves tiaras), and if we’ve learned anything about Meghan in the past few months, it’s that she’d surely rather we focus on the substance of her work rather than solely fixating on the contents of her wardrobe.

Look back at some of Meghan Markle's best (pre-royal) style moments in the gallery below...