At the opening of her new flagship store on Bond Street last week, Stella McCartney talked to the BBC about the dress she designed for Meghan Markle’s wedding reception: ‘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.’
The sweeping halter- neck gown, Stella added, was about ‘the right pace, the right voice’. Implying that this slinky Hollywood-esque gown was Meghan’s last bid for fashion freedom before the realities of royal protocol were cemented, she added: ‘The role that she has taken on is very austere. I think there’s a great weight that she has acquired through that... she takes it very seriously.’
But has Meghan Markle really lost her fashion personality since joining The Firm? It’s early days (just a month to be precise), but I don’t think so. Her recent post-wedding outfits are revealing in their painstaking correctness – the pale ‘blush’ hues that don’t outshine more senior royals (note HM ratcheting up the neon limes in Meghan’s presence for their first event together without other royals, touring Chester last week, top), the demure shapes that recall her Givenchy wedding gown, the hosiery, simple hats, ‘nude’ heels and long, tonged hair.
This is a woman who is nothing if not diligent – desperate even – to make the right impression. Indeed, rumour has it that she’s so nervous about getting royal dressing right she’s taken to asking Prince Harry for style advice. But equally, Meghan’s heels are still high, and those hemlines might be cut crisply below the knee, but the skirts are still the form- fitting pencil shapes from Suits. She’s also still displaying that much-debated clavicle – sparking inevitable outrage from those who said it was inappropriate for the formality of Trooping The Colour.
Right or wrong, there will never be any respite from the incessant scrutiny and judgement – for the rest of her life. We know this because of Princess Diana. She became an expert at fashion manipulation – showing us precisely how she felt through her clothes, eventually using her choices to outshine her husband and upstage Camilla while often putting two fingers up to royal etiquette.
The question is, what do we really want from Meghan? How should a modern duchess look? We applauded Kate in her £39.99 Zara dress, rolling around on the grass with Charlotte and George at a polo match recently, but she often comes under fire for playing it too safe. And yet, is there any wonder she dresses in conservative uniforms that serve as protection from the world? Likewise, Meghan – nervous to put a foot wrong – is hardly likely to be seen on duty in cult cutting-edge designs, and do we even want that? It’s a question of balance and context: yes to designer clothes (and their price tags) for formal events but she mustn’t lose her confidence at trialing something new – namely, colour and print – while maintaining her royal identity.
It remains to be seen how Meghan will tackle off-duty. Personally, I hope she brings back the messy bun. It’s very her. And don’t we all just want that?