The ‘New’ Meghan Markle Look Is Californian CEO Meets Film Star

Here's how you can get her stealth-wealth style.

Meghan Markle

by Natalie Hammond |
Updated on

It has been some time since Meghan Markle made a red carpet appearance, and the fact she chose the Variety 'Power of Women' gala in LA on Thursday night to stretch her A-list legs is no coincidence. After all, word has been that Meghan and her husband Prince Harry are set at reshaping their lives in the celebrity-heavy entertainment industry they live amongst in California - with their first feature film currently in the works with Netflix.

Also no coincidence is Meghan's power-wardrobe, all quiet luxury, beige and cream For the Variety event Meghan opted for a beige off-the-shoulder gown by Proenza Schouler, Aquazzura pumps and a black leather clutch bag. Her hair was slicked and her jewellery was classic gold.

Meghan Markle at the Variety Power Of Women gala

There is a clear strategy when it comes to Meghan's new look. When she took her seat as part of The Archewell Foundation Parents’ Summit last month, she just so happened to match the armchairs provided for panellists. For those who have been paying close attention, this marks the fourth time in the past month that she’s chosen to wear that particular shade: a sumptuous cream that is almost exclusively the preserve of the 1%. If three times is a trend, four times has got to be approaching a life choice - right? And it’s one that makes sense if you have carte blanche (no pun intended) when it comes to private cars and particularly long dry-cleaning bills.

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle at the The Archewell Foundation Parents’ Summit: Mental Wellness in the Digital Age ©Getty

Markle’s outfit was an off-the-shoulder blazer with matching wide-leg trousers by Altuzarra, worn with an impressively high pair of stiletto-heeled pumps measuring 11.5cm. Hollywood meets Goop, the whole look was aided by an emerald choker that wouldn’t look out of place on the red carpet and a strategically ‘messy’ bun that didn’t distract from the seriousness of the occasion. And it’s just the latest example of how the Duchess, still stretching her style legs after being governed by the rules constricting the wardrobes of working royals for several years, has finally found the sartorial equivalent of her ‘happy place’.

At last month’s Invictus Games, Markle’s wardrobe was a masterclass in soft-power outfits that still looked polished to perfection. (Although people are always quick to criticise the fact that her trousers appear creased. Assuming that nothing is left to chance, however, perhaps that’s part of the charm. Markle’s only human, after all, and most of us have to sit down occasionally.) And not only is she cherry-picking silhouettes that she used to wear on repeat before joining the royal family, but she’s choosing designers that have decidedly ‘fashion’ credentials.

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games ©Getty

Her ‘Californian CEO’ look certainly doesn’t ignore the design legends. (Her Cartier Tank watch rarely leaves her left wrist, after all, and her footwear is almost exclusively Chanel, Dior, Manolo Blahnik and Aquazzura.) Establishment brands like Ralph Lauren, Max Mara, Valentino and Carolina Herrera, which she wore several times on her recent trip to Dusseldorf, still have their place. And there’s a good smattering of high street shops like Zara, Banana Republic and J.Crew, whose website actually crashed after she was spotted wearing one of its cream-and-black cardigans on 13 September. (There’s less need to be a woman of the people but, one suspects, the tabloids’ tendency to pick over everything she wears has left her with a life-long desire to not be seen as tone deaf when it comes to cost. She certainly hasn’t forgotten the art of the high-low mix, however. You know that time she wore Banana Republic? She cinched her waist with a belt from Bottega Veneta.)

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle attending the True Patriot Love Reception ©Getty

But more and more, she’s relying on a lesser-known crop of labels that show her growing style confidence. Stockholm’s Toteme is one such brand. Known for a particularly delicious blanket-stitch coat that sells out as soon as it drops, as well as its spare approach to shirting and tailoring, Toteme might as well be the textbook definition of quiet luxury. (The same people who wear the achingly chic The Row? They’re almost certainly as obsessed with Toteme, with the added bonus that it belongs to a slightly more manageable price bracket.)

Markle owns its mini cable-knit sweater, its pleated high-waist trousers and its sleeveless wool midi dress, all in the pleasingly wearable shade of grey that’s trending right now. The dress was a particular revelation. Made of 100% wool, it was simple yet striking with a pair of spike-heeled pumps from Dior. Markle’s style, remember, has never been overtly feminine. Even as a senior royal who was expected to wear a uniform of dress coats, hats and heels, Markle always took a modern approach, preferring block colours over pastels, bold stripes over tepid florals. This Toteme dress feels very ‘her’. Dig a little deeper, however, and perhaps it’s also a statement of intent about her style choices being on her terms.

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle at the closing ceremony for the Invictus Games ©Getty

As well as wearing the new designer establishment, Markle has returned to an old silhouette. For the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games, she wore a strapless dress that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a red carpet premiere for the latest season of Suits. Made of lace-cut flowers that have been pieced together to reveal subtle flashes of leg, it was nothing short of a film-star moment as she was photographed in the arena with Prince Harry. (FYI, strapless is also a silhouette that she wears off-duty as well as on. In August, she wore a black-and-white striped bandeau dress from Posse, teaming it with leather thong sandals, for what looked like a casual dinner in Montecito.)

And while we’re on the subject of silhouettes, Markle’s also not afraid to wear what works for her - regardless of whether or not it’s currently on trend. A case in point is her commitment to skinny jeans. Although the shape we all wore in 2015 has been edged out by straight-legged and wide-legged styles, Markle has remained loyal to skinnies. She even wore a pair a few days ago - Frame’s Le Skinny De Jeanne, which she owns in black and white - when she and her husband made a visit to a school in Brooklyn. On the few occasions that she wore jeans as a working royal, she also favoured slim-fit jeans. Clearly, she knows what works for her.

Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle at the Invictus Games ©Getty

It’s easy to read too much into what she’s wearing, looking for signs where there’s simply a pair of shoes. Because her ‘new’ wardrobe isn’t so much of a 180 as a distilled - and, yes, probably more designer - version of what she was always most comfortable wearing. Take the heels, for example. Meghan hasn’t started to wear stiletto-heeled pumps since leaving The Firm, although it might be nice to think that she’s reaching new heights. The Aquazzura Purist Pumps that she wore for the panel talk at this week’s mental health conference were exactly the same pair she chose for 2020’s Commonwealth Day Service, an event that would be one of her last as a senior working royal.

So if this isn’t Meghan 2.0, what is it exactly? A Californian glow-up - featuring strapless dresses and anti-stress patches - that simply means she’s enjoying being able to shop for herself? Possibly. Or is she putting her best fashion foot forward because she’s about to announce the launch of a label-slash-lifestyle-offering à la Gwyneth Paltrow? Again, possibly. All we can say for certain is that it would sell two things for sure: skinny jeans and skyscraper heels.

Markle's cream-and-black cardigan is sadly sold out but the brand has plenty of cardi-jackets for autumn (and all are very 'Chanelegant').

It might be too cold for shorts, but it's probably worth investing in this smart pair for next summer.

Meghan Markle's Banana Republic shirt dress was almost identical to this popover version. She wore hers with stiletto court heels.

Kimaï, Semi Hoop Earring
Price: £595

Kimaï is one of the leading jewellery brands for lab-grown diamonds. These hoop earrings will make a subtle statement for work or play. Just don't forget that they're sold as a single instead of a pair.

Cuyana, Classic Silk Trench
Price: £495

Meghan Markle swears by Cuyana - the first time she was publicly seen wearing the brand was 2018 - and this is the smartest trench coat we've found on our travels.

Guyana, Silk Paperboy Pants
Price: £222

Pair it with jeans for off-duty or with the matching silk pants for work.

Meghan Markle has remained loyal to these pumps, which have a 11.5cm heel, since 2020.

At the recent Invictus Games, Markle packed several accessories from cult brand Bottega Veneta, including a black belt and these hoops.

This is the exact sleeveless sweater dress worn by Meghan, who also packed several other items from Toteme.

Toteme's cable-knit wool jumper is the definition of stealth-wealth chic.

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