Meghan Markle is about to be whisked away into the sort of life that most people can only dream of. After all, when she marries Prince Harry, she’ll most likely become a duchess and gain access to incredible wealth. That kind of lifestyle, however, also likely comes with set after set of complicated protocols. And right from her first photoshoot as a future royal, Meghan was breaking those rules.
Still, almost everything about Meghan’s introduction to the royal family was unconventional. For instance, the actress first met Prince Harry on a blind date set up by a mutual friend. The pair then kept their relationship as far under the radar as they possibly could. In fact, it was only confirmed as a serious relationship when Prince Harry took the unusual step of releasing a statement to the press.
The statement regarded the harassment that Meghan had been subjected to ever since she and Prince Harry had been spotted together. “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” part of the statement, released in November 2016, read. “It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”
Prince Harry’s statement also singled out particular kinds of nastiness on the part of certain people. The statement said, “Some of this [harassment] has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
Indeed, racial politics seemed to come to the fore as Meghan’s relationship with Prince Harry progressed. For her part, Meghan is biracial, with a black mother and a white father, and while she worked as an actress she spoke a lot about her pride in her heritage. Once Prince Harry and Meghan got engaged, however, the press seemed more excited about the royal family finally becoming diverse.
“When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever,” the Guardian wrote on November 27, 2017, the same day as the engagement announcement. “Don’t underestimate the symbolism of a royal marriage. From now on, it will be impossible to argue that being black is somehow incompatible with being British.”
But from different corners of the media world, there were additional concerns about whether the wedding ceremony would take place in a church. After all, Meghan is a divorcée – she was married to actor Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013 – and the royal family is supposed to be anti-divorce. So, as the head of the Church of England, the Queen is bound by religion to disapprove of it.
Obviously, this hasn’t worked out for the royal family over the years; three of the Queen’s four children are divorced. Plus, times have changed, and gradually divorce rates in the U.K. have gone up and up. So although perhaps 50 years ago Prince Harry would not have been allowed to marry Meghan, now the union is being celebrated by many other royals.
In a way, then, Meghan has broken some of the royal “rules” just by becoming engaged to Prince Harry in the first place – and people love it. She’s also already considered to be an icon of fashion. In fact, her style choices are always closely analyzed by her army of fans, who were particularly thrilled at one of the dresses she wore for her engagement photos.
In the most talked-about photograph, Meghan was wearing a beautiful couture dress from British company Ralph & Russo, which is favored by many a Hollywood star. But while the dress naturally looked amazing on her, it was actually a big break from the traditional rules of royal style. It was sheer, for one thing, and generally speaking the royal family don’t do sheer.
Interestingly, there are seemingly many other rules the royal family follow when it comes to fashion. You’ll probably never see a duchess wearing bright nail polish, for example, because the Queen reportedly thinks colorful nails are “vulgar.” Incidentally, Meghan followed this rule to a T when posing for her engagement photos, as she wore a pale shade called “Limousine.”
And royal women absolutely should never wear revealing outfits. If it’s a dress that shows too much cleavage, then, it’s a dress that needs changing. Even bare legs are more or less forbidden. So while the Duchess of Cambridge has occasionally been snapped looking like she wasn’t wearing pantyhose, rest assured that she was just wearing see-through ones.
Sheer may be acceptable (and indeed sometimes required) for a royal pair of legs – but a sheer dress is another matter entirely. For the engagement photo, though, Meghan’s black dress had gold detailing that covered her chest, and she was also most likely wearing an extra layer underneath to prevent accidentally revealing anything. But it was still, by royal standards, very risqué.
Yet people were impressed by this daring breach of tradition. The New York Post wrote that Meghan’s choice of dress “blasts away centuries of stuffiness by the U.K. royal family.” And many women wanted to buy their own versions of the unstuffy dress. But with the real deal costing a whopping $75,000, magazines quickly discovered that cheaper variations were available from different outlets.
After all, the women of the royal family almost always end up being trendsetters. The Duchess of Cambridge’s fashion sense has seen many a designer or store pushed unexpectedly into the spotlight, for instance. When she chose to wear a dress from the high-street brand Reiss while meeting the Obamas in 2011, so many customers rushed to buy the dress online that the Reiss website crashed.
The media dubbed this “the Kate effect.” And before too long, “the Meghan effect” will most likely fully take hold – if it hasn’t happened already. For her engagement photos, Meghan wore a $460 white coat from the almost unknown Canadian design firm Line the Label. There was subsequently such a rush to buy it that Line the Label’s co-founder decided to simply call the coat “Meghan.”
The Meghan effect may, then, end up being a huge boon for smaller designers. As an actress, Meghan moved in fashion circles, and although it’s never been confirmed, it might actually have been her fashion designer friend Misha Nonoo who set her up on her first date with Prince Harry. So she certainly knows how great it is for a designer when a royal is snapped wearing their clothes.
Analysts have suggested, too, that Meghan’s fashion choices may actually end up having a positive effect on the U.S. economy. “The fact that she’s American makes a lot of difference,” Fflur Roberts of Euromonitor told the Financial Times in December 2017. “It’s going to open many more doors to brands in the U.S. The whole world will be following what she’s wearing and will want to have those products.”
The world is also curious to know if Meghan will break any more royal style protocols. The next big fashion event for Meghan is of course her wedding to Prince Harry, which will take place on May 19, 2018. When Kate Middleton married Prince William, her dress was beautiful, but it was also deemed to be very safe. Will Meghan’s be something bold and unexpected instead?
People have speculated that Meghan may go for Ralph & Russo again, as she’s clearly fond of it, and it does do bridalwear. Israeli fashion designer Inbal Dror has also submitted some wedding dress designs. But there’s no doubt that whatever Meghan goes for, similar wedding gowns will sell out in minutes.