Meghan Markle is a fashion icon. She was one before she became Duchess of Sussex, and she’s one now. Her style is sleek and professional – and involves lots of high heels. Yet even the most fashionable members of the royal family seemingly aren’t immune to the problems that high heels bring. So Meghan has apparently invented herself a clever little hack to avoid said problems, and it’s one worth taking note of should you wish to follow in her footsteps.
And why wouldn’t you want to be like Meghan? Her relationship with Prince Harry is a modern-day fairytale of sorts, after all. She was an actress most famous for the legal drama Suits; he was the one-time “party prince,” whose past escapades included playing strip billiards in Las Vegas. But together, they became a truly impressive royal power couple.
And when the palace announced the couple’s engagement, the pair looked delighted and in love in the official photographs. Right from that early moment, however, it became clear that Meghan wasn’t going to play by any royal fashion rules. The dress she wore as she posed with Harry for these pictures is actually sheer, which is very daring for a royal.
But as a divorced American, Meghan is someone whom the royal family hasn’t seen for a while. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that British royals were completely forbidden from marrying divorced people because of royal links to the Church of England. In 1953, for instance, Princess Margaret wasn’t permitted to marry the divorced Peter Townsend.
And the famous Abdication Crisis had taken place just a couple of decades prior. In that case, King Edward VIII had fallen in love with Wallis Simpson, a woman with two failed marriages, and wished to marry her. The Church of England didn’t allow it, however, and this led to Edward giving up the throne instead of cutting her from his life.
Luckily, royalty and the very concept of monarchy have evolved a lot over the years. Yet while Meghan has been welcomed into the ranks, she did still have to make huge changes in her life. She is no longer an actress, for example, and she’s also given up her popular social media accounts.
Then there are the “rules” on what you can and can’t wear as a royal. Some of these reported rules seem very picky indeed to a regular person. Even apart from the unspoken “no sheer” rule, there’s also apparently “no brightly colored nail varnish” and “no wedge shoes.” The last of these is because, reportedly, the Queen hates that particular kind of footwear.
Some of the alleged rules even seem positively archaic. Apparently, for example, only married women can wear tiaras, as the jewelry is supposed to signify whether the wearer is “available” or not. And if you’re wondering why Prince George seemingly never wears trousers, there’s supposedly a royal reason for that too. Ever since the 16th century, you see, young princes have apparently been dressed in shorts.
Then there’s all the other things to take into consideration while visiting members of the public. For one thing, it’s reportedly seen as unladylike for a royal to take her coat off while people are watching. And gloves are apparently to be worn to prevent the spread of germs while shaking hands. Royalty is a whole new world for the fashion conscious, it seems.
But Meghan was of course fashion-forward long before she met Prince Harry. As an actress and an activist, she attended lots of red-carpet events. At the height of her Suits fame, in fact, she even had her own clothing line. In partnership with the Canadian company Reitmans, she worked on creating a line of Suits-style wear.
Meghan spilled all about the line to the Toronto Star in 2016. Her particular brand was, she said, “aspirational girl next door,” and her work with Reitmans was “totally an extension of [her] personal style.” But one of the key words was “accessibility.”
Yes, Meghan wanted her outfits to be available to all. “These girls go in to the store with their hard-earned money,” she said of her potential customers. “And I care about that. I was not a girl who grew up buying $100 candles. I was the girl who ran out of gas on her way to an audition.”
Now that Meghan is wife to Prince Harry, however, she has more than enough cash to splash. In fact, her wedding dress, a custom Givenchy number designed by Clare Waight Keller, cost nearly $265,000, according to Vanity Fair. And that was just for starters.
So Meghan’s not quite an “aspirational girl next door” anymore; now she’s the one to whom other people aspire. Clothes she’s spotted wearing therefore tend to sell out extremely fast. For her first appearance as a newly minted duchess, for instance, she wore a pale pink dress from the company Goat. Goat’s website later crashed from all the attention shortly afterwards.
Meghan’s worn other absolutely spectacular outfits while attending to her royal duties too. She seems to favor smart silhouettes and a trendy look. Her dresses are usually quite minimalist, and all the accessories perfectly match. Then there’s the shoes. Like many other women, she generally appears to prefer high heels.
There are also particular brands that she has worn time and again. During her tour of Australia, for instance, Meghan wore Manolo Blahnik designs no less than seven times. In March 2018 Blahnik himself spoke to Footwear News about the duchess. “It is a great honor and joy to have my shoes worn by such a beautiful young lady,” he said. “Meghan is well on her way to becoming a style icon of the 21st century.”
He is right, of course. But in October 2018 something happened that probably made Meghan adjust her personal fashion style. Just before she and Harry embarked on a tour of Australia and New Zealand, you see, Kensington Palace announced that the new couple are expecting a baby.
“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019,” read the statement from the palace. “Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public.”
But Meghan was reportedly quick to work her new shape into her sartorial choices. Certainly, fashion designer Don O’Neill told the Daily Mail that the duchess had asked for a particular white dress to be altered for “extra seam allowance” before the tour. “We knew immediately why this extra allowance was required, but Mum’s the word,” he said.
Meghan also seemed to switch to more comfortable footwear while touring Down Under. Her royal duties did involve a lot of walking, after all, and that’s very hard to do in high heels. Perhaps that’s why, during the media frenzy that has followed her pregnancy announcement and her trip, she has often been photographed in boots and sensible flats.
But it transpired that all along, Meghan may have had a little shoe secret that guaranteed her maximum comfort even in high heels. In among all the many, many pictures taken of her, you see, there are plenty of her feet, and the media has seemingly observed something. Meghan’s high heels, beautiful though they are, always seem to be a size too large for her.
On a few occasions, this has been very noticeable. On a trip to Belfast in March 2018, for example, she wore a pair of expensive Jimmy Choos, but photos seem to show how big they are compared to her feet. And at Ascot – a very fancy occasion – in June, she wore some black leather shoes that once again didn’t appear to fit her at all.
Even in her engagement picture she seemingly wore shoes that are slightly too large! Standing with her husband-to-be in Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden, she wore some strappy Aquazzura sandals. “She literally wore something that was one of her favorite shoes,” designer Edgardo Osorio told Hello! in May 2018.
Tabloid newspaper The Sun reported on Meghan’s seemingly odd shoe-sizing choice in June 2018. The paper also brought in some fashion experts to discuss it. “Celebs often go a size up, or even two, in the shoe department when they’re at an event or on the red carpet, and it’s for one reason we can all relate to: to avoid blisters,” expert Harriet Davey explained.
“There’s nothing worse than uncomfortable shoes (we’ve all been there on a night out) and when celebs like Meghan are wearing heels for a long period of time their feet can often swell up,” Davey went on. “The swelling can cause blisters and in the long run bunions – like long-time heel fan Victoria Beckham has been rumored to suffer with.”
Poor Victoria Beckham has indeed reportedly had a lot of trouble with high heels. Back in 2011, in fact, doctors allegedly outright forbade her from wearing them, as doing so would make a slipped disc worse. She apparently hated every moment of having to wear flats – particularly as it coincided with New York Fashion Week…
Other celebs have suffered health problems from high heels too. In 2013 Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker said she had had to give them up. She told Net-a-Porter, “I went to a foot doctor, and he said, ‘Your foot does things it shouldn’t be able to do. That bone there… you’ve created that bone. It doesn’t belong there.’”
“The moral of the story is, the chickens are coming home to roost,” Parker went on. “It’s sad because my feet took me all over the world, but eventually they were like, ‘You know what? We are really tired; can you just stop – and don’t put cheap shoes on us?’” But how big a problem are high heels, really?
Unfortunately, they may be more dangerous than the average person realizes. According to the American Osteopathic Association, wearing stilettos and the like can cause neck, back and shoulder pain. “High heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment,” Dr. Sajid A. Surve explained on the organization’s website.
Overuse of high heels can also cause bunions, ingrown toenails, blisters and permanently bent toes. These are difficult things for anyone to have – and arguably worse if you’re a duchess! So it’s perhaps no wonder that Meghan seemingly wears shoes that are too big, rather than risk any of that.
There are a few other things that she could do to reduce the health risks associated with high heels too. And most of them are fairly easy. She could try, for example, putting her shoes in the freezer with bags of water in the heels. This could help stretch the shoes into being more manageable.
She could also have a go at heating up her shoes with a hairdryer. It’s recommended that anyone who wants to try this puts on a pair of socks first and then slides into the shoe. If any bits feel too tight, a hairdryer can be turned on them until they loosen up. This will only work with certain shoe materials, however.
Or Meghan could just do what the Queen, her new grandmother-in-law, is rumored to do. Of course, the Queen doesn’t wear shoes that are too high-heeled – she’s 92 years old, after all – but she does have heeled shoes. And when she does, she apparently gets one of her many employees to break shoes in for her before she wears them.
According to Stewart Parvin, a former wardrobe designer to the Queen, the staff member selected to break in the shoes also has to don a pair of beige cotton socks and only walk on the carpet while in the Queen’s footwear. “The shoes have to be immediately comfortable,” Parvin told U.K. newspaper the Evening Standard in 2017.
Harriet Davey told The Sun what she thought Meghan might do too. “A trick of the trade is to stuff the toe with padding like tissue or cotton wool, and this can be taken out once they feel like they need a bit more room in their shoes,” she told the publication. That wouldn’t work with open-toed shoes, though.
But despite Meghan’s shoes always seemingly being too big for her, they sell like hot cakes. During her royal tour, in fact, almost all the shoes she chose, including Sarah Flint and Stella McCartney designs, sold out immediately. One pair from Banana Republic were inexpensive and created for comfort, and they were very popular indeed.
Meghan actually wore Sarah Flint shoes before she ever met Harry, so her joining the royal family came as a delight to the designer. The Sarah Flint website saw a huge uptick in sales too, especially when Meghan wore its “Grear” sandal. Flint herself shared with Hello! magazine how grateful she is.
Flint revealed that not only has Meghan increased her sales, but the duchess has also taken time to have a personal relationship with the designer. “She sends thank you notes… handwritten thank you notes for all her shoes, which is really nice,” Flint told the magazine in June 2017. “It’s just been an email relationship so far, but I’d love to have her into the showroom.”
When Hello! asked about Meghan’s impact on fashion – the Meghan Markle Effect – Flint said, “I think it’s probably only going to grow. It’s so exciting.” It is indeed growing all the time. Now that Meghan is expecting her and Harry’s first baby, fashionistas are looking to her for maternity style ideas too.
And that’s not even going into what will happen when the baby is born! The whole world will be eagerly waiting to see what baby clothes Meghan opts for when dressing her child. So the duchess’ days as a fashion icon are far from over. Maybe more people will follow in her (literal) footsteps with the shoe-size hack as well.