Style Icon: Meghan Markle

On Saturday, the world watched as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were finally joined in happy matrimony, solidifying the Californian’s entrance into a family who’s every move is governed by tradition. For the wife of the Prince, one tradition which has always altered the style of the Royal newcomer is the longstanding and slightly contentious tradition of modesty. As an advocate for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, it is been intriguing to see how Meghan has dealt with this new expectation.

There have been some evident changes. The girl who grew up in a state renowned for its lazy beaches and relaxed image has extended her hemline, swapping mini skirts for midi dresses, and left her open-toe sandals on the East Coast in exchange for close-toe pumps. However, while the tradition of modesty for the female newcomers of the family is both frustratingly backwards and largely unavoidable, Meghan has found some means of escape from this piece of stuffy English heritage.

She immediately demonstrated the location of her loyalties during her official engagement photocall, for which she wore a coat by Toronto-based Line the Label and earrings by fine jeweller Birks. This was a stylistic allegiance with Canada — the country she used to call home — which was timed to perfection, immediately sending a message to the world that the pre-princess Meghan was still very much present. It also quickly became apparent that she didn’t actually have much to change — her style has always been clean and simple, opting for a palette of monochrome and tonal looks teamed with a regimented blow-dry appointment and stiletto heels worn with graceful ease. It became more and more apparent that the American actress, who champions “beautifully made pieces” enhanced by “classic jewellery”, was not going to be out of place next to Kate and Pippa Middleton.

This is perhaps a lucky coincidence, as Meghan Markle has always prioritised her own autonomy within her wardrobe. While she has been a frequent at New York Fashion Week, she has claimed that she is not driven by trends, peppering them in here and there but mostly championing an investment in classic, non-regrettable pieces. As she told Vogue, her advice is: “wear what makes you feel comfortable, and isn’t going to make you cringe in three years when you see the photo”. As a consequence, she is often spotted in clean, tailored separates and has come to know exactly what works for her. She told Glamour that sometimes, “even though things look amazing on the hanger, it doesn’t mean they’re going to look amazing on me”.

She has also articulated in detail her love of pieces which are influenced by classic French style. Significantly, her admiration of Francophile styling has revealed a stylistic tendency which runs in opposition to the clean-cut polish of the Royal look. She explains, “if you’re outfit is pulled together, then something’s got to be dishevelled — your hair, your make-up”. This laid-back attitude has lent itself to a championing of a style inspired by the locally named, “Bobo”, meaning “Bohemian Bourgeois” — in effect, France’s version of the fusion of social classes referred to by the term “Champagne socialists” in the UK. While the political implications of the term are as problematic as they are in Britain, Meghan implored her blog readers to “put the political suggestion aside and simply talk about what it means to be ‘bobo chic’”. This materialises as a look which is “equal parts designer, bespoke & pricey but with an air of having just rolled out of bed, or dragged through a very fashionable (albeit disheveled) tornado.” In this way, the girl who was once excited by a style which took inspiration from “something dishevelled” has entered into a compromise: her love for French style is now expressed through crisply-cut cream stripes, themselves inspired by the aprons of women from the town of Bretagne.

It is important to remember that Meghan Markle is one half of a couple who have not been afraid of breaking tradition. From selecting a lemon and elderflower cake rather than the traditional fruit cake preferred since Queen Victoria’s wedding, to controversially not inviting any political figure of our time to the wedding, Meghan and Harry have proved themselves as a couple who are not afraid to do things differently. As the second American and first person of colour to marry a member of the English monarchy, Meghan’s entry into the family is steeped in the breaking of traditions. This is reflected in her style, which has subtly survived the royal influence, proving that ultimately, the pre-Royal Californian isn’t going anywhere.