Even before she married Prince Harry, Meghan Markle was used to being in the public eye.
Not only was she starring in courtroom drama Suits, but the then-actor was attending events and walking countless red carpets, so she has always known a thing or two about looking good in front of the camera.
But A-list events and even her own lifestyle blog The Tig, had to take a step back when she became a senior member of the Royal Family when marrying Prince Harry in 2018.
Cue high-neck midi dresses and work-appropriate pencil skirts for public appearances, and demure gowns for evening wear as the couple took on their duties on behalf of the monarchy.
But in January 2020, the couple made the decision to step down as senior royals, eventually moving their family to Montecito, California.
At the same time, Meghan turned 40 in 2021, so how has the duchess’ style changed since departing the Royal Family and heading into her 40s?
Firstly, unrestricted by protocol, or the unwritten fashion rules of ‘The Firm’, Meghan has been able to stretch her sartorial legs out again, trying out ensembles that she may not have been able to as a working royal, such as baring slightly more skin and shorter cuts.
Her wardrobe now also features more trend-led pieces. Meghan’s royal wardrobe was understandably quite conservative, but today we’re seeing a lot more experimentation with different silhouettes and designers.
Of course, she hasn’t lost her own sense of style. The classics – button-down shirts, blazers, indigo jeans – that she wore before are all still there, if even more refined.
Meghan Markle opted for a smart, black figure-hugging, knee-length dress, which featured three-quarter length sleeves as she supported Prince Harry during a speech at the UN for Nelson Mandela day. She wore her hair back in a coiffed ponytail and accessorised with a black Mulberry handbag and high heels.
Watch: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the UN General Assembly
For her first official royal event in over two years, Meghan wore a Dior haute couture white coat midi dress featuring a belt, statement collar, cropped sleeves and a slight A-line skirt for the Service of Thanksgiving in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
A pair of indigo jeans and a belted cream jacket were the items of choice for watching the volleyball at the 2020 Invictus Games in The Hague, Netherlands in 2022, after they had been postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meghan forewent what would have been royal protocol and went for a Khaite off-the-shoulder bodysuit and tailored trouser combination to introduce her husband during the Invictus Games Opening Ceremony. The white ruched top was also compared to one worn by Meghan’s late mother-in-law Princess Diana in the ’90s.
What’s so un-royal about a white suit you may ask? The Duchess of Cambridge wears her Alexander McQueen version regularly after all. But Meghan’s Valentino two-piece offers a little more oomph that makes it decidedly more ‘fashion’. Wide-leg tailored trousers combined with the oversized blazer makes for a cool, effortless, laidback-luxe feel without losing any elegance.
Diana is that you? Meghan opted for a classic look for a fun day out with kids and families at the 2020 Invictus Games, that could have come directly from Princess Diana’s playbook. The casual but practical jeans? Check. A boucle navy jacket by a prominent French brand? (Diana’s was Chanel, Meghan’s Celine) Check. The two tone ballet pumps? Check check check.
Younger female members of the Royal Family have always had a penchant for wearing red, but this Caroline Herrera dress is something else, and far from what you might see a working senior royal wear with its plunging neckline and front slit. Still, Meghan manages to make it elegant and not look overly sexy.
Whilst the to half of Meghan’s Valentino dress for Global Citizen Live in 2021 is still quite conservative, a mini dress on a royal? Shocker! This is where we really start to see the duchess branching back out with her own sartorial style.
For one of their final appearances before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved to their new home in California, Meghan opted for deep green dress and matching fascinator for the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey. But it was the additional draped cape that gave her outfit a little szuzh, and gave fans a glimpse of what was to come from her post-royal style.
The day before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their decision to step back from their roles as senior royals, the duchess wore a sleek monochrome brown outfit, where you could already see her stretching her sartorial legs in a way that working royals can’t.