Meghan’s strapless gold dress shows how much her style has changed post-Royal Family
The Duchess of Sussex wore gold to receive the Ms. Foundation Woman of Vision Award on Tuesday evening.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped out together at a public event on Tuesday for the first time since the Duke of Sussex briefly attended the coronation of his father, King Charles.
The pair, along with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland, attended the Ms. Foundation for Women Awards in New York City where Meghan received the 2023 Woman of Vision Award from feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
The duchess was honoured for her global advocacy to empower and advocate on behalf of women and girls.
Meghan, 41, wore a customised strapless midi-length dress by Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz. The golden brocade dress had the original straps removed in a move that proves Meghan has left her days in the Royal Family behind.
Female royals tend to have dresses and gowns altered to add more to a dress, coverage-wise, or to create a custom version of another design rather than removing parts.
The designer dress also featured a small, yet significant, cut-out at the breast bone, subtly revealing more skin. Such a design feature might not even be noticeable on another celebrity, but on Meghan shows her leaning away from the sartorial constraints of being a senior member of the Royal Family.
Meghan styled her signature brunette waves in a side parting and accessorised with a Carolina Herrera yellow clutch bag, Tom Ford lizard-print high-heeled sandals, JCrew hoop earrings, a Cartier 'Love' bangle, and what looks to be Princess Diana's diamond tennis bracelet.
Not only is a shoulder-baring dress rarely seen on a royal (although Kate did make waves with her Roland Mouret number last summer), but it's also unusual for a member of the Royal Family to opt for a fashion label such as Johanna Ortiz, as most choose to represent British brands.
Meghan's late mother-in-law Diana only reached for European brands such as Chanel and Gucci after she had separated from the then Prince Charles.
So when, in January 2020, the couple made the decision to step down as senior royals, the duchess’ style blossomed into its post-royal glory, too.
Read more: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's relationship timeline
Unrestricted by protocol, or the unwritten fashion rules of 'The Firm', Meghan has been able to stretch her sartorial legs, 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.
Read more: Every time the Duchess of Cambridge and Sussex subtly honoured Princess Diana
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.
As the Duchess of Sussex returns to the red carpet, take a look at how Meghan’s style trajectory has changed since leaving her role as a senior member of the Royal Family.
Meghan wore a customised strapless Johanna Ortiz gilded midi dress to accept her Ms. Foundation 2023 Woman of Vision Award. The brocade-style column dress had its straps removed from the original design and featured a cut-out at the midriff and a centre split at the thigh.
The gold shade is representative of her time post-Royal Family, as Meghan previously mentioned in her and Harry's Netflix docuseries that she didn't wear colour so as "not to embarrass the family", instead opting for neutral shades.
Meghan wore a custom Louis Vuitton dress to accept the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award in December 2022. She paired the draped design with Princess Diana's £75,000 aquamarine ring and diamond earrings, which Harry gave to her on their wedding day as her ‘something blue’.
Meghan wore a black caped dress by British designer Stella McCartney to the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth on September 19, 2022, along with a pair of pearl and diamond earrings gifted to her by the late monarch upon her wedding to Prince Harry.
The Duchess of Sussex revealed her toned bare arms on a trip to Dusseldorf, Germany in September 2022 for the Invictus Games One Year To Go events. She paired the knitted halterneck top with cream wide-leg trousers, and didn't wear a jacket on top.
Meghan chose an all-red ensemble for her the One Young World summit in September. It was her first public speaking engagement in the UK since the couple left England for California, and stepped back from their roles as senior members of the Royal Family.
The sleek silk blouse and co-ordinating wide-legged tailored trousers by Valentino were accessorised with gold hoop earrings and a gold signet ring.
Meghan 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.
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 oompf, 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.