Two days after welcoming their first son, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle rounded the corner to enter St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle. And as the new father cradled their baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, his wife placed a supportive hand on his back. The pair beamed at each other as they walked, too.
And since introducing a new baby to the press is unofficially part of any British royal family member’s duties, both Meghan and Harry did just that. In addition, the couple shared the details of their new lives as parents with the world. Only hours into Archie’s life, his mother happily declared, for example, “He’s just been the dream, so it’s been a special couple of days.”
Still, some viewers who watched Harry and Meghan present their newborn son focused more on what the new mom wore than what she had to say. You see, her choice of a classic, cream-colored trench dress could be interpreted as sending a few messages to the public. And many people lauded the statements that the duchess’ attire seemed to make, too.
But Meghan has seemingly long been willing to blaze her own trail – even after joining the royal family. In fact, after she and Harry walked down the aisle on May 19, 2018, the pair have often departed from storied traditions. During that wedding ceremony, for instance, the couple marked their nuptials with the ceremonial exchanging of rings – something that Harry’s older brother, father and grandfather had all previously declined to do.
And from there, Meghan has only continued to take unique strides under her new title – the Duchess of Sussex. For starters, her biography on the website for the British monarchy shares one of her personal quotations from a United Nations gathering in 2015. “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist,” she said on that occasion, and the inclusion of this statement therefore made Meghan the first royal to be officially labeled as a feminist on the site.
Another way in which Meghan continues to express herself, moreover, is through her fashion choices. And in spite of her royal standing, her makeup artist and friend Daniel Martin revealed on a CBS News segment that the duchess still decides on her ensembles. “She’s always had such an innate sense of her own style,” he said in May 2019.
That ownership became especially clear after Meghan and Harry announced that they would be having their first baby. Throughout her pregnancy, you see, Meghan began to turn heads with her daring maternity wear. At the very least, she seemingly wasn’t afraid to flout the protocol that guides how a royal woman with a baby bump should present herself.
One example of Meghan’s rule-bending fashion came on International Women’s Day in 2019, when she stepped out in an eye-catching black-and-white dress by Reiss. It wasn’t the garment’s pattern that caused a sensation, though, but its length – owing to the fact that the gown didn’t reach past the duchess’ knees.
It’s said that Queen Elizabeth II sets out such fashion guidelines based on her own standards and sense of formality. Nevertheless, during her early March outing, Meghan opted to break two of those unwritten rules. Yes, not only did she wear an above-the-knee dress, but she also neglected to pair it with pantyhose to cover up her legs.
And the duchess also made waves on a January 2019 outing with Harry to catch a Cirque de Soleil show. Many assumed that she had worn a stunning Roland Mouret gown on that occasion as a nod to her husband’s mother, the late Princess Diana. Diana, too, had once made headlines with her attire as a member of the royal family.
However, Meghan’s look contained more rule-bending features than even those for which Diana was known. For one thing, she sported a dark polish on her toes, despite the fact that the Queen supposedly prefers women in the family to wear lighter shades. The same goes for lipstick, too, yet the duchess rocked a plum-like shade on that evening.
Similarly, Meghan may have surprised guests at The Fashion Awards in London on December 10, 2018. There, the duchess appeared on stage to bestow the British Designer of the Year in Womenswear award upon Clare Waight Keller. And as royal fans know, Waight Keller – of the fashion house Givenchy – had been the one to design Meghan’s wedding dress.
In particular, the cut of Meghan’s stunning Givenchy gown garnered attention owing to its modern one-shoulder design – again, not something that is expected on a member of the royal family. And the duchess had once again painted her nails in a dark hue, meaning her inky polish caused a stir at an event where bolder fashion statements are nothing out of the ordinary.
Even the way in which Meghan embraced her changing body could be considered a breach of royal protocol, mind you. In January 2019, for instance, she donned a budget-friendly H&M dress on a visit to Mayhew. Mayhew, for those who don’t know, is an animal-centric charitable organization and one of the causes Meghan champions as the Duchess of Sussex.
But it wasn’t the price tag on Meghan’s H&M number that got people talking on that visit. Instead, the mom-to-be made a point of wearing a form-fitting frock that showed off her belly. And yes, royal tradition dictates that expectant mothers should don looser attire rather than garments that cling to their bumps.
To some, however, the fact that Meghan made rule-bending a part of her pregnancy style spoke volumes about her personality. “It’s proof that she’s writing her own rules,” the Irish Independent’s Caitlin McBride wrote of the duchess in January 2019. “And it’s clear that she has no intention of stalling her convention-defying decisions anytime soon.”
Elisabeth Sherman of the fashion website Man Repeller seems to agree with this sentiment. “I read these breaks with tradition as a subtle comment from Markle that she’s determined to retain at least a trace of her individuality as she adjusts to her new role,” Sherman wrote that same month. “Royal protocol may bar her from speaking openly about political issues but not from taking liberties with long-established dress codes.”
“[Meghan] lives in a world that functions entirely on a set of archaic and exhaustive rules, where appearances arguably matter more than reality,” Sherman went on. “It makes sense that she would manipulate that obsession with image in order to fashion a distinct identity within the British monarchy.”
But, of course, Meghan’s reign as a maternity style icon ended with the birth of her and Harry’s first child. As many know, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor came into the world on May 6, 2019, with his dad sharing the news in a statement. “We’re both absolutely thrilled and so grateful to all the love and support from everybody out there,” he said. “It’s been amazing.”
And true to form, Meghan and Harry didn’t follow in the footsteps of his brother and his wife, Prince William and Kate Middleton, when revealing the new arrival. Nor did the pair replicate the actions of Harry’s parents, Diana and Prince Charles. Both of these couples had debuted their newborns just outside of the Lindo Wing – the maternity ward of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.
Instead, Meghan and Harry decided that they would first enjoy the birth of their child in private. Then, after a few days, the new parents would make an appearance on camera to introduce little Archie to the world. But rather than stepping out at the Lindo Wing, they intended to greet the press at Windsor Castle, which lies close to their home at Frogmore Cottage.
And on May 8, 2019, Meghan and Harry stepped out to share a glimpse of their newborn son with the public. From the richly decorated St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle, the beaming new parents showed off Archie and spoke about life as a family. “It’s magic, it’s pretty amazing,” Meghan gushed. “I have the two best guys in the world, so I’m really happy.”
Yet this new-mom bliss wasn’t the only sentiment that Meghan conveyed that day, according to some commenters. Once again, you see, the duchess’ sartorial choice for the occasion sparked quite a bit of conversation. But this time, none of it had anything to do with breaches in protocol. Instead, people theorized that Meghan wanted to send a handful of messages with her look.
First off, Meghan’s appearance seemingly struck a chord with women around the world – many of whom had children of their own. To them, you see, the cream-colored belted dress that the royal had chosen was significant for one particular reason. In short, Meghan seemed to be showing off her post-baby body in the outfit regardless of any supposed imperfections.
“I don’t care about royal families, but I do care about the history of pregnancy and reproduction,” one person asserted on Twitter. “Especially our cultural obsession with postnatal bodies. So I love that Meghan Markle chose an outfit that shows off her post-baby bump.” In conclusion, the commenter added the hashtag “#NormalizeIt” to the end of their tweet.
“I know nothing about being pregnant, but I enjoy the fact that Meghan Markle is showing off her post-baby bump so prominently with that belted dress,” tweeted another supporter. “It feels like she’s sending a really nice body positive message to new moms everywhere with this choice.”
It should be noted at this point that most women each gain between 30 and 40 pounds while pregnant. And just after delivering, a new mom only sheds the weight of their newborn as well as the placenta and blood lost. In Meghan’s case, then, as Dr. Prudence Hall suggested to TODAY, she had likely only lost around 50 percent of her pregnancy weight by the time that she stepped out in the dress.
For that reason, Meghan’s fashion sensibility has apparently struck a chord with those concerned with women’s bodies postpartum. “This is how 99 percent of women look after birth, and she is helping normalize it,” another person wrote on Twitter. “She looks amazing and is absolutely glowing. Power to her and all new mothers.”
Elsewhere, Meghan’s decision to don a sleeveless dress had some wondering if she had a further point to make. And on the surface, this may have been plausible considering the weather at the time that she and Prince Harry presented Archie to the world. After all, it had been a rainy day with a high of around 61 degrees – not the optimum conditions for wearing anything without sleeves.
However, Dr. Sarah Jarvis told The Sun that Meghan could be experiencing “mom sweats” – a common side-effect of childbirth. Jarvis said, “After you have your baby, it’s not uncommon to sweat more than usual, especially at night.” These changes come down to the shifts in hormones that occur both during and after pregnancy.
Indeed, according to research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a whopping 81 percent of the pregnant women surveyed have experienced hot flashes. And once the baby comes, things don’t by any means balance out straight away. Instead, hormones continue to fluctuate, and a woman’s temperatures spike as breast milk arrives.
“Your hormones go through pretty dramatic swings after pregnancy,” Jarvis added. And while most moms will experience sweating for about a week, nighttime perspiration can last for more than a month as their bodies adjust. Still, although Meghan’s sleeveless dress may have indicated that she was feeling a little hotter than average, this hasn’t been confirmed.
Finally, some believed that Meghan’s dress also made a social statement. Vogue’s Janelle Okwodu wrote, for instance, that the sleek, classic design of the duchess’ chosen garment matched with her typical style. Nevertheless, she additionally hypothesized, Meghan had more in mind than just the look of her minimalist frock.
In particular, Okwodu proposed that Meghan may have wanted to highlight Grace Wales Bonner – the designer who had created the garment. You see, much like Meghan, the 28-year-old up-and-coming fashion powerhouse is biracial, with a white British mother and a father from Jamaica.
And according to Okwodu, Meghan’s choice to wear Wales Bonner has a lot of significance for designers of color. “For the duchess to champion the work of a young Briton of mixed heritage – one who is leading a new wave of black and brown British creatives – speaks volumes,” the Vogue writer opined.
Yet while Okwodu’s take on the matter was purely speculative, another of Meghan’s post-baby decisions led another commenter to theorize further. And once again, it was suggested that the duchess wanted to use her platform to uplift women from backgrounds similar to her own. Writing for O, The Oprah Magazine, Jonathan Borge came to this conclusion after analyzing a Instagram post in honor of Mother’s Day 2019.
On Harry and Meghan’s official page on the social media site, the duo shared a photo of their young son’s feet in celebration of the holiday. And to begin with, they captioned the snap, “Paying tribute to all mothers today – past, present, mothers-to-be and those lost but forever remembered.” That was by far the end of the message, though.
You see, the post concluded with a snippet of a poem by Nayyirah Waheed. And according to Borge, the inclusion of Waheed’s work continued the theme that the duchess had started by wearing Wales Bonner’s design. “Markle has once again used her platform and royal status to amplify the work of brilliant black creators on a global scale,” he wrote.
In the future, then, Meghan will likely continue to make waves as she transitions from royal mom-to-be to new mom. Chances are, too, that she’ll only continue to use her wardrobe as a way to showcase creative women and their backgrounds. And as Okwodu wrote for Vogue, “There’ll be more… fashion-forward clothes on the royal horizon.”
But royal-watchers may just have to wait until Meghan debuts her next protocol-breaking outfit, as she has no requirement to go back to work within a certain period after welcoming Archie. That’s right: the duchess can take as much time as she wants to recover before returning to the spotlight. And when she does, she’ll presumably be ready to wow the public with her smart sense of style once again.