At 40, Meghan Markle Is Reimagining Regal Style


When Meghan Markle sat down for a chat with her friend Melissa McCarthy today to announce her 40×40 initiative, she did so in style. The duchess, who also celebrates her 40th birthday today, launched the initiative to help women who are returning to the workforce post-pandemic. She video chatted with McCarthy wearing her version of a casual work look. Dressed in a cozy cashmere sweater layered over a white ribbed tank and cuffed trousers, Markle leaned into SoCal casual. The formality that was a constant in her wardrobe when she was a senior royal was nowhere to be found. In its place was a polished yet cozy take on sportswear that felt distinctly American.

Markle’s birthday look speaks to where she’s at right now. As a producer and philanthropist she has a level of personal and sartorial freedom that working royals lack. Still, Markle’s choices are thoughtful. No matter her position, she has always used fashion deliberately. Her outfits may seem effortless but they often promote the social causes she values, spotlight favorite designers, or underscore the message she’s attempting to send.

Since the reveal of relationship with Prince Harry in 2017 raised her profile, Markle’s endorsement has proven valuable to brands who have seen everything from a bump in sales to sold-out items as a result of her being photographed in their pieces. For the most part, the benefits have been enjoyed by labels that are British, independent, and somewhat traditional. London Fashion Week brims with avant-garde talent deserving of more exposure—and Markle, currently free from the restraint of an institution that prides itself on being inoffensive and sartorially conservative, is now able to wear whatever the hell she wants.

Though her pre-marriage personal style skewed preppy—a glimpse at her now-defunct lifestyle blog, The Tig, offers insight into her tastes before becoming a Duchess—she’s had something of a fashion glow-up since her early days as an actress-cum-influencer. In the last year and a half, Markle has guest-edited an issue of British Vogue and familiarized herself with London’s buzzy talent pool of womenswear designers. Her farewell tour featured a who’s who of big names from Victoria Beckham to Emilia Wickstead, and she’s filled her closet with everything from custom Erdem to pieces from a close friend, Misha Nonoo. At present, Markle prioritizes female creatives, sleek shapes, and bold pops of color, but she could delve even deeper into creative territory. Since retiring from royal duties she’s made some noticeable changes—no need to wear nude hose now that the Queen isn’t dictating the Sussex’s day to day—and others seem likely to emerge over time.

In many ways, the template for dressing post-public life was set by the former U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama. Like Markle, Obama was credited with reenergizing her national fashion industry and shining a light on promising domestic talents. Her every outfit was catalogued and scrutinized during her eight-year tenure in the White House, but the moment after Obama had fulfilled her duties, she began to dress not for her position, but for herself. Odds are that Obama couldn’t have worn thigh-high glitter Balenciaga boots while her husband was in office, but on her 2018 book tour for Becoming, she had her very own Demna Gvasalia moment. By embracing her newfound sartorial freedom and having fun with her style choices, Obama continued her support of design’s up and comers. These days you’re as likely to spot Obama in an iridescent Christopher John Rodgers suit or neon Schiaparelli couture gown as you are to see her in former favorites, like J.Crew. 

Markle, who curated charity clothing collection for SmartWorks last year, is invested in fashion and its connection to issues of social responsibility and sustainability, and also understands how to look paparazzi ready. While a full-time royal, her style risks were few, but now that she’s forty, free, and back in the news cycle she can chart an exciting new course. Whether Markle settles on pantsuits from a winning female-led house, crop tops by one of London’s bright young things, or an edgy Balenciaga moment of her very own, the whole world will be watching. 

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