Anyone who has turned on a TV, opened a magazine or glanced at a newspaper over the past few months will be familiar with the sight of Ms Meghan Markle.
Since her engagement to Prince Harry and subsequent rise from LA girl-about-town to soon-to-be princess and duchess, Rachel Meghan Markle has joined Kate Middleton in sharing in Princess Diana’s notorious and ill-famed title of ‘The Most Photographed Woman in the World.’
But, out of the constant stream of photographs, you might have noticed she is currently presenting a very different image to her future sister-in-law, Duchess Catherine.
Throughout Kate’s hundreds of public appearances, she has established an almost unbreakable royal style M.O.: knee-length hems, ever-present pantyhose, sensible heels no higher than five inches, covered shoulders, demure silhouettes, and a hair and beauty standard that never travels south of ‘perfectly put-together.’
In fact, even when she’s participating in sports events, standing in the middle of blustering winds, or—quite literally—absailing down a cliff face, Kate’s now-iconic blow out is never one hair out of place.
It’s a hairstyle and a perception that has become synonymous with Kate’s public image—the poised duchess, a loving mother of two-soon-three, who just happens to have really, really, really good hair.
It was the same picture-perfect, consistently blown-out, glossy-bouncy-waves-abound precision that we might have been expecting from Meghan. Afterall, the actress had been a staunch fan of the blow-out prior to her engagement, and her hair has always been a thing of wonder, so why shouldn’t that polish continue post-royal introduction?
But stepping out at two of her three formal engagements post-engagement, Meghan has surprised and delighted fans by sporting a delightfully undone version of a messy bun. Her bun, pulled up and twisted at the back, with a few free tendrils pulled out to frame her face, has the same kind of nonchalance and irreverence that we sometimes achieve ourselves before a Sunday farmer’s market outing. It’s a style RAW Hair’s Anthony Nader calls, a “revamped, standard activewear bun”.
But her fresh-take activewear bun might have a meaning more hidden than just personal preference. Ever since Meghan’s arrival into Kensington Palace’s palatial grounds, her image has been purposefully skewed to appear more casual, more modern and more relaxed. Meghan and Catherine might be the same age—36—yet Meghan commands a younger and cooler persona. Her Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy inspired style, her playful interviews and her light-hearted subversion of royal style commandments (no pantyhose at public events? Oy vey!) are all successfully creating an image of youth and approachability.
“The public are enjoying her fresh, relaxed approach very much as it is a little ‘un-royal’ at this stage. Prince Harry and Meghan have been wowing crowds on their recent royal tours. Meghan is definitely good news for the British royal family—she is interesting, effervescent and glowing with happiness, people are always attracted to those qualities,” says Zarife Hardy, director of the Australian School of Etiquette.
“I feel Meghan is keeping her style and image very approachable, relaxed and real at this stage. Although she is royal-to-be she is keeping her style simple yet elegant. I think her message is to look genuine and happy, not stuffy and putting on a show.”
And her display of genuity is working a charm. Following her messy-bun-equipped appearances, both the public and the media have been dutifully charmed. Headlines across the world praise her relaxed approach to dressing, whilst women have finally found a royal figure they relate to, her carefree demeanour acting as a lighting beacon for normal women everywhere.
“Kate is known for her voluminous, beautiful blow-outs, whereas Meghan has that more youthful presence about her which suits that messy bun look and attracts a younger generation,” Anthony Nader notes. “It could be her new trait, although it’s only early days yet!”
But just because Meghan is side-stepping royal formality in the hair department doesn’t mean you should expect Duchess Catherine or the Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice to be rocking three-day hair or undone chignons the next time they step out to christen a ship or cut a ribbon.
Zarife Hardy explains that Meghan’s current style and approach to beauty is likely the result of her gradual pre-wedding introduction into society—something that will likely become more polished and refined once she is endowed with an official title and made a Princess of the United Kingdom.
“The royals are groomed to act and behave in a certain way that compliments the royal brand and image,” says Hardy. “Meghan comes from a very different background being an American actress, the royal family is certainly granting a relaxed approach now, but subtle changes are destined to happen. Wearing jeans for example is not really appropriate for royal engagements, clothing choices show a more respectful attitude towards organisations and crowds that royalty meet. Particularly for a lady, their choices are always highly critiqued so it is far better to dress up than down.”
Once their May wedding rolls around, we can probably expect fewer messy buns and ripped jeans—perhaps even some pantyhose.
“I feel at this point in time, they are letting them both enjoy their engagement and allowing Meghan a little freedom in her style and protocols. I doubt very much though, that her image and style will stay the same post the wedding.”
“I feel Meghan will do her best to stay true to herself, her image and her style. To date, Prince Harry and Meghan have managed to do what many other non royal couples fail to do when they step out in public, they look like a pair and their dress complements each other. They are both more relaxed in their attitude, approach and style.”
“I think this will continue, however some fine tuning may happen post the big wedding day.”
We can certainly expect a show of the ‘Meghan Effect’ on the public, however. The wider fashion and beauty communities tend to keep their eye on the royals (whether they admit to it, or not), so an influx of chic messy buns in your boardroom meetings and Sunday brunches might become more and more comme il faut.
“The public always look to the royals for fashion ideas and inspiration, anyone attracted to Meghan Markle’s style will definitely be observing the brands she wears (her Marks and Spencer £45 knit was a hit). Her personality so far is congruent with the style she is wearing,” says Hardy of the incoming trend start-up.
While Nader says: “I like the paired back, undetected, understated bun—don’t get me wrong! I think it’s always quite cool when the woman is wearing a really beautiful, chic dress or pant—I am all for the hair to not be the main priority here. Do I think it’s going to be a thing? Yes, because it’s on the royal radar, but this is not a new thing on the runway. Look at Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren. It’s not a new style, it’s just been reinvented to be royal.”
As for Meghan, a baptism, a wedding and a British peerage will do the trick for her own reinvention into a royal—but, for now, we’ll take every chic messy bun we can get.