Fashion influencers come and go, and wielding the power at this very moment is Meghan Markle, 36, the former American “Suits” actress who will marry Prince Harry May 19 at Windsor Castle. Of late, the soon-to-be-princess or duchess (official title yet unknown) is, well, a fashion queen. The world is watching every detail of how Markle straddles the divide between her own fashion sensibilities and the demands of marrying into British royalty.
Fitting into the royal ranks doesn’t necessarily come as easily as it did for Markle’s sister-in-law-to-be, says James Aguair, vice president and creative director of Modern Luxury magazine. “Kate Middleton had years of training to ‘get it right.’ The royal protocol is somewhat innate to who she is, and she is British through and through,” he says. “It would be nice if Meghan could maintain a sense of her ex-pat American style while navigating the ins and outs and the very specific nuances of royal dressing.”
Danielle Merollo, director of personal shopping at the Americana Manhasset, thinks she’ll stay true to her roots. “She’s a bit of a trendsetter, and while I think she’ll adapt to British protocol, she’ll always have an American flair, which will become more pronounced as she gets older,” Merollo says.
There have been dust-ups already. Some social media users erupted over her bare arms (sound familiar?) recently when she wore a black and white sleeveless Altuzarra dress to a youth forum for the Commonwealth. “This is why the royal family should not marry commoners,” tweeted one Brit in a snit. Her messy updo has caused a stir (although how-to-do-Meghan hair tutorials are also popular); a floppy brimmed hat at the Anzac Day memorial was dubbed too generic and — have mercy — her bare legs in her official engagement photo were apparently a royal no-no.
A MONEY MACHINE
But while opinions vary on how the royal-in-training turns out, one thing is certain: She is great for the fashion business. Women’s Wear Daily reports Markle’s net value to brands she wears (often smaller, lesser-known Canadian companies, is some $221.1 million. David Haigh, chief executive of the British consulting business Brand Finance, compares her publicized looks to a catalog. “Every time she wears a coat, it sells out,” he told WWD.
Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor of Harper’s Bazaar, who reported on the nuptials of Kate and William and will be on hand for this wedding, too, sees Markle as less tethered than the rest of the royal family. “She has the freedom to have more fun with her choice of dressing, dipping into expensive designer runway moments through to middle range and high street looks,” Graham says. And social media is amplifying it. “With all due respect to Meghan, I don’t think she’s any different than Diana and Kate,” Graham says. “It’s just a more powerful age.”
WHAT WILL SHE WEAR?
As for the top-secret wedding gown, London bookies are laying bets on British brands, such as Alexander McQueen, whose designer, Sara Burton, created the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown. Burberry is considered to be in the running, too. Erdem, the Canadian designer based in London, is a contender. London-born Antonio Berardi, who is known for his uber-feminine designs and dressing celebs such as Blake Lively and Kate Bosworth, is a possibility, too. Aguair is confident it’ll be Ralph and Russo, the London-based luxury collection that offers a bridal line.
“My guess is that she will be a little more streamlined than her predecessors, with a twist,” Graham says. “It will be modern, talked about and copied for sure.“ For sure.