Where's that Markle sparkle?

2018-09-30 08:08

Cape Town - She became one of the most famous women in the world almost overnight so, it was inevitable her every move would be scrutinised, her every outfit pored over, her every word analysed.

And in the four months since she married Prince Harry that’s exactly what’s happened. Former actress Meghan is now the Duchess of Sussex, wife of the sixth in line to the British throne – and life is a whole new ball game.

Before she wed her prince in May she’d charmed everyone from his grandmother Queen Elizabeth and her corgis to millions of people who previously didn’t give two hoots about the royal family. But you’d have to be blind not to notice there’s been a rather dramatic change in Meghan since then.

The vivacious American star with the spontaneous smile has made way for a rather prim lady – and some observers have gone so far as to say she’s lost her sparkle. Or, as one British journalist put it, she’s been “beige-ified”.

“I knew there was trouble as soon as I saw footage of her first official outing after the wedding at a garden party for Prince Charles’ 70th birthday,” Sophie Heawood wrote in The Guardian recently. “Suddenly Meghan wasn’t just called a duchess: She looked like one too. She was wearing beige . . . the colour of a quiet, mundane sort of evil – the colour old white people use to disappear into.

“The palace has used the beige to take confident, opinionated, personality - owning Meghan away from us and turn her into a royal bot like they always do.” Which is perhaps a bit harsh. Meghan’s doing her utmost to toe the royal line and fit in with The Firm. And who can blame her? We all know what happens to people who don’t – look at Sarah, Duchess of York (58). Prince Andrew’s fiery ex-wife was ostracised for bucking protocol and the palace has never looked kindly on people who have too much fun or too vibrant a personality.

The Meghan the globe went gaga for seems to be as lost to us as the sexy character she played in the TV show Suits. Just what’s going on?

Meghan's style is said to be a sign of respect for the queen. (Getty Images)

There's big bucks in Beige 

Meghan’s image overhaul has come at a rather hefty price. Fashionistas have calculated she’s spent a whopping £155k (R2.7m) on 15 new outfits for her high-profile outings since her wedding. In comparison Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, spent £119k (then R1.4m) on new outfits throughout the whole of 2017.

Meghan has ditched the little-known affordable brands she used to wear for top designer labels such as Dior, Givenchy, Prada and Chanel. Clearly recycling outfits like her thrifty sister-in-law isn’t quite on the agenda yet, nor is sticking to mainly British brands as patriotic Catherine does.

For the centenary celebrations of the Royal Air Force, Meghan chose a French label in the form of a £2k (R35k) Dior dress. For Prince Louis’ christening she stepped out in an olive green frock by American label Ralph Lauren.

“Clearly splashing out to fit in is what she’s doing right now,” a source close to the palace says. “But she might want to rein herself in, in a bid not to appear too flashy. The royal family have been at pains to appear less out of touch with regular people and advertising wealth is a no-no.”

meghan markle (don't use this pic)

Before marrying Prince Harry, Meghan favoured a far sexier style which included ripped jeans, boyfriend shirts, pencil skirts and slinky little dresses. The duchess now favours designer labels and lots of neutrals. (Getty Images)

A world of change 

It’s safe to say Meghan’s look has done a 180 since she became the Duchess of Sussex.

A “special projects team” has been appointed to Kensington Palace – where Meghan and Harry (33) have a cottage – to help her adapt to royal life and demure-down her wardrobe. Gone are the ripped jeans, “boyfriend” shirts, pencil skirts and slinky little dresses she favoured for nights out.

Even the black dress she wore for her engagement shoot with Harry was a sexy, semisheer number.

These looks have been replaced by nude tights, modest below-the-knee dresses in neutral hues and ladylike handbags and clutches. Her trademark messy bun has also made way for slick blow-outs and sleek side-buns.

Before her wedding Meghan had a secret style weapon in the form of her best friend, Jessica Mulroney, a Toronto- based professional stylist. But with Jessica now on the other side of the globe, Meghan has to rely on her royal team – and you can be sure she isn’t having an easy time of it, British designer Caroline Castigliano says.

“We’re seeing everything about Meghan change. It’s difficult when you’re 36 to do this – it’s far easier when you’re in your early twenties and they can mould and adapt you. It’s a much bigger job for Meghan. It must be unbelievably difficult, given she was a working woman and had her own style.”

A below-the-knee hemline for Meghan at Prince Charles' 70th birthday garden party. In the middle is the Duchess of Cornwall. (Getty Images)

While Meghan’s new penchant for neutrals might seem boring to many, royal-watchers say it could be a sign of respect to the 92-year-old queen, with whom she’s built a good relationship.

“If you’re going to be seen with the queen, who wears bright colours, then this neutral palette she’s been sticking to is really a measure of respect,” Castigliano says. “This much more demure, classic look is absolutely right on key to what she needs to fit in with the family.”

Carolina Herrera for the Trooping the Colour ceremony with Prince Harry. (Getty Images)

British etiquette expert William Hanson agrees. “At events with the queen she lets Her Majesty shine. The queen is top of the bill. Meghan is on the bill, not top of the bill.”

(Getty Images)

What does Harry think? 

In spite of Meghan’s more conservative look, she still loves a trouser suit and looks fabulous in cigarette pants, which show off her yoga-toned figure to perfection.

And she looked great at Wimbledon in stylish wide-leg pants and a striped Ralph Lauren shirt – it was like looking at the old Meghan again.

But Prince Harry is said to have vetoed his wife’s desire to order a range of outfits with pants as the hero for their first royal tour.

The couple will visit Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga in October and Meghan apparently wanted to wear a Stella McCartney tuxedo-style suit – similar to the one Princess Diana wore to a function in 1988 – to a glitzy event.

No, said Harry, who’s sitting in on some of the meetings Meghan has with her special projects team to help her learn the royal ropes.

“It would be a bridge too far to wear pants to a formal Commonwealth occasion,” a palace source says.

Pants are “barely tolerated” by royal aides, the Daily Mail reports, and the queen is no fan of women in pants either – she gets uneasy at the sight of anything other than jodhpurs.

“Meghan has been told she needs to stop dressing like a Hollywood star and start dressing like a royal,” the source says. “And Harry agrees. Pants are okay every now and then but Harry said a tuxedo suit wasn’t traditional enough.”

Catherine and Meghan attend the Women's Final at Wimbledon. (Getty Images)

Catherine to the rescue?

Some observers have suggested the Duchess of Cambridge (36) should have a quiet word with Meghan about her spending habits as the two become closer as the months go by.

They teamed up recently to watch the women’s final at Wimbledon and to support Meghan’s close friend Serena Williams.

It was their first public engagement without their husbands and the easy warmth between them was clear to see.

“Meghan has obvious respect for Kate,” royal photographer Mark Stewart told US magazine People. “She very much let Kate take the lead.”

Meghan has been struggling to adjust to some parts of royal life, another source says.

“She’s found certain rules in the royal household difficult to understand and often asks Harry why things have to be done in a certain way.

“But if anyone understands the struggle, it’s Kate. She also wasn’t royalty before marrying Prince William. The two shared lots of laughs throughout the match and looked as if they were having a great time together.”

There was no rivalry, Stewart says. “It actually shows how well Meghan has adapted. She’s aware Kate will be queen one day and her position is different.”

Then there's her family 

You have to feel for Meghan. She’s trying to settle into a world as far removed from her Californian upbringing and freewheel-ing lifestyle as you could possibly get – and she still has her family to deal with.

First, there’s her father. Thomas Markle (74) didn’t help matters when he told whoever cared to listen that he doesn’t believe his daughter is happy with the blue-blooded bunch across the pond.

Her smile looks pained, he told Britain’s The Sun newspaper.

“I think she’s terrified. I see it in her eyes, in her face and in her smile. I’ve seen her smile for years. I know it. I don’t like the one I’m seeing now. I think she’s under too much pressure.” Controversial headlines keep chasing the retired TV lighting director – most recently news outlets claimed he’d faked heart surgery to avoid attending his daughter’s wedding.

“It was made up,” a source close to Meghan told the Daily Mail. When the publication contacted the hospital to verify Thomas’ claim he’d gone in on 16 May to be fitted with a stent, they were told “no such name” had checked in.

“The poor health story was his way of generating some compassion from the public and taking the attention off those staged photos, which were a complete embarrassment to Meghan and the royal family,” the source says.

Thomas was busted posing for paparazzi pictures in exchange for cash ahead of the royal wedding.

He later apologised publicly but the damage had been done.

“Of course Meghan is upset with him. . . He brought it upon himself,” the source says. “If he were truly sick, Meghan would have made an effort to visit him. Don’t feel sorry for him. If anything, feel sorry for Meghan.”

Thomas has given numerous interviews in recent months, including a paid one with The Sun in which he said Meghan hadn’t returned his calls for more than two months.

Since then the palace has given him the silent treatment and he says his calls to Meghan go unanswered, and texts to the palace beseeching them to pass on messages to his daughter are ignored.

But he remains defiant, telling celeb news website TMZ he’ll continue to speak out until they break their silence as he just wants to make peace with his daughter.

“I miss her.”

samantha grant

(Getty Images)

And as for the sister . . .

Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Grant (53), has defended their dad all the way, claiming he’s indeed sick – and saying if he died it would be Meghan’s fault.

Samantha took aim at the duchess during Meghan and Harry’s recent appearance at the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition in London.

“How about you pay tribute to your own father?!” she tweeted. “Enough is enough. Act like a humanitarian, act like a woman . . . If our father dies it’s on you, Meg.”

A royal expert told the Daily Mail the attack was pure poison and blasted Samantha as jealous and vindictive. Not one to be silenced, Samantha then admitted she and her family have indeed been cashing in on her half-sister and her new family.

“Let’s face it, we all have to survive,” she told Good Morning Britain. “Money makes the world go round so if you want to call that cashing in, that’s fine. But no one in media would refuse a pay cheque for talking about the royals.

“For someone to say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t take any money, you should turn down a pay cheque’ – go tell your boss you don’t want a pay cheque for interviewing me. Because that’s cashing in.”

Don't go there! 

Meghan also needs to learn that the prickly topic of politics is out of bounds for members of the royal family, who aren’t allowed to air their opinion or stick up for one side.

For the duchess – a humanitarian and proud feminist – this might prove tricky.

During her recent visit to Ireland it was reported she couldn’t help but be drawn into the country’s controversial abortion debate.

Irish senator Catherine Noone tweeted she’d had a chat with Meghan about the May referendum that approved scrapping the abortion ban, saying the duchess “was pleased to see the result”.

But Noone, clearly realising she might have caused Meghan to get a slap on the wrist, backtracked later.

“I should say she seemed pleased – she was interested and measured, not political at all.” 

Of course many could argue her intentions are noble and reflective of her personality – this, after all, is the woman who as an 11-year-old wrote to Hillary Clinton about the sexism in a dishwashing liquid ad.

But now she’s part of the royal family – and they aren’t looking for an Angelina Jolie- type activist in their midst.

Meghan greets her young fans during her and Harry's recent Ireland trip. (Getty Images)

On a cheerier note

Erin Specht, who dated Meghan’s half-brother, Thomas Jnr (51), for about 16 years, has gone so far as to say she believes Meghan could become more popular than Diana.

“The royal family are lucky to have her. She’s sweet and kind and has a lovely, graceful manner about her.”

Tessy Ojo, CEO of The Diana Award charity in the UK and a guest at Meghan and Harry’s wedding, says she was bowled over by the duchess. “We spoke at the reception and I told her we had 10 young people who worship and adore her and I’d love to do so much more with her. And she said, ‘Fantastic, that’s what I’m here for, bring it on’.”

For their wedding, Harry and Meghan ditched the traditional wedding gift registry, instead asking guests to donate to their favourite charities.

But royal biographer Andrew Morton believes Meghan will never replace Diana as the People’s Princess.

“The media thought at first it would be Kate, and to a degree it was. And now it’s Meghan. I’m afraid to say, folks, there’s only one Diana and sadly she’s passed.” He believes Diana “would’ve been very impressed by Meghan” though.

“She has elements that Diana always wanted to be, and she’s also someone like Diana who wants to give back, who wants to get involved with the community and articulates some of the issues we’d rather not talk about.

Future plans 

In addition to their upcoming tour down under and beyond, Meghan also apparently wants to take Harry to her homeland next year and show him all the places she loves – although it’s unclear whether that includes a visit to daddy dearest.

“Meghan wants to show Harry around the United States before their first baby comes,” a friend of the couple says. “Expect to hear the pitter-patter of a little prince or princess in 2019.”

Can’t wait. 

Sources: sunshinecoastdaily.com.au, dailymail.co.uk, time.com, guardian.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, express.co.uk, irishmirror.ie, cosmopolitan

Read more on:    meghan markle  |  fashion

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