As if packing for a two-week visit to Australia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand — due to be jammed with 76 engagements that could demand up to 35 outfit changes — wasn’t tricky enough, one can only imagine the tailspin Team Meghan would have been sent into when they heard that their tourdrobe efforts would also need to accommodate the Duchess of Sussex’s burgeoning bump.
From as far back as July, there has been speculation about how the Duchess might approach her style strategy for her first major foreign tour. Reports even emerged of a rare rift between Harry and his new wife over her fashion choices. “Meghan is being told she needs to stop dressing like a Hollywood star and start dressing like a royal,” someone with knowledge of these top-level meetings allegedly told a tabloid. “Meghan wanted to wear a tuxedo-style suit [by Stella McCartney], but Harry said it wasn’t traditional enough.”
At the time of writing, the tour has been officially under way for less than 12 hours, but diplomatic dressing — a crucial genre in any royal tourdrobe — has already been ticked off the to-do list with a white, tiny-bump-accentuating shift dress by Australian designer Karen Gee. The dress’s name, the Blessed, also managed to encompass a sweet message for Meghan’s first post-baby announcement photo call. She accessorised with butterfly earrings and a blue stone bangle that once belonged to Princess Diana (a baby and Diana references is a combination bound to butter up republicans) and at one point swapped her heels for flats — so relatable.
One mastermind behind the Duchess’s tour fashion will have been Toronto-based stylist Jessica Mulroney, one of her best friends, who has flown out to join the royal couple “informally”. Although the pair got to know each other while Meghan was working on Suits, Mulroney was already privy to what it takes to dress for the world stage, having styled Canadian PM’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. “It’s a fun process, like girlfriends when they get dressed to go out. I do the research and speak to a lot of the designers,” she has previously said of their working relationship. Mulroney’s influence has been felt in the steady stream of US and Canadian labels and body-conscious silhouettes that Meghan has been wearing.
It is thought that Natasha Archer, the Duchess of Cambridge’s stylist, has been providing backup assistance in the UK but, with the possibility of measurements changing at short notice as Meghan enters her second trimester, a tailor will be on hand for last-minute adjustments.
Looking after the Duchess’s hair is celebrity stylist George Northwood, who did Meghan’s up-do for her evening wedding reception and is the brains behind her artfully undone buns. He’ll be in charge of taming her mane for all eventualities — from rainforest visits to yoga on the beach and state dinners. Kate’s hairdresser, Amanda Cook Tucker, has previously posted a snap to Instagram (hastily deleted) showing her tour essentials, which included 13 brushes, six combs, two hairdryers and a plethora of styling products, including Elnett hairspray and Kiehl’s £18 (Dh86.1) Creme with Silk Groom.
That the preparations were in full swing three months ahead of departure is no surprise. While careful consideration is always given to outfits for any public appearance, attention to detail is amplified significantly for a foreign tour, with recces by palace aides outlining every photo opportunity and any potential style mishaps.
A letter recently made public from Diana, Princess of Wales’s lady-in-waiting, Anne Beckwith-Smith, to David and Elizabeth Emanuel reveals that this no-stone-left-unturned approach is nothing new. Dated June 6, 1986, Beckwith-Smith requests sketches from the designers for the Princess’s November tour to the Gulf region, informing them that “certain special requirements concerning dress need to be observed... in all cases, modesty is the order of the day”. She describes the climate in great detail, adding that “synthetic fabrics are not advised”.
Though we will see upwards of 30 looks on the Duchess, many more will have been considered — for each pretty sundress, there’s a wet-weather alternative waiting in the wings. It is now a famous detail of history that when the Queen landed back in the UK following her father’s death, she had to remain on her plane while a black mourning outfit was brought to her. You can be sure that no royal wardrobe mistress has forgotten a just-in-case black choice since.
The point is that, aside from the occasional glimpse of garment bags leaving planes, we should never notice these behind-the-scenes whirrings. If that all seems like a lot of fuss, then it’s because the stakes are high if anything goes wrong.
The Duchess of Cambridge triggered a diplomatic row during a 2012 visit to the Solomon Islands. A mistake with gifts placed in her hotel room meant she accidentally wore a dress designed in the Cook Islands, forcing local government officials to issue a strongly worded statement.
Meghan’s expectant mum status may make things a little trickier, but the bump will also provide an excellent distraction from any minor slip-ups — it’s already the tour’s hit accessory, after all.