Sixteen days, and 37 looks. The Duchess of Sussex‘s epic tour of the southern hemisphere has drawn to a close, marking the end of the royal’s first lengthy official overseas visit – and what a couple of weeks it was. Not only did the newlywed and her husband, Prince Harry, announce shortly after arriving that they were expecting their first child, but Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, took to the stage at several engagements, delivering a number of addresses just months after she joined the British royal family.
However, the former actress didn’t just let her words do the talking. The 37-year-old, whose Givenchy wedding gown made thousands of front pages when she tied the knot on May 19, pulled out elegant ensemble after elegant ensemble – not that’d we’d have expected anything else from the perennially stylish star. Indeed, Meghan has turned to timeless designs mixed with a contemporary flair since announcing her engagement last year, favoring heritage maisons such as Burberry and Oscar de la Renta as well as designers including Jason Wu and Alexander McQueen. The duchess has also championed emerging brands, such as Scottish handbag makers Strathberry, in recent months – but never has she used her wardrobe to make such a series of statements as she did last month.
Among her chic ballgowns and structured tailoring, the royal made considered choices to represent brands of the region, repping New Zealand designers Karen Walker and Emilia Wickstead and Australian labels Martin Grant and Karen Gee, among others. To deliver a speech on an issue close to her heart – female empowerment – the duchess wore a cap-sleeved dress by Gabriela Hearst, a New York-based designer renowned for her feminist and political activism. Meghan teamed the design with a diamond necklace by New Zealand-born Jessica McCormack, which took inspiration from the island’s fern motif. In the address, Meghan, who spoke of New Zealand 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, also greeted guests with a few words in Maori; tēnā koutou katoa meaning “hello to you all”.
Symbolism was rife in the royal’s well-planned series of outfits – there was a red Self-Portrait dress echoing the flag of Tonga as she touched down on the island, as well as “Fiji Blue” Safiyaa gown for a reception in the South Pacific country. Echoing the spirit of her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan also embraced a penchant for recycling looks, donning a Stella McCartney cape dress first worn during a concert held to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s 92nd birthday. The royal also rewore a navy Antonio Berardi tuxedo midi, first spotted in 2017 as Meghan supported Prince Harry at a polo match. In a much-praised show of sartorial accessibility, the royal also wore a dress from online e-tailing giant Asos, a AED 165 waist-knotted design from the website’s maternity section. High street brands were also represented by the duchess’s dalliance with Banana Republic and & Other Stories.
The Duchess of Sussex also used her global spotlight to champion brands that support activism through their designs, such as Outland Denim. The sustainable organic denim label, from which Meghan wore a pair of black skinny jeans on numerous occasion, provides jobs and skills training for women in Cambodia. The royal also chose an ethical footwear label during her tour, sporting Veja sneakers for a sail across Sydney Harbour. The French brand uses sustainable leather, organic cotton, and wild rubber from the Amazonian forest in its cool, minimal pieces.
By choosing such subtle yet powerful details and brands, the duchess in effect used the tour to perform a quiet act of fashion activism. She may have only been in the Royal Family for shy of six months, but her sartorial choices have already created wide-reaching ripples – and we can’t wait to see what she does next.