How do you rebound after Meghan Markle tells Oprah—and therefore, the entire world—that you made her cry over wedding plans? Somehow, Kate Middleton has found a way. In the months since that explosive tell-all, the Duchess of Cambridge has quietly launched some slick brand rehab.
It’s most evident in the new YouTube channel Kate launched with Prince William, where the pair take their best stab at imitating the breezily humanitarian aesthetic Harry and Meghan nail with their Archewell production company.
These videos are not exactly relatable content, but it’s a peek behind the palace wall that’s no doubt intended as an olive branch to skeptical viewers. Kate deftly understands another tried-and-true form of marketing: dressing like the rest of us. Or at least attempting to.
Kate might be borrowing heavily from Meghan’s old style playbook. During her time as an active member of the royal family, Meghan earned a reputation for her stylish, but often subdued, looks.
She didn’t wear tights, which if you recall was a huge deal for the nylon-obsessed Queen. She favored monochromatic trouser suits that communicated business casual—even if they were made by heavyweight designers like Givenchy or Alexander McQueen.
She was practical, not princess-y. Meghan dressed for her engagements as if she were going to work. And judging by how miserable she said she was during her time in the royal family, those events probably felt like a job anyway.
Juxtapose it with photos of pre-pandemic Kate Middleton, who was all boat shirts and plaid scarves, the heir to Diana’s hard-won 1980s “super-Sloane Ranger” title. Her outfits revealed class and a breathless elitism. While both Kate and Meghan were wearing very expensive clothing, money was always apparent in the Duchess of Cambridge’s looks.
Take, for instance, the outfits both wore to Wimbledon in 2019. Meghan had on a crisp white button-up and pleated skirt—just about every woman has both in her closet. Of course, Meghan’s top came from Givenchy and the bottom half was courtesy of Hugo Boss, but it looked like something anyone could wear.
When Meghan took her stab at spearheading a clothing line in 2019 (remember that?), she did so with working women in mind. Her Marks & Spencer collection, which was actually designed by her close friend Misha Nonoo, was a capsule of office wear. For every item purchased, one was donated to women who were trying to get back into the workforce.
Meanwhile Kate, with her trademark curly blowout, smiled in a Dolce & Gabbana green frock, with puffed-up sleeves, gold button detailing, and a bow. Not exactly one’s go-to for a summer gathering.
But now the roles have reversed. With Meghan living in California and embracing capital-G glamour, she’s done a bit of fashion peacocking as of late. Think of the look she chose for her Oprah tell-all: from Armani, a name synonymous with Hollywood celebrities, the Oscars, and Glenn Close.
There wasn’t just symbolism with her gilded choice, it had a message right there on the open. Many took the emblem of a lotus flower stamped right on her shoulder as a statement of rebirth.
Then Meghan and Harry announced the gender of their expected child, a girl, through an Instagram post. (As influencers, which one supposes the couple are now, are wont to do.) Meghan did so in a maxi dress by La Ligne, which boasted a palm and floral print. It cost around $400, and carried the air of an off-duty celebrity. It is the dress one wears for a day of leisure. It speaks of wealth, but silently.
While speaking on Vax Live about the “47 million women in the world are expected to slip into extreme poverty,” due to pandemic-era hardships, Meghan wore a $1,690 Carolina Herrera shirtdress. Its bright poppy print was cheerful and warm. Paired with her bouncy blowout, gigantic green backyard, and Princess Diana’s old Cartier watch, the entire scene screamed: rich and comfortable.
Kate still knows how to wield her tartan coats—she hasn’t completely given up her preppy aesthetic—but in recent weeks she has cultivated a more accessible style. There was the blue Zara jacket she wore while interviewing a midwife on her YouTube channel, and the quickest way to earn relatability points is by dressing up that brand.
She’s also gone in on the suits, opting for Jigsaw trousers and a blue button-up for a Mental Health Awareness Month event. When she and William toured the University of St. Andrews, she looked very collegiate in a black suit and striped sweater.
What does this all mean? Meghan’s gone a bit high-brow, further distancing herself from the royal family. And Kate has tiptoed onto High Street. Maybe she’s signaling a new era, or attempting to distract from those continual feud stories.
Either way, it’s a tired trope to pit the women against themselves. They continue to carve out their own style niches, expanding and experimenting with their closets in the way all women do. The clothes may not be “relatable,” but that mood certainly is.