The wardrobes of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, offer a lesson in developing iconic personal style.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The wardrobes of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, offer a lesson in developing iconic personal style.

Clockwise from bot: Outwear; Casual; Formal

As our work wardrobes get ever more casual, the old adage “dress for the job you want” may seem obsolete today, but it isn’t, at least according to England’s Duchess of Cambridge and Duchess of Sussex. In the eight years since marrying Prince William (a.k.a. second in line to the throne), the former Kate Middleton has consistently dressed the part of future queen consort. Her penchant for classic eveningwear, English country clothing and tailored outerwear has made her an ambassador for a demure and sophisticated vision of British fashion. By contrast, Meghan Markle’s more trend-driven choices are quickly establishing her as a fashion risk-taker. Case in point: the Old Hollywood backless Stella McCartney number she wore to her wedding reception last May when she married Prince Harry, currently sixth in line to the throne. To decide which camp you fall in, first consider how you dress in three key categories.


Meghan, who has been known to don a natty pantsuit on occasion, chose a streamlined and modern one-shouldered black Givenchy gown for the 2018 Fashion Awards in London. When Kate steps out for a formal affair, she often wears major jewels from the royal family’s private collection with bespoke gowns by British designer Jenny Packham that feature modest cap sleeves, full skirts, and beading or sequin embellishment. Even when she commissions a look from Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton, Kate will give it a traditional vibe, for example, when she paired an ice-blue mermaid gown with the Cambridge Lover’s Knot pearl-and-diamond tiara for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace this past October.


You can take the girl out of Hollywood, but it seems you can’t (entirely) take Hollywood out of the girl. At last year’s Invictus Games in Sydney, Meghan wore a black-and-white blazer-and-jeans look that has become something of a staple for the former Suits actress. She combined a femininely tailored Altuzarra blazer and Mother skinny jeans with pointed-toe Tabitha Simmons slingbacks for a polished style that wouldn’t be out of place for brunch on Melrose Place. Meanwhile, Kate favours more casual dress for daytime engagements, such as when, for a visit to a London community garden in January, she sported a look that the queen might wear at her Balmoral estate—a tweed jacket by the Irish brand Dubarry with practical See by Chloé hiking boots.


One way in which Kate and Meghan appear to be in sync stylewise is in their outerwear, as evidenced by the coordinating outfits they wore to Christmas Day services at Sandringham. While Kate kept it classic, wearing a festive red princess-cut coat by Princess Diana’s go-to label, Catherine Walker, Meghan opted for a modern double-breasted Victoria Beckham coat and tall boots. Whether you wish to project glamour or a sense of propriety, one lesson we can all learn from these two style stars is that a well-cut coat is always a good choice.