Poor freaking Meghan Markle cannot catch a single break.
I know that’s an odd thing to say about someone who just had a fairytale wedding into fabulous wealth and actual royalty, but still. I feel for this woman. At first the press was So Glowy. She was amazing! Such romance! So many breaths of fresh air! True love!
But then the happy, glowy, fairytale articles must have stopped selling, because the press promptly turned to headlines such as HAS MEGHAN’S EYELASH BROKEN PROTOCOL? and IS SNEEZING IN FRONT OF THE QUEEN A DELIBERATELY AMERICAN AFFRONT?
When imaginary faux pas were not enough they went to family drama, and I definitely feel for the lady in that regard. I have the WORST family, with a few exceptions (You, if you’re reading this and we’re family. You’re delightful. It’s the others, precious.) and I can totally relate to trying to live your best life and your ignorant relations just being such a constant humiliation.
Since Meghan’s family drama has dried up or just become boring, the press has now begun to manufacture all sorts of intra-royal-family drama – DID MEGHAN LOOK AT KATE CROSS EYED? DID KATE COLLAPSE ON THE FLOOR IN A BLUBBERING HEAP? Because
A) Two women always = drama amirite? Bitches be crazy!
B) Neither of these professionally poised adult women who’ve been in the public eye their entire lives could possibly navigate getting along with someone they’re just getting to know, the very idea.
The amount of headlines that focus on the tragic imagined inadvertent (the stupid American!) and purposeful (she’s an evil bully!) missteps of Meghan Markle are tiresome in the extreme. Meghan Markle is a real live human lady trying to live and everyone can just politely leave her alone and concentrate on the parts of her life that she chooses to share with the public. It’s good manners, m’kay?
The Markle Effect
Anyway, the point of all this Meghan Markle on the mind business is that I realized round-about August that the Markle-Effect has (surprisingly to me) had an effect on my personal shopping habits. I am fascinated by butterfly effects and tipping points and the subtle things that influence me in ways that I don’t even think of (think that cerulean sweater scene from Devil Wears Prada) and after I realized this was happening, I started to see signs of it all over.
See, over the summer I had to buy a lot of new clothes, and as I was buying things I realized that I’d had a pretty radical style change. I would say that my style before was a mix of aging-goth and professional fat-girl quirky. I bought basics, sure, but I also bought a lot of one-off dresses because they were retro or kitsch or had cutesy patterns or skulls or interesting colorways. I bought shoes that people would remark on, I loved a statement necklace and a stripey sock and anything that made me look and feel like a haunted doll. I was sliding into my 40s dressing like a goth kid who suddenly had enough money to shop from the 1987 BOY London catalog. It may have suited my personality in some ways, but it no longer suited my style, what appealed to me, or how I wanted to present myself.
I had a closet full of random pieces that didn’t match each other and a million dresses to wear out to emo night at the club, but few pairs of decent shoes to wear to a business meeting. I bought weirdly colorful and patterned dresses that I didn’t like and wouldn’t wear, because I was trying to “inject color into my life” because society somehow told me I ought to.
Then I spent about two years not buying anything new at all, for a variety of reasons. I wasn’t really super concerned with what I was wearing, I was trying to build a business and navigate some huge life changes. I needed to be comfortable for a new, more active, profession and aside from than that I legit didn’t care and didn’t want to spend any money on things that weren’t photography gear.
But you can only put off shopping for so long, and I reached a critical point late last spring where nothing I had fitted, everything was worn out, and I was suddenly looking like a slovenly, ill-conceived concept person every time I left the house.
So I started shopping. I wanted to do it the right way though, I knew there had to be a method. (There is.) Coincidentally, this was right around the royal wedding, and everything was MEGHAN WORE THIS and MEGHAN STYLED THAT and IS A BARE SHOULDER A DELIBERATE FUCK-YOU TO THE QUEEN? etc. There was so much focus on everything she was wearing, and whatever she wore was copied and remixed by the Insta and YouTube influencers I follow, who are primarily (for whatever reason) British.
Here’s a really interesting article from Elle, which brought the whole thing home to me in August. It details (with before and after photos) the changes in Meghan’s style pre and post royalty. I had never followed (or heard of) her before she started dating Harry so I hadn’t realized quite what a change it was, in everything from hemlines to cleavage to accessories.
When I saw the images from this article it brought home to me how my style had for years been much more like the photo on the left, but now I was much more drawn to the photo on the right. And then I began to understand why everyone in all my fashion feeds had suddenly started looking so much more… grown up.
The change was gradual, you didn’t see it happening necessarily, but once you look around it’s pretty profound. All the colors have become more muted. All the styling has become more subtle and sophisticated. Everybody looks a bit more adult.
Alix in 2018
Alix in 2017
Anna in 2018
Anna in 2017
What is the deal with all this grown-up dressing?
- Buying blouses… on purpose? (I have done. I draw the line at using the word slacks, but I have definitely bought trousers, too.)
- Investing in natural-fabric classics that you intend to wear for years? (I’m on it.)
- Staying far away from trends and kitsch and just buying wardrobe staples that go with all your other wardrobe staples? (Capsule wardrobe, check.)
- Finally letting the focus be on you as a person, and not attempting to distract the masses with your adorable quirkiness? (I am into it.)
Now that I am looking for it, I see it everywhere. Delicate, ladylike jewelry instead of statement necklaces. Barely-there makeup after years of bling-y highlighter and six-color shadow looks. Nude polish all the time (after personally investing a small fortune in a glitter nail polish collection any salon would envy.)
In addition to just Meghan’s influence, I also think all this subtle, restrained, ladylike fashion is a psychological rebuke to American, Trumpian excess. Minimalism now seems so clean and refreshing. There’s so much noise and light and color everywhere, I don’t want to make any more. I don’t want ostentation or lavish displays or to make a big statement. I just want to live a simple, dignified life.
Anything too over the top is now just gauche and ugly and ostentatious to me. Garish colors are repulsive. Being understated and quiet is appealing. And instead of all this restraint being boring, it just feels a lot more considered and thoughtful. Despite the amount of time that I spend thinking about what I wear—once I am wearing it, the focus of my day really is something else. I am working, I am living, I am thinking and doing and I am not a display piece here to amuse with sequins and glitter and baubles.
While I acknowledge this shift, I also understand that I will never NOT be somewhat quirky. I haven’t given up my collection of stripey socks. I am still drawn to babydoll dresses, though I don’t buy as many as I used to. I still get excited when I see broken-doll fashion, although now I just like to see it on someone else, not me. So I will still be a Midwestern aging goth oddball, because I am (happily) not a royal and don’t need to always be perfectly restrained and ladylike. But taking a few tips from someone who is new to that life has been educational, and has helped me feel more comfortable and confident in the things I buy and wear.
So thanks Meghan Markle. Sorry about the press. Maybe once you have a baby they will fall back in love with you for awhile, or at least be distracted by how you’re raising your baby incorrectly! Best of luck, lady.