Today’s earlier engagement with Archbishop Tutu marked the splitting point for this particular tour – the Duchess of Sussex will carry out a few more appearances in Cape Town today and tomorrow, while the Duke is going on to Botswana, Angola, and Malawi. The family will reunite next week for a final two days of engagements in Johannesburg before flying home.
As such, I’m planning on covering this afternoon (obviously) and Meghan’s appearance tomorrow at a Women in Public Service breakfast, but will take a break from the tour until next Tuesday when Harry returns to South Africa. Of his solo travel, as of right now, the only day I plan on covering is Friday when he carries out landmine-related engagements in Angola.
In the meantime, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also have an engagement scheduled for tomorrow that I’ll cover, and I also have two historical posts scheduled, as well as a royal roundup planned for the weekend. I don’t know how closely you’ve been following the Queen and Parliament while all of this royal tour news has been breaking, but it’s been a lot 😉
So, back to Cape Town. Meghan carried out two engagements this afternoon – one with Mothers2Mothers, an organization focused on eliminating pediatric AIDS, and another with Work In Progress, whose work is aimed at building out South Africa’s tech sector, highlighting the role of women entrepreneurs.
Much has been made about the Sussexes’ informality – in general, but particularly this tour – when guidance has been that they don’t expect bows and curtsies, and the public is welcome to greet them by their first names in lieu of titles. This was certainly on display today when Meghan sat cross-legged on the ground with Mothers2Mothers, welcoming the mothers with young children to join her so the children could play.
Earlier, during a discussion with 12 women entrepreneurs, Meghan touched briefly on the hectic scheduling that working and traveling with a baby entails, calling it both rewarding and challenging.
For both occasions, she wore a black jumpsuit by Everlane and black Manolo Blahnik heels. She kept her Jennifer Meyer jewelry from earlier, save the addition of large, gold GAS Bijoux earrings. I loved this look – it was polished enough for the tech engagement, and informal enough not to look kid-friendly. I’ll call this a solid win.
It was, however, a recycle – Meghan was photographed wearing this while working behind-the-scenes on the September issue of British Vogue, but it certainly hadn’t had its “moment,” and I’m glad that it did.
I do want to touch briefly on Meghan’s tour fashion thus far because it’s received some criticism (and some praise…but more criticism). The gist is that she’s been recycling too much and her choices have been too informal. Some of the commentary I’ve seen online – and from some of you via Instagram – is that the recycles may well be a response to criticism she’s received in the past for spending too much money on clothes. The guidance I’ve heard in the news is that Meghan made a concerted effort this trip to ensure that her clothing didn’t overshadow the work she and Harry were doing/highlighting. Another blog suggested that it may be a reaction to visiting less advantaged regions.
So, what exactly is going on? Well, who knows. My first instinct when seeing pieces recycled from the Oceania tour was that her early maternity wear probably worked for her post-baby figure (as I mentioned yesterday), and so it was a practical consideration. We also haven’t had a formal event yet this tour, with the exception of the reception last night, which I would characterize as semi-formal at best. That, taken with the lack of the official arrivals and departures, does give an air of casualness to everything thus far. So, she’s dressing for the event on hand.
Personally, I don’t think Meghan is responding to criticism over the cost of her clothing. If she was, she probably wouldn’t have just debuted a new Valentino gown while attending Misha Nonoo’s wedding in Rome. And we would have seen more evidence of that over the last several months, because she’s been hit with that charge (as has every royal woman) since last year. Also, based on how she and Harry have conducted themselves over the last year or so, I don’t get the sense they internalize a lot of criticism or let it guide them. I’m inclined to think it’s a mixture of practicality and purposefully choosing not to make this a runway tour.
I also think this is a case of she’s damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t. Some of that is specific to Meghan right now and the media storm that’s swirled around the Sussexes for the last several months, and some of that is the same critique that’s been applied to other Windsor women.
The most obvious point of comparison is, of course, Kate. I don’t love comparing the two women because God knows the internet does enough of that on its own, but ignoring her in this context seems silly. Kate dresses for tours very, very well, and often walks a delicate tightrope of using her sartorial choices to highlight host countries, while still showcasing British designers. While I don’t think Meghan dresses poorly by any stretch of the imagination, she does less of that – some, yes, but less.
But it’s worth pointing out that Kate recycles frequently – even during tours, and particularly in the years right around when she gave birth to Prince George. By then, she had a pretty solid working wardrobe and her focus was elsewhere. I think there’s an element of that at play right now. Also worth noting is that Kate never carried out a tour this soon after giving birth – that’s not a criticism (logistics are logistics), but there are considerations here that are unique to Meghan’s circumstances.
As for the casualness of some of Meghan’s looks, I think a lot of that comes down to personal style. Kate, too, had a “casual uniform” back in the day – skinny jeans, jumpers, and Breton-striped tops. She wore boat shoes and trainers. I never thought that was inappropriate, but there were certainly those of a certain generation that clutched their pearls at a future queen representing the Queen in skinny jeans. Meghan’s “casual uniform,” if you will, is a bit different – skinny jeans, loose-fitting button-downs, and jackets. Without perfect tailoring, that silhouette can veer towards sloppiness, but it’s also very American and very true to Meghan’s personal style prior to her marriage.
So, the question we’re left with is, does Meghan need to up her game now that she’s a member of the BRF? Personally, the only elements I’d like to see more of are the two things I think Kate does particularly well – show off more British designers and make more diplomatic nods. I don’t think recycles are rude or dismissive, and I don’t think Meghan’s informality is a bad thing.
The most important elements are passion for the work at hand and clear engagement – Meghan has both in spades.