Royal Tour South Africa is officially in the books, almost exactly a year after Meghan’s and Harry’s first tour as a royal couple. (By the way, if you ever want an easy place to revisit all the tours, our aptly named Royal Tours and State Dinners page is very handy in that regard.) Above is a flipbook of everything Meghan wore individually — with information and links about the places they went — but if you like a bird’s eye view, here is the one-sheet of every outfit. A note: Meghan wasn’t technically on duty when she visited the memorial (in the jeans and linen shirt), so we’re not including that in the fashion spread below; even if she suspected she’d get photographed, it wasn’t an official visit in an official outfit, and it feels like apples and oranges. However, I did leave it in the slideshow, because I think the story behind it is really important and needs not to be deleted.
I didn’t think to do these until Meghan’s first tour, when she had that massive number of engagements. Now I wish we’d been doing them all along, but what can you do? Hopefully we’ll get enough out of Kate’s suitcases in Pakistan to do something similar. ANYWAY, here you go. I count eight waist ties, obviously two very similar coat-dresses, and only one navy blue outfit. Three of the dresses are repeats, as are — I believe — five pairs of shoes, and her Mother jeans. A few are similar to pieces she owns and has worn elsewhere — for example, the khaki Banana trench dress is very much like this Maggie Marilyn one from New Zealand; the navy button-front shirt dress evokes this more formal black Emilia Wickstead; and I feel like the mosque dress was perhaps her attempt to find something that evoked this but fit the sustainability idea. The heart wants what it wants, y’all. Whereas Down Under leaned a lot on the same colors in varying cuts, this one used similar cuts but different hues (except for the trench dresses). The notion that she went all boring and all plain is misplaced, I think, because some of those patterns liven things up considerably, and the red flats do the same, but it does feel like it ran out of steam — and, ran out of steamers — toward the end. The fabrics didn’t stand up to what she needed in a lot of instances.
When you compare this tour to Oz/NZ/Tonga/Fiji, Meghan didn’t have as many very fancy events — in fact, none — so it makes sense that she wouldn’t have gone full glam here. Certainly there are a lot fewer super high-end designers, and most of the new items had either a local tie, a sustainability angle, or a relatability factor (Banana Republic, J. Crew). This array suggests that Meghan approached this with a conscious effort to make it a less starry selection, and one which repeats from the royal wardrobe she’s been able to build up over the last year. While it’s nice to think that this is because she doesn’t want the clothes to be the story, I don’t personally think any of the royals are naive enough to think it won’t always be part of it — and in fact, they take care to turn to regional brands, eco-conscious pieces, and re-wears with meaning, like the Mandela trench dress; they know, as keenly as anyone, the power of an outfit on the world stage. Indeed, on the contrary, I think they are actively telling a story here. They’ve been hammered with so many headlines about clothing expenditures that I have to believe this is, at least in some way, their refutation of the notion that they’re frivolous and burning through the family AmEx. I wouldn’t blame them for that reaction one bit. She’s still early in her royal career and everything is going to ebb and flow and settle as she builds out her personal archives; I think she’ll settle into a mix of high and low, new and old, and that’s as it should be — we love the deployment of both — and that this was her effort to send the message that she’s not the label hound her detractors accused her of being. Just a theory.
My favorites: The navy dress with the red flats, the black and white dress she wore when they arrived, and the Club Monaco dress she wore to meet Archbishop Tutu. My runner up is the black jumpsuit with those amazing gold earrings. We hardly knew ye, J. Crew skirt; please come back out to play another day.
My least favorites: Hmm. I could’ve done without the longer Mandela trench dress for wrinkling reasons (although I get why she picked it), and I wouldn’t have worn both that and the Banana one, but I honestly think for me the least successful was the tent-like green mosque dress, and then for a second one I’m mentally flipping a coin on the green and the white shirt dress from her last two days… I think it goes to the white one. It’s too nightgowny.