The hotly anticipated Finding Freedom is here. In the definitely-not-a-tell-all, we learn about the tricky behind-the-scenes negotiations which led up to the apparently joyful family portrait taken to celebrate Prince Charles’ 70th birthday and the “extremely personal and intimate moment” when Harry and Meghan visited the vaults of Buckingham Palace to select the Duchess-to-be’s wedding tiara.
But having spoken with sources close to Harry and Meghan, as well as “when appropriate, the couple themselves,” the book, penned by royal commentators Carolyn Durrand and Omid Scobie, is packed with choice insights into how Meghan approached dressing for her role as a very modern Duchess.
The book paints Meghan as style-conscious but price-aware, “hoping that the press would focus more on her humanitarian work and less on whether she landed on best-dressed lists.” It emphasises how she styled herself for many appearances, or worked closely with her friend Jessica Mulroney to land on the right look.
“In regard to her dress, Meghan didn’t want to be seen as too fashion forward, she had a ‘mindful vision,’” reads one passage, referring to the Joseph skirt, Kurt Geiger boots and black polo neck which she chose for her first outing as Prince Harry’s fianceé.
The book cements some of the key strategies we could see at play in Meghan’s spin on regal dressing - “her ‘work wardrobe’ as she called it, needed to consist of polished pieces in neutral hues that didn’t detract from the people she was going to be meeting or appear too showy”. It’s true that the Duchess embraced tasteful shades of beige, navy and brown, which have long been eschewed by royals for not being eye-catching enough, choices which had the dual effect of making her appear understated but also in touch with the minimalist chic fashion zeitgeist.
Let’s not forget, though, that Meghan incorporated some astounding couture into her looks line-up, too - there was the Dior dress for the centenary of the RAF, a red Valentino look for her arrival in Morocco and, most famously perhaps, the £56,000 Ralph and Russo gown for the couple’s engagement photo shoot. These were all spectacular fashion moments in their own way, but leaving them out of the book, whilst underlining the Duchess’s everywoman approach, does feel a little disingenuous.
One mise en scène illustrates this impeccably as Meghan hits Selfridges in search of designer shoes. “The young American actress was on a mission... she roamed the thirty-five-thousand-square-foot shoe hall—the largest in the world—looking at her favorite designers, including Stella McCartney, Chloé, and Marc Jacobs, to see if she could find a pair worth the obscene price tags. Even though the hit cable drama Suits she starred in was now in its sixth season, Meghan was still a careful shopper. Having spent part of her childhood in a cramped converted-garage apartment in the heart of Los Angeles, the only child of divorced parents who had financial struggles, she didn’t like to waste money on trends that quickly went out of style. If she was going to invest in something, she wanted it to last, like her Sergio Rossi heels.”
Finding Freedom also touches on how aware Meghan was of the power of her clothing choices. It recounts the build-up to her first appearance at the 2017 Invictus Games when she knew that “every photographer in the Pan Am Sports Centre that night would have his or her lens trained on Meghan”.
For this moment, the Duchess-to-be worked with her friend Jessica Mulroney who “had traveled to the hotel through its underground entrance with numerous dresses for consideration”. The pair knew that: “the pressure was on” and that “the ‘Meghan Effect’ was in full swing”.
“That afternoon, she looked at several outfits with Jessica,” reads the account, “before settling on a burgundy Aritzia midi dress with chiffon pleats and a Mackage leather biker jacket draped over her shoulders. It ticked the right boxes—not too dressy, not too dressed down.” Indeed Meghan was praised at the time for her mastery of ‘shoulder robing’, a styling trick loved by fashion editors.
We’ve long known that Meghan admires women with a laid back yet sophisticated look (she once said that Carolyn Bessette Kennedy’s wedding dress was ‘everything goals’) and two characters who appear as inspiration in the tome certainly build on that.
“Meghan was instantly intrigued by Misha’s effortless glamour, and Misha felt similarly about the actress’s fresh-faced interest,” the authors write of Meghan’s first meeting with the designer Misha Nonoo, who is known for her pared-back tailoring and mannish Husband shirts (a style which Meghan wore for another Invictus Games outing) . “Meghan loved hanging out with Misha, described by a friend as “one of those undercover, cool, rich aristocratic girls.”
She also “looked up to” Angelina Jolie, “who had become a force of her own in the charitable space, focusing mostly on humanitarian projects that she interspersed with the more commercial ones, and funding her life with the occasional brand deal. At one point that was Meghan’s career model.” While the book doesn’t say so explicitly, it makes sense that Meghan took some of her style cues from Angelina, who has honed the kind of luxe-sparse look which the Duchess often channelled for her public engagements.
And finally, there are Meghan’s “packing skills”, a topic of much discussion among the fashion cognoscenti for whom tips on arriving at your destination with a perfect wardrobe somehow packed into a carry-on are a subject which is returned to time and again. “She has always taken pride in being a great packer – going as far as layering dryer sheets in between her clothes to keep them smelling fresh,” the book reveals, “and no matter her destination always bringing tea-tree oil for bites, cuts and pimples – and her skills were appreciated by the prince.”
Meghan Markle’s packing tips: coming soon to a fashion magazine near you.