One of the most heavily trailed scenes in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new docu-series, which arrived on Netflix on Thursday morning, shows Meghan curled up at home, scrolling on her phone on a cream bouclé lounge chair.
The Duchess holds her “nude” make-up face in her hands, her hair is tied in a scrunchie and she’s wearing a cobbled-together outfit: a comfy jumper over pyjamas. So far, so relatable.
How relatable and “normal”, though, are the perfect white orchid, the £1,200 Hermès blanket or the £200 pyjamas by cult New York label La Ligne. You can’t fool us, Meghan.
Of the dozens of outfits shown in each of the first three episodes of the new Netflix series that dropped at 8am today, every single one is clearly thought-out. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that Meghan wants people to see her as a “real person”, but we’re three episodes in and it’s clear this is no “real” person’s wardrobe whatsoever.
She claims repeatedly to be clueless about the power of clothing, and yet her Netflix outfits could serve as a masterclass in using fashion to illustrate one’s public image agenda.
There are plenty of reminders of the looks she wore at large royal occasions. But there are also never-before-seen outfits – home videos and private snaps, shared with the world for the first time and possibly not taken with public consumption in mind. The editing, by Emmy-winner Liz Garbus, hammers home the couple’s highly emotive comments.
Meghan feeds the chickens at her Montecito home wearing chic-but-soft Eberjey pyjamas (£141), with baby Lilibet in her body carrier as she talks about allowing people to see “our world”. She speaks tearfully to her phone camera, fresh out of the shower with her hair wrapped in a towel, wearing a loosely buttoned shirt designed by one of her friends, Misha Nonoo (£209).
There are snaps shared from her pre-Harry girls’ holiday with her then-stylist and friend Jessica Mulroney, showing how happy and carefree her life was before she met her “H”. And there are intimate photographs of her with Harry in Botswana, and on their first few dates.
There’s no doubt that Meghan has always been a dab hand at genius sartorial messaging. Remember that moment when she wore Nonoo’s aptly named “Husband Shirt” on her first public date with Harry. Watch the documentary and you’ll spot the “In Love” slogan tee, and the “H” necklace – purchases made during the couple’s early dates. Meghan’s appearance is soft and vulnerable, cute even.
From start to finish this is signalling that is so aspirational, so glossy, and so Hollywood, that it makes the poor Waleses look like church mice. The self-branding, self-promotion (and self-pitying) is all behaviour Meghan could never have indulged in as a working member of the Royal family – and nor were many of the outfits.
Meghan speaks of the royal “protocols” she supposedly didn’t know about, while Harry identifies the “invented protocols” that the media also imposed on the Duchess after she, for example, wore her hair up for the first time at a royal function, or didn’t wear tights, or showed her shoulders.
“Joining this family, I knew that there was a protocol for how things were done,” Meghan explains. The documentary maker cuts to a clip of Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries, teaching Anne Hathaway’s character how to be regal. “There’s no class where some person says sit like this, cross your legs like this, use this fork… wear this kind of hat,” Meghan says. “That doesn’t happen.”
Harry also talks about the difficulties of teaching Meghan the ropes – the Duchess says of her first major photo opportunity with Harry, a royal walkabout at Sandringham, that she had no idea what to wear. “I never saw pictures of a royal walkabout,” she says (she also claims that she had barely heard of Harry before they met, as Harry smiles “how little you knew”).
“I could talk her through what I knew from my mum,” Harry offers. “But the piece I really didn’t know about was the style. What does a woman need to wear?”
But, somehow, Meghan muddled through. Indeed, for their first Christmas service together, Meghan managed to pull together a camel coat from Canadian label Sentaler (£1,200) a Chloé bag (£1,500), a Philip Treacy hat, and diamond earrings from Canadian jeweller Birks (£5,900), plus a pair of Marks & Spencer gloves, apparently all at the last minute. She was rewarded, she remembers, with press coverage comparing the hat to an emoji poo.
Garbus also utilises a clip of the “fab four” – Meghan and Harry, with the now-Prince and Princess of Wales – speaking together for the first time, at their Royal Foundation Forum in 2018.
The narrator suggests that Meghan is here to “turn Britain’s most traditional brand on its head”, yet all this particular clip seems to do is further highlight the differences between the two younger royal households: Meghan in a glamorous £1,500 Jason Wu dress, seated next to Kate, who had gone conservative on this occasion and was heavily pregnant, in a maternity dress from high-street brand Seraphine. Were the royal relations really so severed, even at this stage, that the sisters-in-law did not co-ordinate?
Another scene, in the third episode of the series, shows the Duchess getting ready for the Salute to Freedom Gala in March 2022, and the Carolina Herrera creative director Wes Gordon arrives at her hotel in New York to fit her gown personally. Meghan hugs Gordon and greets his team – she now works directly and regularly with them. She describes the liberation of being able to wear the scarlet bustier dress, on her own terms.
“Most of the time that I was in the UK, I rarely wore colour,” she explains. “There was thought in that. To my understanding, you can’t ever wear the same colour as Her Majesty if there’s a group event, but then you also shouldn’t be wearing the same colour as one of the other more senior members of the family.”
Her solution? To dress in the beige, brown, navy and white tones that, at the time, the fashion press praised her for.
“I was like, well, what’s a colour that they will probably never wear? Camel, beige, white,” she justifies. “So I wore a lot of muted tones, but it was also just so that I could blend in. I’m not trying to stand out here. There is no version of me joining this family and trying to not do everything I could to fit in.”
None of us knows how this Netflix series ends. What can they possibly have left to say in the next three episodes still to come? But we can be pretty sure there will be a story behind every single outfit – even when there isn’t supposed to be. This is a blockbuster-worthy wardrobe.