From buttoned-up to being herself.

By Christopher Luu
Updated: May 24, 2019 @ 12:34 pm

It's been a year since Meghan Markle officially became the Duchess of Sussex. The pomp and circumstance surrounding that big royal wedding — Givenchy dress and all — put Markle's everyday outfits under even more scrutiny, if that was even possible. But instead of bowing under the pressures of royal protocol (nail polish, anyone?) and trying to outshine a certain other duchess, the year since Meghan's big day has let her take a breath, get a little more relaxed with what she wears, and really show off her own personal style.

For an outing with the queen for a viewing of the Mersey Gateway Bridge — one of her first solo gigs with HRH — Meghan chose to wear something pretty and proper. It would be one of the rare post-wedding moments where she looked super-formal. The custom Givenchy look featured a tailored capelet and clean, sleek lines, but when you're sitting by the queen herself, staying a little bit sedate is probably a good idea. She opted for the same designer when she attended the Royal Ascot, which still saw her staying buttoned up in a flowing, white shirtdress.

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Prince Louis's christening saw Meghan loosen up, shifting away, ahem, from shift dresses and more conservative silhouettes. Though she was still very covered-up, the olive green Ralph Lauren dress had flowing sleeves and Meghan's fascinator was sleek and modern, a stark contrast to Kate Middleton's more traditional choices. After seeing Meghan's taupe Roland Mouret dress, which she wore to meet Irish President Michael Higgins, it became clear that she was hitting her stride. Sleek, sculptural, and flowing shapes would become a trademark for her, leading right up to the announcement that she and Prince Harry would be welcoming a new royal baby.

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Meghan's tailored pieces show that she's not afraid to buck the royal standbys, too. Instead of ballgowns and traditionally proper, ladylike dresses, she's a fan of pants, blazers, and trench-inspired dresses, a style that would also become a Markle signature. She wore one by House of Nonie at the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition and opted for a sexy tuxedo dress by Judith and Charles to take in a performance of Hamilton. After seeing so much leg on display, it's safe to say that Meghan's one of the only royals that has sex appeal on the mind. She's not afraid to show a little skin if the moment calls for it.

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It's not just dresses. Meghan's shown that she's got plenty of personality when it comes to coats, too. Instead of appearing in somber black and blue outerwear, she's not afraid to show some personality. For the launch of her cookbook, Together: Our Community Cookbook, she wore a Smythe coat; and for the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, she chose a Givenchy coat that was sleek and modern.

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Meghan took maternity style to a whole new level, thanks in part to the fact that her pregnancy included an official Tour of Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and Fiji in addition to all of her usual royal duties. While she was growing, she wore fitted and bump-flattering dresses, including a black and white Safiyaa gown, shimmering Roland Mouret, and the unforgettable Givenchy one-shoulder dress during her surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards. All the while, she kept the same laid-back luxe feel. She didn't just go down under, either. Meghan and Harry took a second royal tour to Morocco, where she wore looks ranging from a J.Crew army jacket to a flowing Dior dress. She's got the range, because whether she decided to put on a gown by Brandon Maxwell or Erdem or an LBD from Club Monaco, or even a more casual outfit, like her Ralph Lauren blazer at London's WE Day, she was projecting her own tastes, not any royal rules. 

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And that streak of self-expression came right up to the birth of her baby. Many applauded Meghan's choice for Archie's official debut, a cream-colored trench dress by Wales Bonner, because it showed off her post-baby bump.

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It's just one more reason fans see Meghan as one of them. She may be a princess, but she's also herself, whether she's wearing Club Monaco or Dior couture.

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