7 of Meghan Markle's Most Controversial Style Moments, Ranked

Because of Meghan Markle's background, her American citizenship, and her former acting career, people expected her to do royal life differently from the very start. And that she has, starting on her wedding day when she walked herself down the aisle swathed in her custom Givenchy gown and, more recently, when she and Prince Harry surrendered their royal duties and moved to Los Angeles. She's simply not afraid to push back against the traditions set by the royal family, including the rules that outline what she should and shouldn't wear to public outings.

While it's true that Kate Middleton has worn a few controversial outfits as well, Markle seems to bend the wardrobe rules further and more often. Including the ripped jeans she wore on her very first public outing with Prince Harry and the off-the-shoulder Carolina Herrera dress she wore to Trooping the Colour, keep scrolling to see seven of her most controversial style moments, ranked.

7. Distressed Light-Wash Denim


(Image credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage)

The first time Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were photographed together was at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. It was a major moment that validated all the speculation that was swirling at that time. Even though she wasn't yet technically a royal, her ripped jeans caused quite a stir. 

This is because, according to the unofficial set of royal wardrobe rules, if jeans are to be worn at a casual outing, they should be dark and fitted (like the ones Kate Middleton wears). Markle's jeans, on the other hand, were of the distressed, light-wash variety. Even though we think they're quite stylish, we're fairly confident the queen wouldn't approve.

6. Dark Nail Polish


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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attended a Cirque du Soleil show in January 2019. She was glowing, wearing a navy-blue sequined gown by Roland Mouret. Her gown wasn't what made people take a second look, though. It was her dark toenail polish, which went against the royal grain. Other female royals—such as Kate Middleton; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; and the queen—only ever wear neutral shades like beige and light pink. Markle's oxblood-red polish was a stark contrast to that.

5. Short Hemline


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In 2018, Meghan and Harry attended a performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. Markle donned a tuxedo dress from Judith & Charles that ended above the knee. While that's far from being considered a controversial fashion choice for the average person, the internet took notice of the shorter hemline, noting that it was different from the midi-length dresses and skirts (and stockings) that royals usually wear. 

4. Suits vs Dresses


(Image credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

It's a well-known fact that Markle is a fan of a tailored suit. She's worn suits to many royal events. (She wore this sleek Altuzarra suit during an appearance at the WellChild Awards in 2018.) Some celebrated her modern fashion choice, while others criticized it, noting that it's far more traditional for a royal to wear a dress or skirt instead. 

3. Off-the-Shoulder Dress


(Image credit: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Who can forget the time Markle wore this pale-pink, off-the-shoulder outfit custom-made by Carolina Herrera to Trooping the Colour? The newly married duchess was officially a royal at this point. In fact, this was one of her first major public events after her wedding. People were shocked to see that she had already seemingly broken royal wardrobe protocol with this wide neckline. 

In her defense, we loved every aspect of this outfit, which looks modern and sophisticated all at once. It's also not too far off from the boat neck on her Givenchy wedding gown, so it only makes sense that she would reach for this outfit for her first major royal outing.

2. Revealing Neckline


(Image credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage)

In August 2018, Markle attended a wedding alongside Prince Harry. She wore a dark Club Monaco dress. Royals reportedly aren't supposed to wear black to daytime events, so that already caused a stir. Then, people noticed that Markle's undergarments were partially visible at her neckline. As expected, the internet went crazy, speculating whether or not she meant for that to happen.

If we can add our two cents, women wear bras, and sometimes, they might show through a shirt or a dress, and that's okay—no further speculation required.

1. One-Shoulder Gown


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here it is: Meghan Markle's most controversial style moment (so far, at least). She made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards in order to present the British Womenswear Designer of the Year award to Givenchy's then creative director, Clare Waight Keller. Even though it was initially a surprise, it only made sense that Markle would present the award. After all, Keller had designed the duchess's wedding gown. 

Markle wore a Givenchy creation (no surprise there). The part that took everyone aback was the fact that it was a one-shoulder design. Like her off-the-shoulder moment earlier in the year, it was a far cry from what we're used to seeing royals wear. On top of that, she wore dark nail polish. This time, it was truly noticeable because it was on her fingernails. So in a way, Markle broke two royal wardrobe rules at once. But it's understandable why she chose to do so; she looked absolutely stunning.

This post was published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Next up, check out Meghan Markle's slouchy suit that's totally on-trend.

Kaitlyn McLintock
Associate Beauty Editor

Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.