All the Things Royal Family Members Never Get to Wear

All celebrities are scrutinized and always have been, but the members of the British royal family are watched, discussed, and judged with an intensity that's unmatched. (For example, it's believed that around two billion people around the world watched Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding.) The royal family is an institution that's steeped in tradition and formality, and while it does evolve, it does so at a slow pace. Since clothing determines how we represent ourselves to the world, it's understandable that there's a lengthy set of wardrobe-related guidelines that the royal family must adhere to.

In the spirit of the royal family's newest member Markle (well, and Archie), we're highlighting some of the major wardrobe rules that she's going to have to get used to. Read on to see what they are via IRL examples on Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, Princess Eugenie, and Markle herself.

Can't Wear: Anything Low-Cut

While a turtleneck isn't required, modesty is the best policy in the royal family, so you won't find many (if any) cleavage-baring tops in their closets.


(Image credit: Tom Wargacki/WireImage)

WHO: Princess Diana

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Can't Wear: Flat Sandals

Kate Middleton very rarely wears open-toed shoes at all, but when she does, they always have a heel. When she wants to wear flats for a less-than-formal occasion, she sticks to ballet flats, boots, or white sneakers. That said, her most-worn shoe style is classic pumps.


(Image credit: Julian Simmonds Pool/Getty Images)

On Kate Middleton: Emilia Wickstead dress

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Can't Wear: Bare Legs/Short Hemlines

While this tradition is said to be loosening up, royal family members usually wear stockings with dresses and skirts for formal occasions, and short hemlines are a no-go. (We fully expect Markle to ignore this "rule" on occasion, as she did for her and Harry's engagement photos.)


(Image credit: Dominic Lipinski Pool/Getty Images)

On Meghan Markle: Goat Flavia Silk-Crepe Pencil Dress ($450, sold out); Tamara Mellon Siren Pumps ($450)

Shop Midi-Length Pieces and Stockings

Can't Wear: Large Handbags to Events

While Markle has opted for totes, crossbody bags, and sizable top-handle satchels in the past, she's been carrying clutches more and more as of late, as most royal family members almost exclusively do. (It's said to help them avoid awkward handshakes and cover up cleavage when exiting a vehicle.)


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

On Kate Middleton: Boden coat

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Can't Wear: Fabrics That Wrinkle Easily

Say goodbye to delicate linen and silk if you join the royal family. In order to maintain a polished appearance, they opt for heavier fabrics that won't easily crease (e.g., tweed or wool). Fun fact: Princess Diana's wedding dress received criticism for being made of a wrinkly fabric.


(Image credit: WPA Pool/Getty Images)

On Princess Eugenie: Fiona Graham hat; Gainsbourg dress; M2Malletier bag; Valentino shoes

Shop Pieces Made With Sturdy Fabric

Can't Wear: Black to Daytime Events

Unless it's a funeral or another somber occasion, the royal family steers clear of black during the day and instead opts for colors that help them to easily be seen in a crowd.


(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

On Meghan Markle: Carolina Herrera dress

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This story was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated.

Allyson Payer
Senior Editor

Allyson is a senior editor for Who What Wear. She joined the company in 2014 as co-founder Katherine Power's executive assistant and over the years has written hundreds of stories for Who What Wear. Prior to her career in fashion, Allyson worked in the entertainment industry at companies such as Sony Pictures Television. Allyson is now based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She holds a BFA in theater. Her path to fashion may not have been linear, but based on the number of fashion magazines she collected as a child and young adult, it was meant to be.