It’s already been a year of major royal fashion moments. Queen Elizabeth stole the show sitting front-row at London Fashion Week in February. Kate Middleton wowed fans in April when she stepped out in Gianvito Rossi heels hours after giving birth.
Now all eyes are on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, who will wed May 19 at Windsor Castle in a much-anticipated event that will be watched by millions. The wedding could generate 500 million pounds ($677 million) for the British economy, according to London-based consulting business Brand Finance.
There’s no industry that will benefit more from the buzz than fashion — and royal watchers are busy placing bets on the dress: Erdem, Ralph & Russo and Burberry are said to be leading contenders. While Markle has reportedly chosen a sleek and simple design, insiders hope she might take some risk with her shoes. (Middleton wore head-to-toe Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.) Markle — who has recently worn Manolo Blahnik, Aquazzura, Jimmy Choo and Tamara Mellon, among others — has proved she’s unafraid to break with customs, especially when it comes to accessories.
For example, royal tradition dictates that family members sport hats at formal events. But Markle has often sidestepped the elaborate fascinators in favor of going bareheaded. In late April, she did sport a hat for Anzac Day — but rather than opting for a fascinator, she selected a wide-brimmed hat with no bells and whistles, pairing the style with a gray button-up coat and Sarah Flint pumps.
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“Meghan’s been a fan of the brand since way before she started dating Prince Harry,” Flint told FN at the FNAAs last November. “She always looks incredible, and I’m excited she’s going to have so much more of a spotlight.”
Many of Markle’s choices so far are signaling her wish to carve her own path: She will be making a speech at her wedding, which goes against royal protocol. Her wedding cake will be an organic, sustainably sourced lemon and elderflower creation from the hip East London-based Violet Bakery instead of the usual tiered fruitcake served at royal weddings. She also chose to wear an elaborate Ralph & Russo couture gown for her engagement photograph, featuring a sheer embellished bodice. Markle also is not afraid to speak up and has a lot to say when it comes to the subject of feminism.
“You’ll often hear people say, ‘You’re helping women find their voices.’ I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find a voice: They have one. They need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen,” Markle said this year at a public Q&A. The event, which she attended with Prince Harry, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, was in support of the family’s “Heads Together” campaign on mental awareness. There, she also expressed her support for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
Markle’s footwear choices are reflective of her bold personality. While her necklines are getting higher and the hemlines are getting longer — most of the time — her footwear remains a signpost of the more daring side of her character: She often chooses high stiletto pumps by designers known for never being afraid to make a statement, such as Manolo Blahnik and Aquazzura.
“It is a great honor and joy to have my shoes worn by such a beautiful young lady. Meghan is well on her way to becoming a style icon of the 21st century,” Blahnik told FN after Markle was first seen wearing his BB pumps. She is clearly a fan of the legendary designer and has worn his shoes for appearances seven times since she got engaged.
Aquazzura’s Edgardo Osorio became part of fashion history when Markle wore his Matilde pumps — a high-heeled strappy pump style — for her engagement announcement. (She has since donned the brand several more times.) “It all happened by chance, and the outcome on press and social media was simply stunning. My shoes were just everywhere,” said Osorio.
“She had already worn the style, but the moment she did it for such an iconic occasion, they quickly sold out everywhere. I believe that proved how strong the interest of the public towards the British monarchy is. I also think it happened because what Meghan wears is always very relatable to the everyday woman.”
Osorio described Markle’s style as modern, sleek and pared-back: “I like the fact that she tends to wear very sexy heels, making them the accent of her outfits. I see her as a very confident woman, and the more she will become at ease with her new role, the more we’ll see a very interesting influence coming from her. I am sure she will define contemporary style that will become a reference worldwide. Women won’t get enough of her.”
The designer noted that shoes — “which always play the most relevant role in everyone’s outfit” — are one way Markle, Middleton and all young royals can connect with the public. “Today, modern monarchies are closer to the people, with princesses coming from the middle class or the fashion system, and their approach is also mirrored by what they wear,” Osorio said.
The question that remains: What will Markle choose to wear for what is arguably the most defining moment in a royal’s trajectory: her wedding day? If Markle adopts the same commitment to sustainability she showed with her choice of wedding cake, Stella McCartney could be a top candidate. Or if rumors are true and Erdem Moralioglu is designing the wedding dress, Markle might choose to wear matching shoes. Moralioglu is fully equipped to provide her with the right footwear, having launched a shoe range over a year ago to accompany his romantic ready-to-wear collections.