Like Kate Middleton and Princess Diana, Meghan Markle Sends Subtle Diplomatic Messages With Her Clothes

For royal women, an outfit can represent so much more than just a fashion choice.

After a full month of wearing only a very restricted color palette of blush, beige, and white to official royal events, Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, stepped off the plane in Dublin on Tuesday sporting a rich forest green. The shade, which has such deep symbolism in Ireland, wasn't a coincidence: it was Meghan's take on the royal family's longstanding tradition of fashion diplomacy.

For generations, royal women have been paying tribute to the countries they visit through their clothes. They dress in the colors of the flag or national motifs, and often wear local designers, subtly honoring their hosts.

"Meghan Markle is not only sartorially savvy and world-wise, but she's also following in the footsteps of female members of the Royal family before her, who used their wardrobes as forms of fashion diplomacy," says Renée Kuo, the managing editor of Debrett's, the authority on royal etiquette and and publisher of A-Z of Modern Manners.

The Queen, of course, has long engaged in diplomatic dressing for her international trips—here she is in Cashel, Ireland in 2011, in vibrant green:

But Princess Diana put a vibrant, photogenic spin on the practice. "The late Princess of Wales had a knack for donning the right dress for any occasion, such as the white dress with red polka dots she wore during her visit to Japan in 1986, thereby modeling hundreds of mini Japanese flags," wrote Kuo in an email to T&C.

Meghan's late mother-in-law was deft at what's sometimes referred to as "flag dressing." Here she is in Japan wearing the aforementioned dress covered in crimson disks akin to the one on the Japanese flag:

The Telegraph also points out that while in Pakistan, Diana wore green, which is the "customary color of respect" in that culture.


Meghan's sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge has taken the symbolic wardrobe to yet another level, creating hidden meaning in nearly every outfit she wears on official foreign visits. Here's she is on a royal tour in Canada, sporting the vibrant red of the flag and the Queen's maple leaf brooch:

And here's another photo of her wearing a traditionally inspired skirt made from local fabric while in Bhutan.

It is considered a breach in protocol for royals to speak openly about their political views, but fashion is one way the women in the family can make a statement without stepping over the line. This subtle diplomacy becomes even more fraught with meaning as the royals take on the roles of pseudo-Brexit ambassadors. Ireland could be deeply affected by the British decision to leave the European Union, since it shares a border with Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. No longer will citizens of both countries be able to cross freely—it could presumably become an international checkpoint like any other.

This week, on a visit to Ireland at the request of Her Majesty's government, wearing green is a small way Meghan is affirming that she and Harry are there to strengthen ties as the U.K. plans to leave the E.U.

"The Duchess of Sussex is ably and fashionably continuing the Royal Family's role as quiet yet compelling diplomats," Kou says, "and given the political events of the past week, that is a very good thing."

*This story originally appeared on
*Minor edits have been made by the editors

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Caroline Hallemann
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