Six style lessons we've learned from the Duchess of Sussex's maternity wardrobe 

The Duchess of Sussex 
The Duchess of Sussex  Credit: Chris Jackson/Pool Photo via AP, File

I don't have kids, but having spent the last nearly nine months tracking, talking and writing about the Duchess of Sussex's maternity style, it's certainly become somewhat of a specialist subject. 

Trying to retain some sense of your personal style with an ever-changing bodyshape, fluctuating hormones and an overall sense of "I'm growing a human being inside me" sounds like a challenge at the best of times. Throw in a global audience who are glued to your every move - and don't hold back from sharing what they think of your sartorial choices (some of our dear reader comments have varied from the hilarious to the somewhat mean) - and, well, I can't imagine that flinging open her wardrobe in the morning brings the Duchess much joy. 

And whilst many of Meghan's looks have featured expensive designer labels or custom couture gowns, making you think on first glance that there's nothing relatable there, on closer inspection there are worthwhile style takeaways for even a mum-to-be on a budget. From tweaking existing looks to savvy highstreet finds, here are the lessons to note... 

Embrace the bump

According to my expert sources (AKA women who have had actually been through a pregnancy), the first few months are the hardest to dress for. Whilst you might get over the worst of the morning sickness, your bump may still not have 'popped', meaning you may look bloated rather than pregnant. The Duchess of Sussex decided to tackle this challenge by embracing a very Hollywood style formula for maternity dressing - the bodycon dress. It’s a tried and tested style that we’ve seen celebrities including Rosie Huntington Whiteley and Miranda Kerr channel too, drawing attention to burgeoning bumps rather than trying to hide them beneath flowing fabrics.

The Duchess of Sussex in her first appearance following her pregnancy announcement  Credit:  Phil Noble - WPA Pool/Getty Image

In October, within hours of her pregnancy being announced on day one of the royal tour of Australia, Meghan appeared wearing a fitted white shift dress called ‘The Blessed’ by Australian designer Karen Gee. Sleeveless and cut close to the body, when photographed from the side there was just a teeny tiny hint of a bump. In fact, I’m sure that if we the public hadn’t been told she was expecting, we may have just thought Meghan had strayed away from her usual wheat free diet and ordered a pizza for lunch.

This style of executive dress certainly isn’t unfamiliar to us nor to Meghan. It’s become synonymous with businesswomen and politicians who work just as hard on sculpting their arms as they do on their careers. Think Michelle Obama, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Robin Wright in House of Cards. It’s a style that Meghan played with on-screen in her role in Suits but also one that she has incorporated into her royal wardrobe upon joining the monarchy in May and a look that we’ve seen her sport on several royal outings.  In fact, she wore a similar style of dress to the 100 Days to Peace gala concert in London just a month earlier, when unbeknownst to the public she was already several weeks pregnant.

The Duchess of Sussex wears a dress by Jason Wu in Fiji  Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Whilst Meghan may have toyed with looser silhouettes several times throughout the royal tour, it was this more fitted silhouette that made up the majority of her 30 plus royal tourdrobe looks. Dresses from Roksanda, Zimmerman and Brandon Maxwell all featured the slim fitting formula, but best of all, with some clever tailoring they can be adapted for post-pregnancy too, meaning that once Meghan has returned from maternity leave, perhaps we’ll see her wear them again.  

Stick to the classics

Just as “jeans and a nice top” has become a de facto uniform for weekend drinks, a Breton top and skinny jeans is a tried and tested maternity formula. When Meghan wore a pair of skinny jeans from Outland denim 24 hours after announcing her pregnancy, they immediately sold out. Dubbed the ‘Harriet’, they’re not specifically maternity jeans, but they do include two per cent elastane for a fair amount of stretch. They also feature a high-rise waist that falls just above the belly button meaning your bump will feel supported rather than bulging over a waistband.

The Duchess of Sussex in jeans by Outland  Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Elsewhere, Meghan's been pictured in similar jeans from both Mother and J.Crew much later in her pregnancy, including on a trip to Morocco in February, so it’s likely she’s either sizing up or applying a maternity extender belt to jeans in her existing wardrobe. This is a savvy option, meaning you won’t end up spending money on jeans that will only last you a couple of months.  

The Duchess of Sussex in Morocco in February  Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Similarly, a Breton style top is also somewhat of a general style staple with a fan base spanning everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Kate Moss and Alexa Chung. When teamed with jeans it’s a relaxed look, ideal for when you can no longer see your toes, plus there’s no faffing around with zips or buttons. It will also prove just as useful in the first couple of weeks post-pregnancy when you don’t have time to wash your hair let alone worry about what to wear when your mother-in-law visits. Best of all you can just bung it in the washing machine and tumble dryer, which is useful when the inevitable shoulder-sick happens.

Use the high street to trial trends

In her second trimester, Meghan proved that just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy seasonal trends. However, with an ever changing bodyshape, she hinted it’s best to stick to more affordable labels rather than splurging on pieces that A) Won’t fit in a couple of months and B) Might well have disappeared off the trend radar by then.

The Duchess Of Sussex in a dress by H&M's Mama line  Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

For a visit to an animal charity in January, Meghan wore a top-to-toe beige look as seen on the runways at Max Mara and Burberry. Meghan’s version included a £25 sweater dress in oatmeal from H&M’s Mama maternity line. In contrast her coat was from Armani but as it was worn open it may have been from her existing coat-drobe - and if not, it could easily be tailored to wear post-pregnancy. Further justifying the price is the fact that a camel coat is classic piece that you'll wear winter after winter, whilst the short beige dress is more of a brief frisson, which leads me nicely to.... 

A good coat can become a style hero 

From a bottle-green embellished version by Erdem to a crimson oversized lapel style  from Sentaler, throughout her pregnancy Meghan has worn a variety of coats. Whilst they've varied in colour, there's been a common thread - each one has fallen to just below the knee, been closely fitted on the shoulder but, when it comes to the silhouette, they have all been fit-and-flare styles. 

The Duchess of Sussex attends a Commonwealth service in March  Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Meghan has relied on said coats for visits to Merseyside, Christmas Day church services and anniversary receptions at Buckingham Palace. And whilst I'd like to say that Meghan has provided the ultimate solution to the maternity dressing problem - when in doubt just fling on a coat -as she wears them open, she exposes rather than conceals what's underneath. This way, rather than shrouding her it helps define her shape.    

Comfortable needn't mean shapeless

When it comes to travelling, we normally only get to see members of the royal family as they either ascend or descend the steps of a plane in some far flung country in a crease-free dress and high heels. There's no coffee stained tracksuit pants nor a neck cushion spilling out of a tote bag to be seen. However, returning from her baby shower in New York in February we saw Meghan sport a much more relatable airport look. In Lululemon ‘Align’ pants - basically black leggings, a zipped up tracksuit top and Adidas Ultraboost trainers, Meghan looked comfortable but - by sticking to items in which you could see her bodyshape - she still managed to look polished. 

The Duchess of Sussex in New York in February  Credit: Gotham/GC Images

All too often we can fall into the habit of thinking that being comfortable means wearing shapeless silhouettes. But when your waist is quickly disappearing, it can be more flattering to make the most of the shape you have. 

Don't play it too safe

Throughout the winter months when come evening time all you feel like doing is curling up on the sofa with a box-set, Meghan was tasked with attending several black-tie events. Kicking off the series was a visit to the Royal Variety performance where Meghan wore an embellished top and fishtail skirt from the London label SAFiYAA. Meghan had given it a couple of maternity tweaks though, adding a black strap to the bust to create a seamless halter neck plus wrapping black ribbon around the waist to create an empire line that skimmed neatly over her bump.

The Duchess of Sussex wearing Givenchy at the British Fashion Awards in December  Credit: Jeff Spicer/BFC/Getty Images

A couple of weeks later, making a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards, Meghan wore a black velvet one-shoulder floor-length Givenchy gown. With her glowing skin and taut arms (evidently she hasn’t given up the yoga routine) it had a particularly A-list celebrity vibe. As did the continuous cradling of the bump, but hey - when you’ve got cameras taking your picture from every angle, who wouldn’t want to ensure they don’t snap an ill-defined silhouette?

The Duchess of Sussex wearing Roland Mouret  Credit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph

A full length sequinned gown by Roland Mouret, worn to attend a charity performance of Cirque du Soleil's Totem, hammered home the idea that when it comes to maternity evening wear, Meghan wasn’t going to just go for the safe option of an oversized black dress and some red lippy. A sartorial kick up the behind to us all and kudos for wearing sky high heels. I'm not sure that's a challenge even those of us not seven months pregnant would be willing to endure.