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The Meghan Markle effect is in full swing — or should we say full term.
Since the Duchess of Sussex — who has officially given birth to a baby boy — announced her pregnancy last fall, fashionistas have been watching her every public move, keen on observing what she wears and how she wears it.
Such scrutiny isn’t new for Markle, whose style has grown to be iconic since stepping foot into the royal limelight. Anyone with a taste for fashion (myself included) has long been taking note of her consistently chic outfits — from her trove of sharply cut, form-fitting dresses and wide-collar twill coats, to her collection of power blazers and no-nonsense shoes (including versatile flats).
Markle’s looks are on our radar in part because, as Vanessa Valiente, a personal stylist and creator of V-Style, a fashion and travel blog points out, “she’s giving royal style some edge,” but also because they’re not that difficult to imitate.
“There is a strength and versatility to her look [that] is actually very easy to copy on a budget,” says Valiente.
If you got it, flaunt it (baby bump included)
Taking this a step further, when you consider that historically maternity wardrobes haven’t exactly screamed glamour, it’s exciting to see a celebrity of such regal stature show off her baby bump in show-stealing looks.
“I think she's reinforcing the idea that you don't have to ‘check out’ of style when you're pregnant,” says Jennifer Mackey-Mary, owner and stylist at Everyday Style. “In fact, pregnancy can be an opportunity to try something new and be a little bolder. These aren't clothes you're going to have forever, and embracing the bump can let you try styles you might be self-conscious to try otherwise. Pregnancy celebrates the female form, and Markle's style choices are putting her bump front and center — there's no hiding going on there. It's something every pregnant woman can be inspired by.”
Such inspiration is evident when you consider just how much people are searching for Markle’s maternity looks online.
Searches in Markle maternity looks are soaring
According to SEMrush, a trends data provider, the number of search queries around Meghan Markle's maternity style increased by 554 percent since October 2018, detecting a strong correlation between searches for Meghan Markle maternity style and her ASOS maternity dress, which surged in search by 68.6 percent since she was first seen wearing it.
Love the Sales has been cataloging Meghan Markle's maternity wear (amassing 75 outfits so far) and notes that searches for brands she wore soared on their site as well. For instance, Karen Gee (who designed the white sheath dress Markle donned in October) saw a search performance boost of 5,800 percent. Outland Denim, which makes sustainable jeans that Markle has worn out and about, saw a search spike by 3,900 percent since Markle started wearing them.
Markle’s maternity wardrobe wasn’t cheap — but yours can be
So, here’s the catch: while Markle does sport the occasional fast fashion dress that won’t break the bank, the Duchess of Sussex’s wardrobe is overall, really expensive. Like, you could buy a house with this money.
“We’ve [estimated] that Meghan's maternity wardrobe has cost over half a million dollars,” says Liam Solomon, marketing manager at Love The Sales. “A lot of this price comes from the fact that many of these pieces were specifically designed for her by [high end brands, including a bespoke Oscar de la Renta dress that cost over $13k.”
Keep it simple — most of these maternity looks aren’t flashy
These hefty price tags seem to contradict the idea that any woman can copy Markle, but keep in mind that save for the fancy galas, most of Markle’s outfits aren’t that dramatic, meaning they’re easy to mimic on a budget.
“Her look is [mainly] a series of clean lines, structured outerwear and neutral colors with the occasional bold dress or edgy detail,” says Valiente. “She does a ton of monochromatic looks and is [basically] living in black jeans. You can easily find those.”
Valiente recommends shopping on Hatch (Markle has sported at least one maternity dress from this brand) when the site has a sale.
“A Pea In The Pod [also has sales], and you can also buy second hand styles on B to B Maternity,” says Vaiente. “Top if off with a structured coat or open blazer, which does not have to be maternity by the way, and you are good to go.”
Mackey-Mary adds that Markle has a penchant for “strong, architectural silhouettes.”
“She lets the clothes (and the impeccable fit) speak for themselves. She doesn't hide behind lots of ruffles or volume, or overly girly prints. Bodycon dresses like this are an easy way to copy Markle's style,” says Mackey-Mary, pointing to a bodycon maternity tank dress on Old Navy for $30.
Check out Meghan Markle-centric blogs and Pinterest
“There are several blogs that actually capture what Meghan wears on a daily basis and will give you links to products that are similar to what she wore,” says Mattie Givens, a lifestyle blogger who is currently pregnant. “I personally find it helpful to use the image search feature in Pinterest to search for lots of options that look similar to what she wore in the photo I am searching. You can find a lot of great designer dupes that way.”
Pinterest also has a burgeoning realm for “Meghan Markle Knockoff Outfits.”
Fast fashion sites sold out of Meghan’s dresses — but there are others to choose from
Solomon points out that the majority of consumer interest in Markle’s wardrobe when shopping on Love the Sales centers upon her more affordable choices. The problem is, those H&M, ASOS, and J. Crew pieces sell out fast, primarily because they’re not expensive.
If the exact Markle dress you’re seeking from one of these retailers isn’t available anymore, don’t end your search; chances are you can find something similar from the same retailer.
Take the H&M cream knit number Markle wore this past winter that was shockingly, reduced to only $17 (down from $35). That dress is mostly out of stock, but there are other dresses on H&M that have a similar vibe, like this ribbed jersey dress for $25. It’s a darker color, yes, but bear in mind that based on Love the Sales analysis, Markle’s predominant color choices are navy blue and black.
If accessorized properly, a form-fitting sheath that goes just past your knee can help you achieve a very Markle look for a very unremarkable price.
“Even if you're not walking around in sky high stilettos, the details matter. A chic handbag or tote (this is a great budget friendly swap for Markle's pricier tote) and pointy-toe flats make every outfit look more expensive,” says Mackey-Mary.
Attending a fancy work dinner? Give ‘Rent the Runway’ a spin
ASOS has a great collection of “occasion” maternity clothes (and an up to 50 percent off sale happening now), but if you’re looking for something super high end, you should consider trying out Rent The Runway, a subscription service that lets you rent women’s dresses, apparel and accessories.
“I have had great experience with Rent The Runway and wear a lot of chic maternity pieces that I wouldn't feel comfortable paying for since I will probably never wear them again,” says Givens. “Getting to wear higher end maternity clothes and knowing that I didn't have to pay top dollar for them or worry about storing them for years is awesome.”
“Our maternity section launched in fall 2017 and has been extremely successful,” Sarah Tam, chief merchant officer at Rent The Runway tells NBC News Better. “We now have over 3,000 styles that will accommodate and flatter a woman throughout her pregnancy.”
Rent The Runway sports over 500 designer brands, including some Markle favorites like Stella McCartney and Oscar de la Renta.
The site has seen a spike in interest in its maternity selection, thanks in part to Markle’s fashion.
“Meghan Markle is making people want to be more polished, and dress up more while pregnant,” says Tam. “The [typical pregnant] Rent the Runway subscriber loves showing off her bump, and loves layering a coat over a colored sheath dress — something we see Meghan pulling off effortlessly.”
Don’t forget the bra
A good bra can go a long a way in making a Markle-inspired number work its magic.
“Well fitting maternity bras can help your trendy maternity outfit, like Meghan's cute form fitting dresses, look their best,” says Kimmay Caldwell, an undergarment educator at Hurray Kimmay who frequently works with pregnant women. “I never suggest skimping on support, but I do suggest spending less on maternity bras because your body is constantly changing, and you'll need to check in on your size often. If you had to choose just a few to get you through, the key is to look for a wire-free stretchy cup bra that can fluctuate with you — with an adjustable band and straps. For smaller or more moderate sizes, the Miel Nana bra is great, or the Warner's Easy Does It Bra. For fuller sizes, I highly suggest a wire-free bra like this one from Elila that runs from C to K cup, or this one from Parfait for D to G cups (UK sizing), which also has a J-hook in the back to make it a racerback.”
Try these Markle-inspired looks for less
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Reversible Faux Leather Tote & Wristlet, Nordstrom, $49.00
MAMA Ribbed Jersey Dress, H&M, $25.99
Maternity Bodycon Tank Dress, Old Navy, $30.00
Seraphine Women's Nautical Maternity & Nursing Top, Amazon, $56.00
Motherhood Maternity Black Leggings, Amazon, $24.98
Rothy's Maritime Flat, Rothy's $145