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The business behind royal fashion

Kai Ryssdal and Bennett Purser May 21, 2019
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Duchess Meghan Markle waves as she joins Queen Elizabeth II to walk from Storyhouse to Chester Town Hall in on June 14, 2018 in Chester, England.
Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

When a member of the British royal family is photographed, it’s not just about expensive clothing. For Duchesses Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton, it’s often about sending a message and using clothes as a business move.

That decision-making process is routinely examined by the viral Instagram series So Many Thoughts, created by veteran style reporter Elizabeth Holmes. The series features her commentary on the latest looks, from color and silhouette, to the history and the context of the moment. The series, hosted on Holmes’s personal Instagram account, has attracted more than 100,000 followers anticipating her thoughts on royals’ sartorial choices.

After more than a decade of covering style and fashion for the Wall Street Journal, Holmes uses newsroom skills on Instagram. The series goes deeper than the clothes; she says there’s a strategy behind many outfits and looks.

“They see what they wear as a tool to spread the royal brand,” Holmes told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. She sat down with Ryssdal to discuss the business of royal branding and why Duchesses are obsessed with “dressing for the slideshow.”

What is dressing for the slideshow?

“Dressing for the slideshow” describes the method used by celebrities and royals to build their personal brands. It works when someone dresses for multiple occasions in looks that coordinate through color, fabric, fit and silhouette. When a variety of looks have striking similarities, it’s easy for both fans and fashion editors to group the photos in a slideshow, creating a fashion identity.

Blush moments

After her wedding in May 2018, Meghan Markle wore a series of similar blush-colored dresses to public appearances.

“She’s building her brand within the royal family, and her personal style is a part of that,” Holmes said of Markle’s fashion choices.

The white album

Markle chose white ensembles for many important moments, not just her wedding. She also wore white looks to announce her engagement, her pregnancy and when she introduced her newborn baby.

“There’s very little that happens coincidentally with the royals,” Holmes said. “This all happens very carefully and is choreographed precisely.”

Fit for a queen

Queen Elizabeth II of England also follows a formula with her clothing. The Queen is known for wearing bright colors for public appearances, helping the crowd spot her from a distance. She also favors black leather shoes and handbags for these occasions.

“When Meghan Markle had her first solo engagement with the Queen she [also] wore black shoes and carried a black bag,” Holmes said. “It’s all intentional.”


Markle stands with Queen Elizabeth II during a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 in the town of Widnes in Halton, Cheshire, England. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

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