Meghan Markle has always had a knack for style, but the world really started paying attention to her fashion when she began stepping out in public with Prince Harry. (Remember that Husband shirt from their first official outing?) Her influence over trends and brands even has a name now—the Markle Sparkle. This is not the work of a stylist, according to her friend and makeup artist, Daniel Martin: The Duchess of Sussex herself is making all the calls.
Though it was long believed that Jessica Mulroney, her best friend and reportedly the stylist for her wedding, was responsible for Markle's royal wardrobe, Martin's on-the-record comments contradict that. "She doesn't have a stylist. Everything she wears she picks herself," he told CBS' Gayle King in May. “It’s pretty incredible that she can manage all of this," he added.
And it's not the first time we've heard that Markle doesn't use a stylist: Back in March, a source told Elle that the duchess has been styling herself for official engagements, with occasional help from her sister-in-law. "Meghan has certainly turned to Kate for guidance and inspiration," the source said.
In February, a source close to Markle told People that the duchess was similarly hands-on with her hair and makeup: "There’s a false assumption that she lives in some gilded palace with staff and ladies-in-waiting and all these royal perks. It’s simply not true… I was with her last month, and she was going on a public engagement. Harry and I were sitting with the dogs, and we were all chatty, and she’s painting her nails,” the source told People. "Except for her wedding, she does all her own makeup. Dresses herself, styles herself."
According to Christine Ross, the editor of Meghan's Mirror, there isn't any protocol around royals' employing professional stylists. "It really comes down to personal taste and preferences," she tells Glamour. "Dressing for royal events is a lot of work, and it can be helpful to have another person—be it a stylist or a trusted member of your team—to focus on the sartorial aspect of an event. Small details can send big messages, and having someone else to consider the finer minutiae of a design helps take some of the stress off." While the duchess may have a personal, one-phone-call-away relationship with designers like Clare Waight Keller, who created her Givenchy wedding gown, it's hard to imagine how she could personally communicate with every designer or brand without the help of some staff. (Since almost anything she wears sells out instantly, fielding offers from brands to dress her or send samples would be a full-time job alone.)
But with or without help, the duchess is calling the shots. At Meghan's Mirror, Ross and her team keep tabs on the outfits and designers Markle chooses, as well as larger trends in her wardrobe and style evolution. "Meghan is definitely learning how to balance her personal style with the royal engagements that her new role requires," Ross says. "Before she was married, we saw a lot more street-style looks from her. Now her new role requires a different uniform—fascinators, formal dresses, and tailored outfits. She's learning how to dress like a duchess while still feeling like herself, and that can be a tricky balance."
Some Meghan faves have already emerged. "Meghan loves neutral tones—she always has, and she probably always will," Ross says. "Although she has thrown in a pop of color here and there, Meghan sticks to her navies, whites, and blacks." She also notes that the duchess has shown a preference for "conservative, professional ensembles with a modern twist," like sheath dresses with creative pleating or a more inventive neckline.
Something that makes Markle's approach to fashion stand out from that of other members of the royal family, according to Ross, is how she uses it to bring attention to and support causes she cares about—she'll wear brands that use ethical and sustainable materials or that give back to organizations that align with her values. "We haven’t heard too much of this narrative from other royals, and it shows how Meghan is using her fashion choices for the greater good," she says. Plus, whereas Middleton is British to the core when it comes to her fashion, Markle brings elements from her L.A. upbringing into her royal wardrobe, incorporating more on-trend pieces we normally wouldn't see from Kensington Palace. For instance: "Meghan loves an edgy detail or a structural fabric, while Kate loves a frilly lace collar and a vintage-inspired silhouette," says Ross.
In other words, even within the strict royal protocol, there's a way to personalize a princess's wardrobe. And there's something charming about picturing the Duchess of Sussex sitting in a room in Kensington Palace, Guy the beagle at her feet, scouring Shopbop's new arrivals like the rest of us.
Ana Colón is the style editor for Glamour.
This piece has been updated.
Originally Appeared on Glamour