Royal Fashion Moments That Caused Controversy

Royal women are undeniably some of the most photographed figures of all time and with all eyes on them, it’s crucial that they make appearances in a polished and professional manner. As the generations pass, however, the royal women have become increasingly more casual with their public appearances and have adopted a new way of dressing that ignores outdated, stuffy royal style rules. With celebrity and fashion-forward figure Meghan Markle joining the royal family, we’re sure there will be even more risky fashion moments to come. Although we love to see progress when it comes to fashion, the transition hasn’t been easy and quite a few royal looks have caused controversy throughout the years for being too boundary-breaking. Follow along for 15 royal outfits that caused controversy:

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15. Kate Middleton Skinny Jeans

Kate Middleton revolutionized the royal family’s fashion standards when she joined the family, especially when it came to casual wear! Previously it was rare to see a royal figure in anything less formal than a gown or pantsuit, but Middleton proved that a polished knit and dark, tailored jean can still be appropriate despite being relatively informal and laid back. The fresh take on royal casual wear may have been controversial at first, but now it’s a go-to uniform for Middleton that the public has come to expect.

Photo by REX/Shutterstock

14. Princess Diana Black Dress

Princess Diana was known as the “People’s Princess” for her approachable and compassionate demeanor. Previously, royals acted quite aloof and entitled, so the refreshing personality traits of Diana gave the royal family a reality check. Diana’s first public appearance, however, definitely sent a shock to the public and Prince Charles alike! In an exclusive documentary, Diana admitted Charles scolded her for wearing this particular gown for their first appearance as an engaged couple because it was not only black, a color rarely chosen by royals, but it was also quite cleavage-baring and revealing.

Source: Rex Features

13. Meghan Markle All Black

Following suit, Meghan Markle continued on Diana’s legacy and has proven to opt for neutrals and black during her own public appearances. The Queen has advised that royal women should wear bright colors to ensure that they are noticeable and stand out during a public appearance. Black has always been one of the chicest and most fashion-forward colors, so we’re not surprised that royals like Meghan and Diana have decided against the rule and opted for black regardless.


13. Kate Middleton Breakup Costume

Many will be surprised to learn that Prince William and Kate Middleton actually broke up for a short period of time back when Kate was just 25. The breakup came in 2007 just before Halloween and supposedly Middleton’s mother encouraged her to go out and show William what he was missing. She did exactly that and stepped out in a short, sparkling witch costume which caused quite a bit of controversy with the public. The plan seemed to work, however, and the duo got back together a few months later in July 2008.

Photo by Rex Features

11. Princess Diana’s Hemlines

Modesty is a royal style rule that has lasted throughout the generations and still exists today. The levels of modesty have definitely shifted, however, and many believe Lady Diana was the first to initiate this change. Her fashion sense was bolder than previous royals and she paved the way for shorter hemlines and trendier pieces as part of the royal fashion uniform.

Source: Everett Collection

10. Meghan Markle Messy Bun

Based on the appearances of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana, and Duchess Kate Middleton, the royal standard when it comes to hair is perfectly polished, glossy locks. Meghan Markle, however, has decided to opt for a different look with her locks and has proven her go-to style is a messy bun with loose tresses framing her face. The entire style seems quite undone for a royal, which is why it caused quite a bit of controversy with the royal family and public alike.

Source: Press Association

9. Princess Diana Engagement Outfit

Typically royals opt for designer brands based in Britain for public appearances, but Lady Diana Spencer proved to break the mold with her outfit to announce her engagement to Prince Charles. Her engagement look was one that was pulled last minute from the racks of Harrods department store. Allegedly the Princess-to-be tried to visit the high-end boutique Belville Sassoon but was advised by the French sales assistant, who obviously didn’t recognize Diana at the time, to visit a more budget-friendly store.

24/2/1981 / Press Association

8. Meghan Markle Pants Over Dresses

For decades, it was expected that royal women step out wearing a skirt or dress when attending a public engagement. Kate Middleton broke this standard with her skinny jeans and even a few rare appearances in trousers, but Meghan Markle has broken this practice even further and seemingly opts for pants more than she does dresses! The fashion-forward and contemporary royal caused some controversy, but her boundary-breaking fashion is undeniably moving royal fashion standards in the right direction.

Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

7. Princess Diana Emerald Tiara

Princess Diana had a tendency to wear bold outfits that made a statement during her public appearances and this particular look was one of her most controversial. Queen Elizabeth gifted Diana the sparkling emerald necklace in 1953 as a wedding gift after inheriting it from Queen Mary. Rather than wearing the necklace around her neck, Diana opted to wear it as a tiara. We’re quite certain this wasn’t how the Queen envisioned the necklace being worn, which caused quite a bit of controversy.

6. Kate Middleton Wedges

The Queen has openly admitted that she has a strong distaste towards wedge-style heels, which is a style that Middleton was clearly a big fan of during her early public appearances. After being advised to stick to a simple stiletto style, Middleton has seemingly retired her favorite summer shoe style and almost always opts for a solid color, pointed-toe pump for public appearances nowadays.

Source: Press Association

5. Meghan Markle Bare Legs

It was a previous royal tradition that during public appearances royal women must wear nude tights rather than bare legs. The fashion standard seems slightly outdated and clearly Meghan Markle agrees because when she stepped out to announce her engagement to Prince Harry, Markle was bare legged. The appearance caused quite a bit of controversy but we can definitely appreciate her progressive and contemporary take towards royal dressing.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

4. Princess Diana Revenge Dress

The same evening that Prince Charles confessed his infidelity, Princess Diana attended a public engagement wearing a drop dead gorgeous off-the-shoulder black gown! Allegedly she owned the revealing number for 3 years but was always too nervous to wear it after being concerned that it was “too daring.” The dress was quickly dubbed the “revenge dress” and was one of the most notable, and in turn, controversial royal fashion moments of all time.

Source: Press Association

3. Kate Middleton Solomon Islands Dress

Kate Middleton found herself in the midst of a scandal back in 2012 with this patterned pink frock she wore while visiting the Solomon Islands. The Royals’ wardrobe is meticulously planned during their public engagements, which is why the ignorant mishap came as quite the shock. Rather than representing the Solomon Islands, Middleton accidentally wore a traditional frock from the Cook Islands, which is almost 3,000 miles away in the Pacific.

Source: Rex Features

2. Meghan Markle Engagement Dress

Following their engagement, Buckingham Palace released official engagement portraits of Prince Harry and soon-to-be bride, Meghan Markle. Kate Middleton was known for breaking the Queen’s rules on a subtle level with her off-the-shoulder dresses and knee-baring skirts, but Markle took this to the next level when the up and coming royal wore a completely sheer dress for her engagement photos. The Ralph & Russo gown featured strategically placed embroidery but it was still quite suggestive and daring when it comes to royal fashion standards.

1. Kate Middleton Wedding Dress

Of all the controversial royal fashion moments, shockingly Kate Middleton’s wedding dress caused the most stir and even led to a lawsuit! The gown was designed by Sarah Burton on behalf of the fashion house Alexander McQueen. A bridal designer, Christine Kendall, claimed that Burton “copied” her ideas for a similar gown that were sent to the palace for consideration five years earlier. A spokesperson for McQueen told The Times that she was “baffled” by the claims and dismissed them completely as “nonsense.”

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Photo by REX/Hugo Burnand/Clarence House

Olivia Di Pede

Olivia Di Pede

Olivia loves all things fashion, beauty, and entertainment. In her free time, she can be found taking yoga classes, reading thriller novels, and styling outfits on Instagram.