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4 style rules royal family members aren’t actually required to follow, according to an expert

royal fashion rules

  • Members of the British royal family often make headlines for breaking so-called fashion rules. 
  • According to royal fashion expert and journalist Elizabeth Holmes' new book, "HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style," most of these protocols are actually myths.
  • Holmes said that she thinks royal fashion norms are about paying respect to the Queen, how she dresses, and the tone that she sets. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Over the years, there have been countless headlines calling out times when royals have broken so-called style and beauty rules.

However, as veteran fashion journalist Elizabeth Holmes points out in her new book, "HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style," many royal fashion "rules" are myths.

"There's this expectation on how they look with this need to be stylish but sensible, fancy but frugal. It's a very fine line that they are walking," she told Insider. 

Holmes added in her book that while there are a few written style rules for members of the royal family, most of them aren't true and just part of a "broader cultural insistence on sophisticated modesty, an expectation that they be composed and presentable at all times."

While Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle have been pictured wearing nude pantyhose to formal events, it's not a requirement 

Wearing pantyhose is considered a sign of respect toward the Queen and her style, Holmes said.
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When Meghan Markle made her first public appearance after her wedding to Prince Harry, she made headlines for opting to wear nude pantyhose with a pink dress by Goat. Markle's choice to wear tights appeared to be a sign that she had accepted an informal style tradition that the Queen has always followed. 

Middleton, on the other hand, is rarely pictured at public events not wearing pantyhose. However, she sometimes puts her own spin on the style by trading her typical nude pair for sheer or opaque black ones instead. 

According to Holmes, there is no written rule about having to wear pantyhose. It is done more as a sign of respect for the Queen, how she dresses, and the tone that she sets. 

"Meghan did not wear a lot of nude stockings, but then when she and the Queen appeared together, she did," Holmes said. "Kate leans into this stuff much more than Meghan did." 

Although thigh-high slits might be considered daring, they don't actually violate royal protocol

Markle was shamed for wearing a dress with a thigh-high slit, though it was not a violation of royal fashion rules.
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Markle turned heads when she arrived in Queensland's Fraser Island on her 2018 royal tour with Prince Harry wearing a striped Reformation dress that included a thigh-high slit on the left side. Some social-media users took to shaming her in the comments on the Kensington Palace Instagram page, calling her fashion choice "inappropriate." 

Holmes wrote in "HRH" that Markle's Reformation dress "made headlines with false claims it violated royal protocol," when in fact, there is no formal rule that prohibits thigh-high slits.

The former royal isn't the only one that has worn a dress with a similar style. In 2016, Middleton attended the premiere of "A Street Cat Named Bob" in a white Self-Portrait dress that had a thigh-high slit. 

Kate Middleton wore a dress with a thigh-high slit in 2016.
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The Duchess of Cambridge sported another dress with a thigh-high slit when she attended an event at the Thirty Club in a Roland Mouret gown in 2012.

Kate Middleton first wore a thigh-high slit in 2012.
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While Markle was faced with criticism for her dress, Middleton has worn the same style on numerous occasions and didn't receive the same backlash. As Harper's Bazaar pointed out in 2018, along with Middleton and Markle, Princess Beatrice has also embraced wearing silhouettes that have a thigh-high slit. 

The Queen reportedly doesn't like the look of pantsuits, but royals don't violate protocol by wearing them

When Markle attended her first evening engagement alongside Prince Harry in February 2018, she turned heads in a stunning black suit by Alexander McQueen. 

"The black trouser suit got a lot of attention, and it's because it is something we haven't seen from the royal family," Holmes said. "It sends a very strong message that Meghan understood that this was a job and she was showing up to work."

Both Markle and Middleton have worn pantsuits.
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The pantsuit look was something that Markle continued to adopt throughout her tenure as a senior member of the royal family. She wore a Givenchy suit during a royal tour of Ireland in July 2018 and then opted for a black Altuzarra suit for the WellChild awards in September 2018. 

As Holmes points out in "HRH," Markle's pantsuit moments were reminiscent of the menswear styles Princess Diana liked to wear from time to time, too. 

Princess Diana attended a Genesis concert in 1984 wearing a black-and-white suit.
David Levenson/Getty Images

While it's typical for royals to wear neutral nail polish, they aren't barred from wearing bright or dark colors

Holmes told Insider that although members of the royal family tend to wear more neutral or clear polish shades, there is no written rule about what is allowed and what isn't. 

"There is a tendency on behalf of the Queen and Kate to wear very neutral or clear polish shades," she said. 

However, Middleton has worn dark toenail polish many times, Holmes said, and when Princess Diana wore the famous "revenge dress" in 1994, she had bright-red nails. 

Markle also veered from the tradition of neutral nail lacquer when she wore dark nail polish at the 2018 Fashion Awards.

"I respect those little moments of individuality because it does come with criticism," Holmes added. 

Royals aren't required to wear neutral nail polish.
Jeff Spicer/BFC/Jayne Fincher/Getty Images

Although royals may continue to spark conversation because of their outfits, it's important to note that most of the time, they aren't breaking protocol. As Holmes wrote in "HRH," members of the royal family have teams of people that would never let them be photographed in something that intentionally breaks a written fashion rule. 

"These women are very famous, but they are not celebrities with free agencies. They cannot do or say what they please. They are working on behalf of the family and the Crown," Holmes said. 

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