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Glamorous yet respectful: how Kate and Meghan tackled the trickiest of royal dress codes at the Festival of Remembrance 

The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance
The Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex at the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance

The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance is one of a handful of occasions during the year when the Royal family is pictured together. The style choices for these public family gatherings are often planned together in advance so that no-one ends up clashing with The Queen. However, there is little danger of that on the eve of Remembrance Sunday when the palette is strictly dark. 

But the dress code is nevertheless nuanced - this is not a somber occasion in quite the same way as Sunday’s Centotaph ceremony when black coats and hats are worn. It’s a Saturday night at the Royal Albert Hall replete with pomp and circumstance. The trick, therefore, is to dress up just enough that justice is done to the grandeur of the setting and event, whilst not looking so dazzling that it’s unseemly in the context. And you thought dressing for the office Christmas party was a challenge. 

On Saturday evening, the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex offered their takes on the Festival of Remembrance style requirements.

The Duchess of Cambridge opted for a simple navy dress with a bateau-neckline and gently flared skirt, devoid of embellishment or decoration, save for a velvet belt. She tied the look together with velvet heels, sheer tights and a black crystal-clasp Alexander McQueen clutch bag. 

The Duchess of Cambridge arrives at the Royal Albert Hall Credit: Getty

Kate transformed the look from pared-back to glamorous by debuting a new £17.99 padded rhinestone headband from Zara. The addition of pearl and diamond earrings which she has on long-term loan from the Queen exemplifies her modern, bold approach to royal style, styling high street everywoman buys with unique family heirlooms.

Another headband look from the Duchess of Cambridge in November 2018 Credit: Getty

Headbands have become one of the Duchess’s signature accessories over the past 18  months - indeed she had even made the trend her own (at the Christening of Prince Louis in July 2018)  before Miuccia Prada used them in her spring/ summer 2019 catwalk show in September 2018. The look might have had Sloane-y connotations in the past but Kate’s updated versions reference a more Anne Boleyn feel, with their exaggerated proportions and decorative finishes. 

Meghan arrives at the Royal Albert Hall Credit: AFP

The Duchess of Sussex, meanwhile, chose a more statement dress and kept her accessories to a minimum. Meghan, whose hair was scraped back into an elegant ballerina bun, usually sticks to sleek, minimal silhouettes, so her black jacquard prom dress, with its floral pattern and vintage feel seemed to be a departure from her usual look - this is a decision which makes the look memorable thus paying tribute to the importance of the evening’s engagement. The dress was designed by Erdem, the London-based Canadian Turkish designer whose feminine designs Meghan has worn since she lived in Toronto, before joining the Royal family. 

She finished the ensemble with her favourite Aquazurra ‘Deneuve’ heels and Jessica McCormack ruby earrings.

The other women of the Royal family also struck the balance between glamour and respect. The Queen wore a black floral-patterned tweed dress with a strand of pearls, a diamond brooch and diamond and pearl earrings, all finished with a slick of red lipstick. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall chose a midnight blue velvet dress and navy suede heels. This week, it was revealed that the Queen will no longer wear real fur, however Sophie, Countess of Wessex chose a black Gabriela Hearst shearling jacket and midaxi black dress. Princess Anne wore a velvet-trim silk skirt suit topped off with a cream, grey and black silk scarf knotted loosely around her neck.