Beautiful bumps: Meghan's masterclass in third-trimester style
As she nears her due date, the royal mum-to-be is still showing her glamorous side. Georgina Lucas on Markle's maternity fashion approach
The third trimester. A time for hibernating and preparing for the impending arrival of a teeny person who will turn your world upside down - or, in the case of Meghan Markle, a time to master the art of maternity dressing.
Simple maths puts Meghan in roughly the seventh month of pregnancy (Baby Sussex's due date is thought to be around late April or early May), and last week alone the duchess notched up five public appearances.
Hot on the heels of the Sussexes' Moroccan tour, Meghan swung straight back into action, donning a gold brocade dress for a reception hosted by the Queen to mark the 50th anniversary of the Prince of Wales's investiture.
At a stage in pregnancy when approximately 90pc of one's wardrobe has to be filed under "no chance of getting into that", Meghan added her Amanda Wakeley Crombie coat - a style which has been in her arsenal since well before her bump.
Unbuttoned and collar flicked, the reappearance of the coat illustrates that with a little imagination, Meghan is adapting her wardrobe to suit her current form - and adopting Kate Middleton's thrifty wardrobe rotation policy.
The following day, she delighted fans with a surprise appearance alongside her husband, Prince Harry, onstage at the SSE arena in London for an event. In a streamlined Ralph Lauren blazer, Rag & Bone jeans, a black stretchy top and her Manolo Blahnik heeled black suede pumps, she looked every inch the effortless pregnancy poster girl.
Then, after being appointed vice-president of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust, she joined a panel of female leaders and activists at King's College in a monochrome printed dress by Reiss (non-maternity), her crisply tailored McQueen black blazer with a Stella McCartney clutch and her favourite heeled pumps.
This is not to say she doesn't embrace her current physique - she is barely snapped without a protective hand cradling her bump, and most recent looks have been accessorised with her new "mummy" necklace - the Jennifer Meyer design spells out the word in 18 carat gold and is thought to have been a baby shower gift.
Late pregnancy dressing is no mean feat - a navigation through swollen ankles and swollen, well, everything else, not to mention a "bump" that grows from squash-sized to watermelon-sized in the space of a few short weeks.
Of course there are people who make the whole thing look entirely effortless - I watched in wonder (and envy) as my boss at Matches Fashion seemingly breezed through fashion month in a flurry of silky Chloé blouses, distressed jeans and heels; the general vibe among fashion insiders being that pregnancy dressing is not the time to abandon one's carefully honed style identity.
Meghan seems to endorse this philosophy. Far from a vigorous overhaul of her wardrobe, she has incorporated the same labels as before pregnancy, continuing to rely on the likes of Givenchy, Prada, Stella McCartney and Oscar de la Renta for high-octane glamour.
So far she has mainly steered clear of maternity labels, or anything that looks overtly like maternity wear. Her only concessions have been an H&M Mama sweater dress and a black shift by Hatch - the US-based brand designs pieces that are intended to "look good and feel good before, during and after pregnancy", cleverly avoiding the trap of maternity wear being confined to the attic as soon as the baby is born.
Unsurprisingly, Meghan's approach differs from her sister-in-law - in the latter stages of pregnancy, Kate mainly parked McQueen, Erdem et al in favour of a tried-and-tested capsule wardrobe of bump-skimming gently A-line coats, and empire silhouettes.
With an increasing line-up of royal, celebrity and fashion world pregnancies documented across social media, maternity dressing has become big business - but there are still relatively few labels delivering appealing collections.
A quick poll among recently pregnant friends on the subject induces eye rolls and sighs at "bump bows, dodgy florals, and oversized proportions (not in a good way)". Maternity labels have a lot to answer for.
Sleek names to know include Seraphine and Isabella Oliver - both have A-list endorsement via the likes of Natalie Portman, Beyoncé and Halle Berry.
Across the pond, Hatch is understandably delighted to have Meghan as a fan - it is no secret that royal and celebrity support is lifeblood to brands. Founder and CEO Ariane Goldman said: "We have always admired her perfectly polished looks and loved witnessing how she has translated her effortlessly chic style throughout her pregnancy. Following Meghan's sighting in Hatch, we saw an incredible spike in sales and a 2,000pc uptick in traffic on our site. The dress sold out in three days."
There remains an appealing element of accessibility in Meghan's approach. Returning from New York after her baby shower, she dressed in black athleisure: Lululemon leggings, Ingrid & Isabel zip top and a baseball cap - she could have been any pregnant woman en route to a yoga class.
We can glean a great deal from the duchess's first foray into maternity dressing - stay true to your regular style, be proud of your bump, and don't allow it to define you.
In the final month of Kate's pregnancies, she began maternity leave and was rarely seen in public - rumours are circulating that Meghan may do the same.
But I suspect she may continue to notch up a catalogue of carefully executed bump looks until days before the new arrival. I'll be watching - and taking notes.