11 Pregnancy Fashion Rules The Royals Have To Follow

Being a member of the royal family may come with its perks, but it also comes with a few downsides, too. For one thing, being a royal means following lots and lots of guidelines and traditions. Anyone who follows the Windsors knows all too well that the royals have rules about food, how to date, how to dress — the list goes on. 

It turns out, the royal fashion "rules" often still apply when members of the family are pregnant. What's more, there are even a few additional royal fashion rules when it comes to pregnancy. In other words, while the royals have always given us loads of inspiration when it comes to their pregnancy looks, a lot of the time, they can't actually wear clothes that prioritize their own comfort. It must be tough to follow a rigid royal fashion rulebook when you're experiencing a classic pregnancy symptom like morning sickness and all you want to do is throw on a pair of loose sweatpants and toss your hair up into a messy bun.

While Princess Diana, Meghan Markle, and Princess Catherine certainly had memorable maternity fashion moments during their respective pregnancies, old royal traditions regarding what they should and should not wear always loomed overhead. Here are some of the royal fashion rules that women are supposed to follow even when pregnant.

The royals are expected to get dressed up right after giving birth

One steadfast royal tradition is the post-birth photshoot outside of the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital. Princess Diana began the tradition in the '80s when she showed off the newborn Prince William to photographers. It turns out, new royal mothers can't simply throw on a comfy outfit after giving birth — instead, their outfit for this photoshoot is usually selected for them. In 2013, after the birth of Princess Catherine's first child, Prince George, her hairdresser was spotted heading to the hospital to get her ready for the photocall. When Catherine's third royal baby was born in 2018, her stylist, Natasha Archer, was seen leaving the hospital only a few hours after the royal couple had entered — in other words, she was on hand to ensure Catherine was ready to wear the perfect post-birth outfit. Catherine wore three different Jenny Packham dresses for her post-birth photo sessions.

Both Meghan Markle and Princess Diana were also dressed up after their respective births. As one writer for Stylist noted, this royal rule that says new royal mothers have to get dressed up right after giving birth is a little out-of-date. "Yes, she looked great — but this should not be expected of women," she wrote, adding, "I can't imagine the sort of preparation that goes into standing on those steps for just a few moments, but I know it will have taken a huge effort for Kate both mentally and physically."

Pregnant royals should keep their toes covered

Anyone who has even been pregnant knows that the ankles and feet can actually be some of the most uncomfortable parts of the body. Puffy, swollen ankles and sore feet are, for many women, an ongoing symptom during the nine months of pregnancy. Most doctors recommend wearing comfortable shoes with an open-toe design to allow the feet to breathe.

For the royals, however, the relief of a pair of breathable sandals is off the table. You will rarely see a royal wearing open-toed shoes in public — even while they're pregnant. According to Harper's Bazaar, the royals are strongly discouraged from donning open-toed shoes. "Open-toed shoes are considered informal footwear and inappropriate for formal occasions," etiquette expert William Hanson said. 

While they may be "inappropriate," they are not formally banned. And we know this because we have seen some expectant royals out and about with their toes out from time to time. Meghan Markle eschewed the "no sandals" tradition during her pregnancy: In 2019, she was photographed wearing a strappy set of heels to a Cirque du Soleil show. Her mother-in-law, the late Princess Diana, was also once spotted breaking the rules, opting for open-toed white flats while pregnant during a polo match. Hey, sometimes you've just got to let your tootsies breathe. 

Pregnant royals shouldn't wear tracksuits or leggings

Pregnancy fashion should be all about maximizing comfort... right? Well, not for the royals. Apparently, royal women should not wear tracksuits, sweatpants, or even leggings while pregnant. Super casual clothing is supposedly always off limits for the royals, but this must be extra hard to keep up with during pregnancy. After all, sometimes, a pair of cozy sweats are the only thing that feels good with a huge baby bump. Alas, as the Mirror claimed in 2018, Meghan Markle had been expressly banned from wearing tracksuits and leggings even if she were to become pregnant. 

Of course, there are a few very specific exceptions to the rule. In 2017, Princess Catherine wore a sleek black and white tracksuit while pregnant — however, the outfit was clearly designed to match with her appearance at the Lawn Tennis Association, where she even picked up a ball and racket. Meghan Markle was also spotted in a black tracksuit and leggings while in New York City in February 2019 while pregnant with her first child, Prince Archie.

Pregnant royals have to be careful not to reveal cleavage

One of the biggest physical changes that comes with pregnancy is that your breasts tend to go up a few sizes. While this is a very natural change (and, for some women, a very welcome one), for royal women, it can be more of a hassle. Why? Well, it turns out royal women have to be very, very careful about showing cleavage. 

Royal women are not only discouraged from wearing anything with a low neckline, but they are expected to be mindful of all angles. In fact, designer Anya Hindmarch once told The Telegraph that Princess Diana would use her bag to cover up any cleavage that might show if she were to lean forward. "We used to laugh when we designed what she called her 'cleavage bags,' little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars," Hindmarch said (via Glamour).

Because of the royal rule on cleavage, some royal women end up wearing more modest clothing throughout their pregnancies. For instance, Meghan Markle and Princess Catherine were often spotted wearing high-necked tops and modest coats.

Royals have to hide their pregnancies until 12 weeks

Most women chose to keep their pregnancies private for a few weeks. While many women choose to wait until the end of the first trimester (around 12 weeks), for the royals, it's not an option. In fact, royal protocol dictates that they have to wait at least 12 weeks before they make their pregnancies public. Only rarely do royals break from this tradition; Princess Catherine announced her third pregnancy after eight weeks because she was dealing with extreme morning sickness and the palace wanted to get ahead of the tabloids. 

Because of the strict rule about when royals can reveal their pregnancies, pregnant royals have to be very careful about dressing to conceal their growing baby bumps. Catherine often wore distracting prints and baggy coats, while Meghan Markle also made use of structured blazers, peplum silhouettes, and well-positioned bags. Clearly, the royals have to be very mindful when it comes to picking outfits that hide their growing bumps for the first few weeks.

Pregnant royals shouldn't remove their coats in public – even if they get hot

Pregnancy can lead to all kinds of changes in the body. Many women find that it leads to rising body temperature, which can leave them feeling warmer than they usually would. Understandably, plenty of pregnant women would hate the thought of keeping their coats on inside. However, as far as pregnant royals are concerned, leaving that coat on during an official event is usually what is expected. 

Yes, it is custom for royal women to keep coats on, even indoors, while on official visits — you may have noticed that most royals are photographed in their coats while visiting schools, museums, and hospitals. As Daena Borrowman, marketing manager at jewellerybox, told the Express, "Disrobing in public is perceived as distasteful according to royal protocol." As it turns out, even pregnant royals are supposed to follow this rule. 

There are numerous images out there of all of the royals wearing coats and coat dresses during their pregnancies; maternity coats have been a staple of royal maternity wardrobes for years. And when royals start to feel a little too hot under those maternity coats? They either power through or, if push comes to shove, find a private space where they can remove the coat. 

Pregnant royals are encouraged to wear pantyhose, even if it's uncomfortable

When you're pregnant, one of the last things you want is to have anything tight squeezing your stomach — especially a pair of itchy, annoying tights. However, the royals often have to suffer through wearing tights over their baby bump as pantyhose are something of an unspoken rule in the royal family. 

According to Elizabeth Holmes, a royal fashion expert, this rule was probably more important when Queen Elizabeth II was still alive, as she was particularly opposed to bare legs. "Meghan [Markle] did not wear a lot of nude stockings, but then when she and the Queen appeared together, she did," Holmes told Business Insider. "Kate leans into this stuff much more than Meghan did." 

This is another "rule" that is more of a guideline than a hard and fast mandate, and some royals have bent it accordingly. Princess Catherine has also been known to break the pantyhose rule on rare casual occasions. Nevertheless, Catherine was spotted wearing pantyhose while pregnant in 2018 numerous times. In 2019, Meghan, while heavily pregnant, broke the rule. 

Royals are allowed to shorten their hemlines a little while pregnant

When it comes to hemlines, the royal family has some very strict guidelines. As an expert from Debrett's told The Sun, royal women are expected to keep their hemlines no shorter than three inches above the knee — and for formal occasions, like funerals, hemlines are expected to be even longer.

Given how rigid the royal family's sartorial rulebook may seem, it may come as a surprise that the royals actually allow for a slight exception on this particular rule when it comes to pregnant women. As Cecile Reinaud, the founder of maternity clothing brand Seraphine, explained to InStyle in 2018 (via Closer Weekly), Princess Catherine was known to wear slightly shorter skirts while pregnant to distract from their growing bumps. "Highlighting legs and arms is always a good trick to keep a nice silhouette," said Reinaud. She added, "[Catherine] went shorter, on a couple of occasions well above her knee, which she never does normally. And especially in winter, because when she wore opaque black tights, it looks okay." Reinaud went on to predict that Meghan Markle would also opt for shorter hemlines. There were only a few times when Meghan bent the hemline rule, wearing a black and white mini dress in March 2019, a burgundy mini dress in November 2018, and a black mini dress in December 2018.

Pregnant royals are presumably discouraged from wearing crop tops

We think it's pretty safe to say that you'll probably never see a royal woman sporting a midriff-baring crop top — especially while pregnant. Although a number of stars like Rihanna, Suki Waterhouse, and Sienna Miller have popularized the trend of showing off their bare baby bumps with revealing crop tops or cut-out tops, this look is presumably off-limits for royal mothers-to-be.

Meghan Markle was spotted wearing cute, midriff-baring crop tops before she joined the royal family. However, once she and Prince Harry tied the knot, her crop tops vanished from her wardrobe as the look goes against the royal dress code. We can hardly say we're surprised that no royals seem to have dared to break this rule so far.

The only time a royal has ever worn an outfit that revealed a bare baby bump was in 2013, when Princess Catherine wore a bikini while pregnant with her first child — however, she was on a private vacation at the time. Even though she objected to paparazzi photos of the outfit being published, an Italian magazine decided to print them, writing, "The future mum, now in her fourth month of pregnancy, wears a small bikini that enhances her now visible bump" (via CNN). The palace even made a statement about the breach of privacy; it seems that the royals are very hesitant to ever show a bare baby bump to the public.

Pregnant royals may be encouraged to wear heels

Heels are something of a staple of a royal woman's wardrobe. In fact, you will rarely see a royal wearing flats at formal events. Apparently, this rule continues to apply throughout all nine months of a royal's pregnancy. Sure, a pair of cushy ballet flats or soft sneakers might be easier on the feet, but members of the royal family tend to stick to heels even when they're with child. "They were all wearing Miu Mius at one point in their pregnancy," Rachel Matthews Burton, a celebrity stylist, told Elle Canada

A quick glimpse through images of Princess Diana, Princess Catherine, and Meghan Markle's pregnancy looks, and you will see plenty of heels. In June 1984, a pregnant Diana wore a pair of pink heels to watch the polo. In March 2013, Catherine was seen in heels while five and a half months pregnant; when one of her shoes got stuck in a grate, it spurred a debate about whether or not wearing heels while pregnant was actually safe. Similarly, doctors raised concerns about the unofficial rule in 2019, when Meghan Markle wore four-inch heels while around eight months pregnant. (It is worth noting that a few months earlier, Meghan was photographed in a pair of Rothy's flats while on a tour.)

The heels don't go anywhere when the baby arrives. Hours after Prince Louis arrived in 2018, Catherine put on a pair of pumps and introduced the young royal to the world. 

Pregnant royals can't simply throw on an easy all-black outfit

Black outfits can be a go-to for many pregnant women — not only are they hassle-free, easy options, but the color is a surefire and chic way to streamline the silhouette. However, royal women don't have the option to simply throw on an easy, flattering all-black outfit. This is because the royals are actually not allowed to wear black unless they are attending a funeral or a Remembrance Day ceremony. "Generally it is thought that black is not usually worn unless in mourning, although Diana Princess of Wales did occasionally wear it for evening functions," said Alexandra Messervy, founder of The English Manner to InStyle (via CBS News).

This rule even applies to pregnant royals who may wish to keep things simple with a black ensemble. Notably, Meghan Markle broke the rule in January 2019 when she donned an all-black outfit for an event at the University of London. And when Meghan announced she was pregnant with her first child back in October 2018, the duchess was dressed in head-to-toe black. 

"The occasions when [Meghan] is choosing to wear black suggest she isn't seeking to be the centre of attention. She is OK with being in the background," said color expert Karen Haller to The Sun of Meghan's choice. "Black is her way to deflect attention off herself and onto the causes she is supporting — putting them in the spotlight."