There are many benefits of being a British royal, but the one thing they can’t do is dress inappropriately — ever. Everything must be correct according to royal protocol. Such care is taken that when the occasional slip-up happens, it becomes newsworthy. Sometimes the royals dressed inappropriately on accident, but even juicier is when they did it on purpose. Here are the top 10 most inappropriate outfits ever worn by British royals.
Diana’s revenge dress
The normally modestly dressed Princess of Wales made a massive splash in 1994. On the same night that a documentary let out that her husband, Prince Charles, had been unfaithful, Diana was scheduled to appear at a party for Vanity Fair.
Oh boy, did she show up. Nothing about her dress met protocol: it was form fitting, way above the knee, bare shouldered, and low cut. Dubbed the “revenge dress” by the press, it will not be soon forgotten in the annals of royal fashion history. Only a woman on the way out of the family could pull off this look, and she certainly did.
Meghan’s bare shoulders
So, what’s the problem with bare shoulders? Nothing, if it’s done correctly. And what’s the correct way to do it? That depends. At the 2018 Commonwealth Youth Forum, Meghan (the Duchess of Sussex) arrived in a smart sleeveless dress topped by a blazer, a perfectly acceptable look.
But her faux pas was taking off the coat once she arrived inside. Yes, removing one’s own coat is a mistake. Especially if it’s not an outer coat, but part of an ensemble. Sleeveless dresses are frowned upon as a rule, even in evening wear. But even if she’d been wearing sleeves on her dress, she still would have been in the wrong. As we said, it’s complicated.
Kate’s fur gloves
Fur is a big no-no in many circles and is highly controversial, even amongst royals who show up for elaborate ceremonies in ermine-edged capes. So when Kate Middleton was photograhed wearing possum-fur lined gloves while on a family ski trip, PETA UK took immediate umbridge against the Duchess of Cambridge.
The gloves, made by Restelli Guanti, have been worn by the Duchess for at least a decade and are a favorite. But both Prince William and his father Prince Charles are advocates against poaching and conservation, so her gloves may have to come off permanently.
Prince William’s stretch jeans
It’s not often a prince dresses inappropriately; there are only two examples on this list. But it happens on occasion. In 2016, photos came out of Prince William limbering up before a polo match, in which he was attired in white stretch jeans. The tight fitting trousers left nothing to the imagination. But the most incorrect thing William did was a wide legged, twisting yoga stance. Needless to say there were more than a few jokes about royal jewels to go around the press.
Diana’s legendary wedding dress
While it’s now the most iconic wedding dress in history, it must be remembered that in 1981, not everyone loved Diana’s dress. For one thing, it cost £151,000 at the time, almost $600K today. The wedding train was a record-setting 25 feet in length and almost couldn’t fit into her carriage with her and her father, Charles Spencer.
It was classic ’80s fashion with puffy sleeves and a full skirt, but many critics thought it just too much of everything. The dress now belongs to her son, Prince Harry, as part of his inheritance from her estate. Prince William received her blue sapphire engagement ring, which he then passed on to his own fiancée, Kate Middleton.
Meghan’s ripped jeans
Surprisingly enough, jeans are not forbidden for royalty. The most popular kind of pants in the world can actually be worn during “very casual” events, when appropriate. So even though ripped or distressed jeans are trendy, they are seen as even lower than “very casual.”
Meghan Markle discovered this before she even joined the royals, when at one of their earliest events together she was spotted with massive holes in the knees of her denim. It’s not a mistake she would repeat.
Prince Harry’s Nazi costume
Prince Harry only makes this list once but once is enough. He was known as a party animal as a young man. Many saw him as taking after his uncle Prince Andrew, aka “Randy Andy,” the master of indiscretion. But indiscretions can be forgiven… except when it involves Nazis. Yes, in 2005, 20-year-old Prince Harry was photographed at a friend’s “Colonial themed” birthday party wearing khakis and a swastika armband. Colonialism is problematic enough, but nothing tops invoking the Nazis. He apologized for his “poor choice” of costume in an official statement, and it’s a mistake he still finds himself walking back from.
Princess Eugenie’s ultra short skirt
Princess Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew, has a bit of a rebellious streak about her. Her attire at the same Commonwealth Youth Forum, where Meghan took off her own coat, was just as scandalous. She wore a perfectly nice floral dress with long sleeves but very short hem, well above the knee and above the “appropriate” line. Furthermore she wore thigh high black boots and, worst of all, no nylons or stockings. Yes, it was fashionable, but it was considered very inappropriate for a senior royal.
Kate’s catwalk caper
Before she married Prince William, Kate Middleton could hardly be faulted for wearing things that might fit this list. Particularly for events that happened before she even started dating Prince William. But her appearance walking the catwalk at a 2002 charity fashion show in a see-through dress is enough to scandalize anyone. Moreover, Prince William was in the audience that day, and that look is allegedly the one that caught his eye. The barely there dress, which retailed for £30, later sold at auction for £78,000 (unfortunately not for charity this time).
Meghan’s bare legs
Again, Meghan is being held accountable for clothing she wore before becoming the Duchess of Sussex. But this time it fits, because it was for her official engagement photo to Prince Harry. Despite her perfectly acceptable dress covered by a smart trenchcoat, she had broken the rule about bare legs. Royal protocol dictates that she should have at least covered her legs with nylons. It’s unclear why a stylist would not have brought this error to the couple’s attention, but needless to say, the media certainly did. No wonder Meghan and Harry have decided to scale back their royal duties.