The Most Controversial Royal Fashion Moments of All Time

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When a member of the royal family steps out in public, their fashion choices are guaranteed to make headlines...but sometimes for the wrong reasons. (Even the Queen has experienced the occasional sartorial misstep!) From revealing necklines to accidental faux pas, we rounded up the most controversial royal fashion moments in history, ahead.

princess diana's "revenge dress"
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Princess Diana's "Revenge Dress," 1994

The recently-separated princess attended the Serpentine Gallery's Gala in London on the same night Prince Charles addressed the nation about his affair with Camilla. So she wore an off-the-shoulder little black dress, of course. Her look has gone down in history as one of her most blatant sartorial choices and is known as the "revenge dress."

meghan markle's tuxedo dress
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Meghan Markle's Short Hemline, 2018

Meghan Markle shattered the unspoken above-the-knee hemline rule not long after becoming a royal. The tuxedo minidress she wore to a performance of Hamilton stirred up controversy, as people debated whether or not it was a breach of protocol.

princess diana's "travolta" dress
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Princess Diana's "Travolta" Dress, 1985

The velvet off-the-shoulder gown Princess Diana wore to a White House State Dinner in 1985 is one of the most iconic gowns worn by the royal. It was dubbed the "Travolta Dress" due to the heavily-circulated photo of Diana dancing with the movie star in it.

kate middleton's breezy skirt
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Kate Middleton's Breezy Skirt, 2011

The newlywed suffered a wardrobe malfunction during a breezy visit to the Calgary Airport. The skirt on her yellow Jenny Packham sundress kept blowing up, and the Queen was reportedly displeased with the incident, urging the Duchess to have curtain weights sewn into the seams of her dresses in the future.

princess diana's headband
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Princess Diana's Headband, 1985

Princess Diana was a fashion risktaker. When she was loaned a diamond and emerald Garrard choker by the Queen (originally commissioned by Queen Mary in the 1920s), she turned it into a headband. The royal wowed fans at the gala she was attending in Melbourne, Australia, but we have to wonder what the Queen thought...

meghan markle's wedding tiara
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Meghan Markle's Wedding Tiara, 2018

Fans loved Meghan Markle's wedding look—from her Clare Waight Keller boatneck gown to her 16-foot-long veil with floral embroidery from all 53 commonwealth countries—but there was one point of contention leading up to her big day. Rumors circulated that Meghan was refused her first choice of wedding tiara. However, according to Finding Freedom, there wasn't a disagreement over the tiara. Instead, it was about the time it took to decide on the piece.

princess diana's skirt
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Princess Diana's Translucent Skirt, 1980

The then-girlfriend of Prince Charles, Lady Diana Spencer wore a modest mid-calf skirt when she was photographed at the preschool she taught at in 1980. Unfortunately, the sun made it appear translucent. Critics were quick to point out that it was inappropriate to show the outline of her legs and the photograph has now become iconic.

queen elizabeth's wedding dress
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Queen Elizabeth's Expensive Wedding Dress, 1947

When Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, it was only two years after World War II and the country was still on war rations. The extravagant fabric for her dress was paid for with ration coupons the princess saved up herself, plus an additional 200 rations she was granted. Some citizens tried to contribute to the gown by sending in their own rations, but it was illegal to transfer coupons, so they were returned to the senders.

kate middleton's black dress
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Kate Middleton's Black Dress, 2017

Kate Middleton looked chic at the British Embassy in Paris in a black tweed dress, but some thought it was odd the Duchess wore black. Royals typically reserve the color for periods of mourning and somber occasions, such as Remembrance Day.

princess diana's sheep dress
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Princess Diana's Black Sheep Sweater, 1983

People think the princess's black sheep sweater was a signal that she felt like she didn't fit in with the royal family. "I don't think many people would want me to be queen, and when I say many people, I mean the establishment that I'm married into," Princess Diana said in a 1995 interview.

meghan markle's commonwealth dress
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Meghan Markle's Commonwealth Dress, 2020

Meghan Markle looked flawless at the Commonwealth Day service in an emerald cape dress by Emilia Wickstead. However, the look was seen as a bittersweet parting gift from the Duchess who, alongside her husband Prince Harry, was carrying out one of her final duties as a working royal.

princess diana jeans cowboy boots
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Princess Diana's Casual Polo Outfit, 1988

Princess Diana turned heads when she wore jeans, cowboy boots, a sweatshirt, and a blazer to the Guards Polo Club. The look has since been heralded as iconic, but at the time it was so casual it was scandalous.

kate middleton's wedges
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Kate Middleton's Wedges, 2011

The Queen is known to detest wedges, which is why Kate Middleton only wears them when she isn't going to see the monarch. "The Queen isn't a fan of wedged shoes," a royal source told Vanity Fair. "She really doesn't like them and it's well known among the women in the family." Whenever the Duchess wears them, there is often a host of comments about royal protocol.

princess diana's met gala dress
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Princess Diana's Met Gala Dress, 1996

Princess Diana's fashion choices became bolder after she divorced Prince Charles. Case in point: The satin and lace Dior slip dress she wore to the 1996 Met Gala. Diana reportedly almost didn't wear the design so she wouldn't offend her son, Prince William. Thankfully for us, and the rest of the fashion world, she did.

kate middleton's bare midriff
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Kate Middleton's Bare Midriff, 2013

Kate Middleton proved that even a potential royal faux pas won't get in the way of her competitive side, when she inadvertently flashed the cameras her bare midriff while spiking a volleyball during a royal engagement. The incident sparked worldwide news coverage when the Duchess, and new mom to three-month-old Prince George, revealed her rock-hard abs.

princess diana's wrinkled wedding dress
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Princess Diana's Wrinkled Wedding Dress, 1981

Princess Diana's wedding dress was the epitome of '80s bridal fashion. But the David and Elizabeth Emanuel dress wasn't without criticism. Some believed the lengthy 25-foot-long train was a tad over the top. Others pointed out the wrinkles on the taffeta gown caused by the carriage ride to St. Paul's Cathedral.

kate middleton's non black bafta dress
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Kate Middleton's BAFTA Dress, 2018

When a pregnant Kate Middleton attended the BAFTAs in 2018, it was what she wasn't wearing that caused a stir. The event was part of Hollywood's #MeToo blackout awards season, where celebrities wore all black in support of the social movement. Since royals aren't supposed to express their political opinions, Kate was put in a difficult position. She wore a dark green Jenny Packham gown with a black sash in solidarity.

meghan markle's black nail polish
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Meghan Markle's Black Nail Polish, 2018

Meghan Markle sparked another royal protocol debate when she attended the British Fashion Awards in 2018 sporting black nail polish and a Roland Mouret one-shoulder gown. People's main qualm was with her nails, as the Queen prefers neutral nails.

kate middleton's fur lined gloves
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Kate Middleton's Fur-Lined Gloves, 2016

It was all fun and games on the Cambridge's winter vacation until Kate Middleton was called out by PETA UK for wearing fur-lined ski gloves. The animal rights group made a statement saying, "If the gloves are indeed made of real fur, we'll be contacting Kate, who we imagine is unaware that possums killed for their fur are often caught in bone-crushing steel-jaw traps." Yikes.

princess diana's engagement ring
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Princess Diana's Engagement Ring, 1981

Even though it's one of the most iconic engagement rings of all time (and now worn by Kate Middleton), Princess Diana's choice of the Ceylon sapphire sparkler was frowned upon by the palace at the time of her engagement. They felt that the ring was too accessible, as Diana selected it from a Garrards catalogue.

kate middleton
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Kate Middleton's Designer Choice, 2019

The women of the royal family know what they wear has major influence over shoppers. That's why people were upset when Kate Middleton rocked a Dolce & Gabbana dress at Wimbledon in 2019. Sure, the dress was fitting for the occasion, but many criticized her for supporting a designer who was involved in a major scandal.

princess anne's bold pantsuit
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Princess Anne's Bold Pantsuit, 1973

Princess Anne is no stranger to taking fashion risks, but in the '70s it was unusual seeing a royal in such a daring ensemble like the light blue linen pantsuit she wore to the theater in 1973. Plus, Princess Anne paired the look with blue eyeshadow even though the palace has a natural makeup rule.

meghan markle's short hemline
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Meghan Markle's Short Hemline, 2019

Meghan Markle looked polished at a panel for International Women's Day in 2019 in a black and white patterned shift dress and a simple black blazer. Still, the public was upset over how high the hem came up on her knee and that she didn't wear tights to the event.

kate middleton's postpartum curls
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Kate Middleton's Postpartum Curls, 2015

When Kate Middleton and Prince William posed outside of the hospital with newborn daughter, Princess Charlotte, the Duchess looked flawless in a Jenny Packham white and yellow floral print shift dress and wedges. However, her perfectly-styled curls and full face of makeup was met with criticism, as people felt like it was an unrealistic look at postpartum life.

meghan markle's bare shoulders
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Meghan Markle's Bare Shoulders, 2018

When the Duchess of Sussex joined the royal family for the first time on the balcony of Buckingham Palace for the annual Trooping of the Colour, not everyone was thrilled with her blush Carolina Herrera ensemble. Many etiquette experts thought the royal should have chosen a more modest neckline for the traditional ceremony.

princess margaret's penchant for christian dior
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Princess Margaret's Penchant for Christian Dior, 1951

Princess Margaret made no secret of her love for Christian Dior's designs and the royal often attended his presentations in Paris. However, at the time, royals were expected to support British designers by wearing them exclusively—the princess, however, did not care.

the sussex's barefoot
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Harry and Meghan's Barefoot Beach Walk, 2018

The pair made headlines when they appeared extra casual on Bondi Beach during their oceanic visit. They were compared to previous royals, who kept their sandy shoes on during beach visits, in an internet debate over royal protocol.

kate middleton's regatta shorts
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Kate Middleton's Regatta Shorts, 2019

Kate Middleton arrived at the King's Cup Regatta in 2019 ready to compete. The Duchess's short-shorts grabbed the attention of everyone—and we mean, everyone.

princess diana's body armor
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Princess Diana's Body Armor, 1997

It wasn't the outfit that caused controversy in Angola, but rather the body armor Princess Diana wore to demonstrate the dangerous landmines across the nation's countryside. Although the princess' work with The Halo Trust is now praised, at the time many criticized her for taking a political stance as a royal.

meghan markle's athleisure
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Meghan Markle's Athleisure, 2019

From arrival to departure, Meghan Markle's expensive and celebrity-filled baby shower attracted all kinds of negative press. But it was her athleisure outfit that she wore when she was leaving New York City that had people talking the most.

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