There’s a reason Kate Middleton always carries a clutch: It’s the perfect camouflage to keep royal cleavage out of view from the paparazzi.
The Queen insists on modesty and for senior royals that means always being careful not to show too much skin—especially when exiting a car.
Princess Diana adopted a simple wardrobe hack for this problem that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge also uses. When Diana exited a vehicle, she always held her clutch to her chest to prevent showing too much cleavage.
According to designer Christina Stambolian, who designed the famous black “Take That Camilla Dress,” Diana wore to a party at the Serpentine Gallery the same night Prince Charles confessed to his adulterous affair with his then-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, the late princess’ clutches were more than chic accessories.
When I interviewed her for my first book, Diana: The Secrets of Her Style, the designer told me any time the princess wore something revealing, she always made sure to have a clutch in hand when emerging from a car. “They prevented any embarrassing photographs from showing up in the papers,” she said.
Diana was always careful to avoid wardrobe malfunctions anytime she got out of a car ever since the first time she wore a low-cut black gown for her first official appearance with Prince Charles. The sight of Diana spilling out of the revealing taffeta dress as she leaned over to step out of the royal Rolls Royce at Goldsmith’s Hall in March of 1981 caused a sensation in newspapers all over Britain. “She didn’t anticipate it would cause such a stir,” said Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed the dress with her husband David.
Designer Jacques Azagury, who designed the most daring dresses Diana ever wore—including a pale blue beaded mini-dress worn on her birthday in 1997 two months before her death—told me he was surprised that the princess picked the stunning dress for a public appearance. “I said, ‘It’s a little too low.’ She said, ‘No, it’s great!’ But of course, she carried a matching clutch.’”
There is another royal rule about clutches: They have to be held in one hand to have the other free. It never gets tucked under an arm or, heaven forbid, placed on the ground or table.
Catherine is most often photographed her clutch with both hands in front of her during public appearances. (They also come in handy for avoiding handshaking at inopportune times.)
So far, Meghan Markle seems to favor pants over dresses and has carried small top handle bags and even worn a cross-body style that raised eyebrows among sticklers for royal protocol during her trip to Scotland. We haven’t seen her in an evening dress yet (she opted for a simple black pant suit when she visited Goldsmith’s Hall almost 37 years to the day that Diana did), but if her penchant for wardrobe rule-breaking is any indication, Prince Harry’s fiancée is sure to put her own stamp on clutch couture. And for more great royals coverage, check out here to learn What Guests Have to Wear to Harry and Meghan’s Wedding.
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