The ‘Meghan effect’ faces its biggest hurdle yet

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Until last week’s celebrations for her upcoming 42nd birthday, an alleged feud with Princess Catherine over an ill-fitting flower girl dress and invasive British tabloids were Meghan, Duchess of Sussex’s biggest challenges.

At a restaurant near her $19.3 million home with Prince Harry in Montecito, California, the duchess confronted the widespread fashion phobia of horizontal stripes in a strapless dress from Australian label Posse, immediately reinforcing the power of the Meghan effect.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex leaving a restaurant in Motecito, California, wearing a dress by Australian label Posse.Credit: Lightworkers

Meghan succeeded where other brands have failed, with the $289 horizontal-striped tube dress sold out on Posse’s website and at luxury e-tailer Moda Operandi. Pre-sales are already in place for shipments in October.

“Many women feel self-conscious in striped styles around their hips and bottoms, and tend to avoid wearing them,” says Ilana Moses, owner of luxury boutique Grace Melbourne.

“It can also be a problem around the bust,” says Elinor McInnes, designer of Australian label Joslin, which has just been picked up by French department store Le Bon Marché. “In a knit, you can forget about putting stripes there.”

“Our striped jumpers have sold out to the point where we have had to create a second run but with dresses there are different challenges. We also have a horizontal striped dress, and it certainly hasn’t been one of our best sellers.”

Traditional reluctance to wear wide stripes is based on the belief that wider stripes make you appear wider, while vertical stripes make you appear taller. But there’s little truth behind the style myth.

In 2021, researchers in Amsterdam conducted three experiments using images of female models wearing horizontal striped dresses compared to solid-coloured dresses. Models wearing the horizontal striped dresses were perceived as significantly thinner.

“It’s a style that does suit any body type,” says stylist Ken Thompson. “Saying no to horizontal stripes is usually the same antiquated fashion pack that wants shoes and handbags to match.”

“Dressing to look thinner is a bit of an archaic notion anyway,” says Eva Galambos, from Sydney luxury boutique Parlour X. “Women will wear a stripe because it makes them feel good. It’s one of the easiest prints to wear.”

“If we see a full horizontal striped style we love, we buy it because everyone is different and comfortable with different things,” says Moses from Grace Melbourne.

But stripe inclusivity doesn’t always work. The store currently stocks a striped knit dress from US luxury label Proenza Schouler, which has been marked down by 50 per cent to $759.

Meghan’s success in driving sales of the style shows that the Meghan effect, coined following the retail success of items she wore following her engagement to Prince Harry, is still in full force. In 2019, global fashion search platform Lyst named Meghan as the year’s most powerful dresser, creating a 216 per cent increase in consumer searches.

Runner-up Catherine had greater power for specific brands, while Meghan’s influence spread to colours and styles.

With fewer public appearances and growing criticism of the Sussex’s business activities in the US, following the demise of their multi-million dollar deal with Spotify, Meghan’s pulling power at the checkout had attracted doubters.

“For all the claims she’s toxic, that’s rubbish,” says brand counsel Michel Hogan. “It’s a useful beat up.”

“Meghan’s endorsement works when it ties in with her work around kindness and sustainability. A great example is how she put Outland Denim on the map.”

Markle can’t take full responsibility for Posse’s success. The Sydney-based label, founded in 2016 by Whitehouse Institute of Design graduate Danielle Mulham, has been promoted on the social media accounts of models Sofia Richie and Lily Aldridge this year and worn by Alessandra Ambrosio.

None of the models risked wearing stripes.

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