COMMENT:

It's a photo you've no doubt seen a dozen times this week — but there's a hidden detail that proves just how clever and cunning Meghan really is.

In 2018, Princess Anne donned a coat that she was first seen in at Ascot in 1980.

She has a natty beige coat'n'hat combo that she has been trotting out for 35 years, then there is the time she attended a minor royal wedding in 2008 in the exact same hat and dress she had worn to Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981.

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Let's agree, Anne takes royal penny-pinching to a whole, stupefying new level.

So, is Meghan, Duchess of Sussex's largely recycled tour wardrobe a nod to her in-law's penny-pinching ways? Because so far, five of Meghan's outfits — the vast majority — have featured pieces she has previously donned, including her faithful Castana wedges, a Martin Grant dress, a Virginia Beard frock, her trusty Madewell denim jacket and Everlane jumpsuit.

READ MORE: • Prince Harry reveals feeling 'overwhelmed'

However, this is not some secret cost-cutting drive or a reflection of her packing like the rest of us by hurling random items of clothing into an open suitcase in a panic while the airport Uber idles outside.

Instead, I think this is a calculated — and genius — move on Meghan's part to make their tour (even more of) a success.

Meghan revives a striped look from last year's tour for a reception in Cape Town. Photo / Getty Images
Meghan revives a striped look from last year's tour for a reception in Cape Town. Photo / Getty Images

Here's why.

Like or not, for female members of the royal family their clothes (and hats, gloves, umbrellas, jewellery and shoes) are constant fodder for journalists, bloggers and royal fans alike. We might be living in an age of increasing gender equality but as long as male members of the royal family amble about the place in a series of dull navy and grey suits that are essentially masculine camouflage, this is the status quo.

Every time Meghan and her sister-in-law Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, step out in public the frenzy follows the same dependable pattern. Firstly, there is a rush to identify what they are wearing (there are numerous websites that do just this) before comes the second round, the analysis, with the HRHs obsessively graded on their stylistic success (or not), at which point the price of everything often also gets breathlessly discussed. (Consider that nearly every story about Harry and Meghan's brief jaunt to Rome for friend Misha Nonoo's wedding mentioned that the Duchess had worn a $20,000 gown.)

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Meghan and Kate both face the same inescapable fate that every time they are snapped, be it popping into a supermarket to get milk or attending a grand state dinner, their every piece of clothing is pored over with an intensity usually reserved for nuclear deals or Bachelor finales.

So what happens when we are denied the chance to obsess over designer frippery?

The focus of the coverage becomes about what these two passionate, smart women are up to, who they're meeting and why they're there.

Meghan also recycled this Everlane jumpsuit. Photo / AP
Meghan also recycled this Everlane jumpsuit. Photo / AP

For Meghan, rehashing looks that we have seen before is a deliberate move. With each recycled item that we are seeing in South Africa, she is denying the press and the public the chance to obsess over her style and instead forcing our attention back to the charities and communities she is engaging with.

Meghan also wore this cerulean blue dress in Tonga last year. Photo / AP
Meghan also wore this cerulean blue dress in Tonga last year. Photo / AP

It's a deft masterstroke that reflects how cunningly she understands her position and how to maximise her incredible platform to do the most good.

Here's the downside though: Charitable endeavours and worthy meet'n'greets will only get the Sussexes so much attention. Seeing them earnestly shake hands and hug myriad children can get repetitive. Offering us, the fickle public, the tempting carrot that is the chance to ogle Meghan's latest get-up ensures the eyeballs, clicks and shares the couple needs to generate noise around their work.

Never fear though. Meghan might be intent on playing her greatest chic hits all over again but we have style choices from a new member of the royal family to intently discuss and fawn over: Arise Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor, the fashion world's newest darling.