Kate Middleton is the girl next door who's living a real-life royal fairytale, and given the chance, most of us would love to walk a mile in her trendy nude L.K. Bennett heels. Arguably one of the most fashionable women in the world, Middleton's dress choices have caused designers' Web sites to crash from all the attention. Middleton's sapphire and diamond engagement ring -- previously worn by the late Princess Diana -- inspired a new generation of imitations when she and Prince William announced their engagement in 2010. The blue Issa dress Middleton wore the same day caused such frenzy that the dress sold out of stores in record time.
While the Duchess of Cambridge has hardly endured seeing her name on a worst dressed list, this commoner-turned-royal wasn't always so fashionable. After overcoming a few missteps, Middleton has evolved into one of today's most recognizable style icons. In no particular order, here are 10 fashion lessons we can learn from Kate Middleton.
For Kate Middleton, no outfit is complete without a hat or fascinator -- hair clips decorated with flowers, feathers or lace. While it's customary for most Brits to wear fashionable headwear at big events, Middleton's hats are often her most-talked-about accessories. She showed how fashion savvy she is when she helped design the Gina Foster hat she wore to the royal wedding of Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips, and the duchess's whimsical Vivien Sheriff Millinery fascinator made of pheasant feathers and velvet caused a splash as she and Prince William launched a lifeboat in Anglesey, Wales in 2011. However, not all of Middleton's headpieces have been well-received; she recently took flack from the press for wearing a black Whiteley Fischer felt beret to a friend's wedding. While many believe wearing black to a wedding is a fashion faux pas, we wonder if Middleton was actually starting a new trend.
In the past, Middleton has been criticized for wearing outfits that would be better suited for the queen, not a spry, young duchess like herself. The press first dubbed Middleton's fashion choices as somewhat dull, lacking the chic, youthful style that we've come to expect from her today. When Middleton first debuted on the royal scene at an event in 2006, she wore a red wool coat and large black Philip Treacy hat, an ensemble that many considered to be far too mature for someone her age. As Middleton progressed through her 20s, she came into her own sense of style, wearing classic patterns, tailored garments and colors that complement her skin tone, hair, eyes and most of all, her age.
Just because she lives at a royal residence and has her own personal dressmaker, the Duchess of Cambridge is like the rest of us in that she isn't above wearing an outfit more than once. She received media attention in 2011 for donning the same blue periwinkle Jacquard coat dress at the Duke of Edinburgh's 90th birthday celebration that she first wore at a close friend's wedding in 2009. More recently, Middleton recycled the cream Reiss dress worn in her 2010 engagement photos on her 2011 North American tour with Prince William. She created a new look with red pumps, a red maple leaf hat and matching maple leaf brooch, all paying tribute to her Canadian hosts. When her engagement photos were released in 2010, the cream Reiss dress received so much attention with the public that it sold out on the designer's Web site the very same day.
Unlike most of her fellow royals, the clothing that hangs in Middleton's closet includes labels ranging from today's top designers to affordable pieces that commoners can afford, too. The duchess was famously photographed wearing an inexpensive Zara dress the day after her wedding, and in 2011, when Middleton met First Lady Michelle Obama, the $340 Reiss dress she wore created such a frenzy that the company's Web site crashed before it sold out online. Even though she likely has multiple famous designers on speed dial, Middleton also shops at mainstream clothing chains like Top Shop and Warehouse, where she's reported to have purchased three dresses and a blouse for only $350 the week before her royal wedding. To the average consumer, it's nice to know that a member of the royal family appreciates a frugal find just like anyone else.
Much of the world anxiously awaited the royal wedding in the days leading up to April 29, 2011 -- not only because Kate Middleton, a commoner, would officially marry into the royal family, but also because her wedding dress would no longer be a well-kept secret. The majority of the fashion world heartily approved of Middleton's classic wedding dress design, reminiscent of Hollywood star Grace Kelly's gown, worn during her 1956 nuptials to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Middleton's dress featured white satin gazar, a hand-embroidered lace-bodice, lace sleeves and a 9-foot train. A second dress was worn at the wedding reception, also designed by Burton. It was white, strapless and featured a beaded waist and sweetheart neckline. To stay warm, Middleton wore a cropped angora sweater. Middleton's reception gown was elegant, but unlike her ceremony dress, it was appropriate for a party; the lace sleeves and long train of the first gown would have proved difficult for dancing and a long night of celebrating!
Who needs a little black dress? Navy is quickly becoming the go-to color for fashionable women everywhere, thanks to the classic, stylish pieces Middleton wore on her 2011 North American tour. Middleton's navy blue Amanda Wakeley suit received praise from the press as she and Prince William embarked on their trip. She changed into a Roland Mouret navy shift on the plane ride to Canada, pairing the dress with a smart Smythe les Vestes blazer. Later, she looked stunning in a navy lace overlay and cream bodice by Canadian designer Erdem Moralioglu. As the couple left YellowKnife for the Northwest Territory, Middleton donned a Ted Baker navy blue trench, a versatile piece the duchess previously wore to a horse race in 2008.
Altering your clothing to fit your body shape can make all the difference. No matter how simple or glamorous an outfit or gown may be, Middleton always chooses to wear frocks that are tailored to suit her svelte figure. She wore an impeccably well-fitted grey dress by designer Catherine Walker on her 2011 North American tour, wowing audiences with her sleek silhouette. The duchess never wears anything too tight or revealing, but instead chooses to don classic, well-structured jackets, coats and dresses that flatter her trim waistline and long legs.
Always a lady, Middleton often wears sheer hosiery with casual and formal dresses, no matter the time of day. While her long legs are the envy of many women all over the world, she often wears nude pantyhose as a classy accessory to further flatter her appearance. While gals in the United States begrudgingly wear hosiery if its required, the trend has definitely caught fire across the pond. From 2010 to 2011, L'eggs and Hanes reported that in the United Kingdom, sales have increased 85 percent for nude hosiery, and Middleton inarguably helped the trend take off.
Pantyhose can be flattering, as it smoothes skin and covers unsightly cellulite, bruises or veins, but be mindful to buy a hue that matches your skin tone. Middleton would never wear hose that made her legs stand out from the rest of her body!
Even though Middleton likely wishes she could burn all traces of photographic evidence, her infamous strut down a college catwalk will live in the history books forever. Only 20 years old, the Duchess-to-be wore a risqué, see-through dress in a 2002 charity runway show at St. Andrews University. The dress, possibly meant to be a skirt, left little to the imagination, and her undergarments were in plain view for everyone to see -- including Prince William, who watched the fashion show from a front-row seat. Although this skimpy garment would no doubt make the queen frown, it's rumored that the provocative outfit first caught the eye of the prince. In all the years since the fashion show, Middleton has never worn anything so revealing in public, and we can all agree that it's probably in good taste to keep underwear under wraps.
Although many designers are knocking down the door of Clarence House for the chance to dress Kate Middleton, the down-to-earth Duchess of Cambridge has the reputation for staying true to her own sense of style, often choosing affordable clothing and accessories that she would've worn in her past life as a commoner. Middleton also has the reputation of collaborating with clothing designers to achieve a desired look. It's reported that she worked very closely with Sarah Burton to design her wedding gown, and even applied her own makeup the day of the royal wedding so that she would look natural. Unlike many royals before her, Middleton has refused the help of professional stylists in the past and opted to choose outfits on her own instead. The duchess has a knack for selecting garments that are comfortable, flattering and often glamorous -- all reflective of a unique sense of style that Kate Middleton can call her own.
To learn more about Kate Middleton's royal romance, check out the links on the next page.
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- Abraham, Tamara. "So THAT'S how she manages without a stylist! Kate 'using personal shopper to help with wardrobe for U.S. and Canada tour'." Daily Mail. June 28, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2007484/Kate-Middleton-using-personal-shopper-US-Canada-tour-wardrobe.html
- Apatoff, Alex. "How Does Duchess Catherine's Train Compare to Princess Diana's?" People. April 30, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.people.com/people/package/article/0,,20395222_20485968,00.html
- Apatoff, Alex. "Kate Middleton Remixes her Wardrobe!" People. Aug. 12, 2011. (March 15, 2012) http://www.people.com/people/package/gallery/0,,20395222_20517981_21000270,00.html
- Daily Beast, the. "Head for Fashion: Kate Middleton Is 'Hat Person of the Year'." March 15, 2012. http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2012/01/31/head-for-fashion-kate-middleton-is-hat-person-of-the-year-photos.html
- Daily Mail. "The making of a princess: How Kate Middleton's style has evolved." Oct. 1, 2009. (March 13, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1217312/The-making-princess-How-Kate-Middletons-style-evolved.html
- Derschowitz, Jessica. "Kate Middleton's wedding dress by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen." CBS News. April 29, 2011. (March 14, 2012) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-32917_162-20058526-10391716.html
- English, Rebecca. "Kate joins the royal recyclers: Duchess gives favourite coat an extra outing." Daily Mail. June 13, 2011. (March 12, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2002723/Duchess-Cambridge-Kate-Middleton-gives-favourite-coat-extra-outing.html
- Fleming, Kirsten. "The pauper's princess: Style experts say Kate's the perfect role model as royal recessionista." New York Post. May 27, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/fashion/the_pauper_princess_rfiaz4yU7LIURcFv6aMOEK
- Kelly, Cara. "Kate Middleton's birthday: Lessons we've learned from her royal style." The Washington Post. Jan. 9, 2012. (March 13, 2012) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/royal-wedding-watch/post/kate-middletons-birthday-lessons-weve-learned-from-her-royal-style/2012/01/09/gIQAlwT4lP_blog.html
- Kelly, Cara. "Will lands on water, Kate masters outfit change." The Washington Post. July 5, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/royal-wedding-watch/post/will-lands-on-water-kate-masters-outfit-change-photos/2011/07/05/gHQAQSQUzH_blog.html
- Misener, Jessica. "Reiss Sees Profits Double In 2011, Thanks (Probably) To Kate Middleton." The Huffington Post. Dec. 29, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/29/reiss-kate-middleton-2011_n_1174227.html
- Moss, Hilary. "Sarah Burton: Kate Middleton's Wedding Reception Dress Designer, Too." The Huffington Post. April 29, 2011. (March 15, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/29/sarah-burton-kate-middleton-wedding-dress-reception_n_855709.html
- Odell, Amy. "Kate and Pippa Middleton Expected to Cause a Sheer Hosiery Trend in the U.S." New York Magazine. July 25, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2011/07/kate_and_pippa_middleton_expec.html
- Parade. "Kate Middleton's Style Evolution." (March 13, 2012) http://www.parade.com/celebrity/slideshows/style/kate-middleton.html
- Paxman, Lauren. "How Kate's style has influenced everyone's tastes (but her wedding dress hasn't made much of a splash)." Daily Mail. Oct. 19, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2050435/Kate-Middleton-style-influenced-fashion-royal-wedding-dress-hasnt.html
- Reyburn, Scott. "Kate Middleton's See-Through Dress Sells for $125,890 at Auction." Bloomberg. March 17, 2011. (March 15, 2012) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-17/kate-middleton-s-see-through-dress-sells-for-125-890-at-auction-in-london.html
- US Weekly. "Inside Kate Middleton's Amazing Perks as a Future Royal." Nov. 19, 2010. (March 15, 2012) http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-body/news/inside-kate-middletons-amazing-perks-as-a-future-royal-20101911
- Wilson, MacKenzie. "Royal Roundup: Princess Beatrice's Hat Earns $130,000 For Charity." BBC America. May 23, 2011. (March 13, 2012) http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2011/05/royal-roundup-princess-beatrices-hat-earns-130000-for-charity/