The Duchess of Cambridge was at the wheel as the British team beat New Zealand in a friendly ‘Commonwealth Race’. Video / Provided
There are always defining moments in every Queen’s career, such as when Elizabeth I stood before her troops at Tilbury in 1588 and gave one of the most stirring speeches in British history, or in 1947 when the future Elizabeth II gave her famous South African radio speech promising to dedicate her life to her work.
But for Kate, currently the Duchess of Cambridge and future Queen Catherine, one of the most defining moments came on April 30, 2011, the day after her marriage to Prince William, and her first full days as a member. in good faith from the royal family.
Walking across the lawn at Buckingham Palace as the newlyweds made their way to a helicopter to whisk them away to the wedding, what did Kate choose to wear? An $85 Zara dress.
The symbolism was clear: Kate might have grabbed the prince, gotten a title, and now called a palace home, but she was the same woman she had been 48 hours earlier. With an outfit, she made it clear to the world that she would do things her own way and that despite her elevation to the royal ranks, she remained firmly committed to normal life.
It was a powerful and very shrewd move and styling strategy that we’ve seen her time and time again over the ensuing year.
So what’s the name of her massive collection of warm coat dresses that’s been happening lately?
By my calculations, over the past 100 days, Kate has worn over $83,851 ($92,516) worth of easily identifiable clothing, shoes and jewelry, not including the number of bespoke designer pieces she has presented, items for which I could not find prices. or the value of the royal jewels she wore. (If we added that we’d easily be in the six figures, I think. Also keep in mind that members of the royal family cannot accept gifts either.)
What is clear if you look at the pictures and details of the last three months and a bit is that in the last 100 days there has been a very noticeable change in her wardrobe towards the much more expensive.
Gone, by and large, are her favorite high-street, affordable pieces from major British chains and in their place is an ever-growing list of four-figure dresses and diamond earrings.
No look came with a higher price tag in this era than her very chic and sleek ensemble for the Top Gun premiere, with Kate opting for a $5115 Roland Mouret dress, Prada heels, a $4418 Alexander McQueen clutch $ ($4,874) and a new $18,133 ($20,006) Diamond Earrings from Robinson Pelham.
While Kate has re-worn a number of pieces including the white Alexander McQueen suit she debuted on her disastrous Caribbean tour with husband Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and a striking coat from Catherine Walker, who she first donned last year, are all pieces that cost thousands. (There are no prices listed on the Catherine Walker website and you know what they say about having to ask how much something costs…)
It is a clothing trend that extends to her also during her hours of rest. In 2019, Kate was last photographed at the polo shirt wearing a $740 ($816) LK Bennett dress. In July, the 40-year-old again watched her hubby sweat while playing a few chukkas, but this time she chose a feminine number by Emilia Wickstead from the designer’s 2019 collection. Currently, a similar sleeveless white dress sells for just under $2,000.
Since early May, Kate has worn Alessandra Rich on several occasions (whose dresses start at around $2,511 and go up to over $4,000), plenty of Emilia Wickstead, again costing thousands, and a variety of pairs of Emmy heels. ($690 a pop) or Gianvitto Rossi pumps that cost $1022 a pair.
Kate’s style genius for so long has been her ability to seamlessly pair inexpensive items, such as the $3.95 earrings she chose for her first formal event this year, with high-end pieces, a perfect blend of accessible and aspirational.
What was so delightful about it wasn’t just the demonstration of her us mode, but the implication she carried; just because she could afford all the designer loot she could bring home from Bond Street didn’t mean she wanted to.
It all felt refreshing and just real and over the years the Duchess’ regular choice of budget looks interspersed with luxury carried the message that royal life had not fundamentally changed her as a person.
That’s why this emergence of this recent Kate who increasingly seems to belong only to top labels is a little worrying. To some degree, I feel a certain sense of disappointment that one of the most significant ways she has had in over a decade of standing apart from the royal status quo seems to be gone.
(The one notable exception to this trend came on June 3 during a St Paul service during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations when she accessorized her bespoke Emilia Wickstead yellow stunner, which reportedly set Kate back from thousand dollars, and his over $2,000 Philip Treacey hat with… a $34 clutch from local Australian brand Forever New.)
Maybe what I really loved about the Zara-era Kate was that every time she got out of her official car for an engagement wearing a $27 dress, she carried with her a certain wonderful sense of defiance and refusal to suddenly change who she was. The Takeaway: She might have had a title but she was still Kate.
One way to explain the change in direction of her wardrobe could be that it reflects the repositioning we’ve seen of William and Kate’s image over the past year, from brave youngsters to future king and queen. The trail from where they now stand, as foot soldiers of the royal family, to their coronation inside Westminster Abbey is very clearly traced by the palace, conveying a message of monarchical continuity as the queen seems more and more trembling.
Perhaps the argument has been made that it’s okay for a duchess to slip into a few pounds of polyester, but not for a queen-in-waiting. Or maybe Kate has just grown up a bit, and since women everywhere are now focusing more on higher-quality pieces, she can wear them more often.
But to some extent, the “why” doesn’t matter here; what does is what ripple effect this change could have.
On a purely functional level, Kate’s deployment of modest clothing over the years has gone a long way in making her look unique like no royal WAG has before. Now, the more she chooses to be accessible to everyone but the super-rich labels, the more likely she is to erode those gains and become a more distant figure.
For William and Kate to really ensure that the royal family remains a thriving concern, they need to appear approachable.
The danger there is clear – at the heart of the brand the Cambridges have diligently tried to build is that they are the likable and normal royal family, with the hardworking duo happily transforming The Firm from fusty, icy and overgrown into a do-goodness powerhouse.
At a time when the UK is in the throes of a cost of living crisis, see the woman who was sold as the Duchess next door refreshingly normal on the biggest part worth $100,000 designer failures is a potentially dangerous and certainly ill-conceived move.
Closes could make the man but Zara could help make a queen.
• Daniela Elser is a royal pundit and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a number of top media titles in Australia.