Dec 192011

Kate was simply stunning at this evening’s “Night of Heroes: The Sun Military Awards” in London.

Splash News and Pictures

The Awards were at the Imperial War Museum, they honor the nation’s military, as well as civilians involved with the armed forces. Awards are given in a variety of categories, including the True Grit Award, Lifesaver Award, and Best Recruit. Below we show Sergeant Duncan Slater, winner of the Overcoming Adversity Award.

The Sun

You can read the Sergeant’s remarkable story in The Sun. Here we see Kate with Award winners.

The Sun

Below we see other winners with entertainer Peter Andre.

Peter Andre Twitter Feed

The Duchess selected a spectacular black velvet frock by Alexander McQueen, a modified version of this dress at Net-a-Porter; it originally sold at £3,995 (approximately $6200), but is now completely sold out.


Much as some hoped to see Kate in this exact gown, the transparent black chiffon from mid-thigh to shin wouldn’t have been at all appropriate, nor in sync with her style. Kate’s velvet dress has a sweetheart neckline delicately trimmed with pleated black tulle or chiffon, a flared trumpet-style skirt and a figure-hugging fit. I expect it is the same silk/rayon blend used in the off-the-rack gown shown above.

Those familiar with evening gowns worn by both Princess Diana and Kate early in their official roles couldn’t help but be taken by the linkage between Kate’s gown and one worn by Princess Diana.

Kerry Taylor Auction

Diana’s dress was worn on her first formal black tie appearance following the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles; there are a number of notable elements about the two dresses:

  • both are black, a color rarely worn by members of the Royal Family with the exception of very somber affairs, such as Remembrance Day or periods of mourning
  • both are made by the same designers who created their wedding gowns, Diana’s by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, Kate’s by Alexander McQueen
  • both are strapless with sweetheart necklines topped by a ruffle, although Diana’s ruffle was wider and embellished with sequins

Of course Diana’s gown was more-than controversial; not only was it black, the décolletage was scandalous, especially for a young Lady about to marry Prince Charles; obviously that was not a concern with the McQueen couture dress this evening. Kate has shown herself to be an astute follower of previous royal fashions, the similarity of elements between the two garments require one view tonight’s dress as an homage to Princess Diana.

UPDATED: Kate wore another pair of towering heels, the Daily Mail reports they are Prada satin pumps, the same shoe WKW FB friend Cherry pointed out last night. We show them in suede at Neiman Marcus, the pumps have a 5″ covered heel, they are $720.

Prada Suede Platform Pump

Others think Kate wore some the Jimmy Choo ‘Cosmic’ in black suede, with heels of 120mm, or 4.8″, although they sit upon a sizable platform that looks to be at least 1″. This shoe is still available on the Jimmy Choo US website, priced at $695. A tip of the hat to WKW FB friend Ashley who pointed the shoes out.

Jimmy Choo

To be honest, I have no idea which shoe it is, although these are both very good candidates.

UPDATED: Kate’s bag is by Pretty Ballerinas, by Jaime Mascar³.

Pretty Ballerina by Jaime Mascaró

We show the bag at Large Size Designer Shoes, it measures roughly 11″ x 7″, has a double magnetic clasp closure, and is lined in signature Jaime Mascaro fabric.  The clutch originally retailed at roughly $245, but was last on sale at about $145 USD.  It was the perfect accent with her ensemble, enhancing the look without detracting from the exquisite jewels, the sensational dress or the Duchess herself.  The credit for identification of Kate’s bag goes to Vera, who was kind enough to let us know!

The evening was already glamorous, but Kate boosted the glitter factor, shimmering in a new suite of jewelry, diamonds and rubies at her neck and wrist.



We have seen the earrings previously, below we show Kate wearing them at the Canada Day concert this summer during the Royal Tour. Our many thanks to those who left comments here and on Facebook correcting my statements that the earrings were also new, special appreciation to Anna of My Small Obsessions.

Canadian Heritage

Media were told the matching bracelet and necklace were a wedding gift from a friend, a generous friend, indeed. The necklace very much looks like it is convertible into a tiara, not unheard of in the annals of royal jewelry. The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor shows Sophie wearing just such a piece both ways in this post.

We look forward to seeing Kate’s necklace as a tiara at some point in the future.

One of the most striking aspects of the evening is that it seems clear Kate plans to bring black back to the House of Windsor, at least on some level; a topic we’ll explore more in the future. In my estimation this is one of Kate’s best looks: the black velvet was seasonably appropriate and the style more sophisticated. Kate’s hair is always lovely, worn up it would have looked a tad more elegant, more in keeping with a black tie function. But really, the Duchess looked so lovely we’ve no interest in nit-picking on any level.

I think all in attendance, particularly the young royals, would agree the night belongs to the military. The Telegraph shares how eloquent Prince Harry was tonight:

“I am a young Army officer, a serving soldier. Like my brother, I share many of the same hopes, the same aspirations to go on operations, and the same fears as all those who serve our Queen and country.

By an accident of birth, though, it falls to 564673 Captain Wales humbly to express “ on behalf of my comrades-in-arms and people up and down the country “ the admiration we feel for the extraordinary men and women we honour here tonight.”

For more complete coverage, the Sun‘s story is here, its “Millies Roll of Honour” is here.

Earlier today William, Harry and Kate were among those in attendance at the Queen’s pre-Christmas luncheon. For more on that, click here. We will see you on Wednesday, when the Duke and Duchess visit Centrepoint.


  65 Responses to “Kate Stuns in Black Velvet at Night of Heroes Military Awards, UPDATED”

  1. I am not a fan of black evening gowns, and still prefer the pink Packam Kate wore lasta June, but I admit she is simply stunning. She looks thinnier as ever, and her locks better than ever (yes, probably hair up would have been a much more appropriate choice not to spoli the decollete line, but with that hair she can do whatever she likes.) . The make up as well is at its best: it seems she has finally accepted professional help. BELLISSIMA!

    PS. Let’s leave poor Diana rest in peace.

  2. I know it’s a beautiful dress, but I just loved the Los Angeles BAFTA outfit more:

  3. Utterly stunning! Breathtaking! This is by far Kate’s best look yet. And could she get any tinier? She looks like a porcelain doll!

  4. God she looks gorgeous

  5. I’ve loved a lot of Kate’s recent outfits, but this one actually made me say “wow” as soon as I saw it. She looks fantastic! The jewelry with the dark dress is wonderful.

  6. Hi everyone!

    I know some people have guessed on her height, but has anyone heard of her waist size (from the wedding, etc.)?

    She is super tiny and fit (love her arms)!!!

  7. OK, in the Daily Mail article linked above (where everyone is arriving for the pre-Christmas lunch), Kate doesn’t really look like herself. I’m going back and forth on this, and forgive me if we aren’t supposed to speculate on The Topic, but – I’m thinking maybe she is pregnant, and this is weight gain in her face.

    • Well, forgive me if I’ve missed some vital section on facts of life &c, but how do you come up looking so skinny slim if expecting The Topic? Does not the dress fit like a glove, m’lud? I have to admit to being puzzled — the only possible reason I could think of for the previous sartorial muddle at the pop concert was due to wrong jacket and dress being combined to hide Le Bump. Otherwise weight gains do seem to have been made as you state!

      • But that’s why I’m so confused! She looks super slender in the evening wear, but then her face looks different, somehow, in the Daily Mail article where everyone’s arriving for the lunch. Maybe it’s the eyebrows, too? I’m not sure. It’s really weird, because I think the pictures were taken within 24 hours of each other.

        • I think she has just gained some much needed weight.

        • The dress is almost certainly boned — corseted, more or less. Strapless evening dresses often are. That’s one reason why she looks “super slender”. However, I really think we should refrain from speculating about pregnancy. While she did started to look, afew weeks ago, as though she’d put on a bit of weight, that isn’t necessarily connected with pregnancy, and so far, I’ve seen nothing specific to suggest that she’s expecting. However, if there’s a baby on the way, there will be an announcement at the appropriate time. We can wait.

        • The Daily Mail (unofficial) photos were taken during a rainstorm, through the windshield of a car, and probably from a considerable distance. It’s amazing we can even know it’s Kate in that car, much less interpret the nuances of her face. Gotta give the paparazzi credit for trying, though! Hope HM and the family had a nice party, despite the apparently horrible weather and the paparazzi!

  8. This is my favorite evening look so far. I absolutely love the dress and jewelry. In regards to her hair, I actually prefer her hair down – it’s her trademark, IMHO. Plus I agree with other posters that wearing her hair up may have made her feel too exposed.

    This is actually the first time that I can recall seeing Kate in a strapless dress – do any of you ladies know of previous occasions where she wore a strapless dress?

  9. I guess that strictly speaking a Little Black Dress is short, but I think Coco Chanel (who coined the phrase) would approve of Kate’s look whole-heartedly. Simple but elegant always a good choice, and two handsome escorts in black tie! Lucky girl!

  10. Stunning! Without fault.

    I wonder if having her hair up would have made her look even more glamorous?

    • I think updo’s make her look older and dowdier. Maybe she avoids them for that reason, or maybe she just likes it down. With hair that shiny and gorgeous, I can’t blame her.

      • I normally vote for an updo for this type of gowns, but this time I have to ditto Susan on this.

      • With amazing hair like that, I can’t blame her either. But I would have like to see and updo, just this once. It’s been mentioned before, but my guess is that she never wears her hair up in order to downplay her rather longish neck.

  11. Spectacular, a knockout choice. Of course there would inevitably be comparisons with Diana’s famous dress, but this is a far superior design, even making allowances for unfortunate early 80′s style. Diana was a big girl, with a generous bust and hips, and the enormous ball gown look really didn’t flatter her, in my opinion. She did much better later on, when she opted for more sophisticated column dresses for evening.

    I think the hair works well. This is a glamour-girl dress, something I could envision someone like Rita Hayworth wearing in her heyday — see the picture of her as “Gilda” below. Long hair is practically de rigueur with this look.

    I had intended to pick the rose Jenny Packham dress as my favorite evening look, but I’ll have to revise that choice.

    I certainly would like to know who gave her the jewelry.

    By the way, once again we’ve got evidence that the Duchess isn’t 5’10″. In those nearly 5″ heels, she’s still some inches shorter than William is.

    • As a woman with a sizeable bust and hips, I concur. I don’t do strapless anything, or even low cut.

      It’s not about how beautiful an outfit is, the question is, does it look good on you?

    • Those heels are 4.5 inches, so it’s impossible for her to be 5’10″ as is so often reported. My guess is that she’s 5’7″ or 5’8″ at the most. Refer back to the photos of her in those flats she wore in Canada when she stood next to William. Very telling, I’d say.

  12. I thought the dress was so-so….what stood out to me was her extremely toned arms (jealous!) and her gorgeous makeup. I thought her makeup looked the best it ever has, even at her wedding. She obviously wore eyelashes, which I think are a must for a dressy event, especially where one will be photographed. And her lipstick color looks different, I think more complementary to her skin tone. And don’t get me started on her beautiful locks. Sigh.

    I, too, am looking forward to seeing her in a tiara again. Surely 2012 will bring it with the Diamond Jubilee.

    Overall – she is just gorgeous!

  13. I simply love this look! She looks so amazing in black. Just like that libelula (spelling?) coat!

  14. The Duchess is simply beautiful. I LOVE this gown. My favorite formal gown so far. I know some people dont’ like the comparisons to Diana, but this dress and Diana’s famous black gown – so bizare. I love the velvet material of Kates. And sorry to say – Kate looks so much more confident than Diana ever did (and I was a huge Diana fan growing up). The earrings – yes, she has worn them on different occasions. The necklace is gorgeous – wish I had a freind who would give me gifts like that! :)

    • Kate has been around William and prepared for that role for 10 years. It might help her confidence.

      • This. Kate is almost 30, and Princess Di was only 19 when she got married, too. Kate also went to college, worked (or “worked”) for a few years, etc. That comes into play, too.

        I’ve also heard that the royal family’s staff is much more media-savvy than they were when Diana arrived on the scene*, and that Kate has been coached on how to handle the media since long before she even got engaged to Prince William. That makes a big difference in how confident someone acts when they are out and about.

  15. Even more glowing than usual! Gorgeous.
    I can live without the Diana comparisons though.

  16. Kate looks absolutely stunning. I love this dress on her, it’s chic, elegant, yet youthful. I also think that she’s put on some much needed weight.

    I’m a bit tired of the comparisons with Diana. Kate is her own woman. Just because she wears a black velvet dress doesn’t mean that she did this because Diana once wore one. If I was William I’d be irritated if my wife would choose dresses to remind me of my mother.

  17. I wish she would wear her hair up, sill a plain look for her but she looks safe and stunning in this gown

  18. I saw this dress and thought, wow. I like this even better than her wedding dress, and I think it is by far the best evening gown she has worn yet.

    According to this article, the shoes are satin Prada pumps. I seriously don’t know how people can identify shoes when the long dress hides everything but the toes and heel, but more power to you. I’ll stick to my birks.

    A few thoughts for those who think she should have worn her hair up–I think she was consciously trying to not re-create Diana’s faux pas with the strapless dress. If you see the pictures in the daily mail article, the emphasis is on her toned shoulders and arms, not her bustline. Diana, of course, had short hair, so she didn’t have the option of using it as a kind of bustline concealer. If you google “princess diana, black dress 1981″ you will see several shots of Diana from the side. A little bit of her breast is showing, not a whole lot, and certainly nothing scandalous in my opinion. If you see the dress from the front, however, no part of her breasts are showing. Kate has to think how a dress will photograph from all angles and the hair distracts from any inadvertent fleshy side viewings.

    I think the new or newer trend is that totally bared arms, like Michelle Obama will do for the State of the Union, her official photo, etc., are acceptable for day wear as long as the the top has substantial straps. Michelle Obama saves the entirely strapless look for state dinners. Michelle Obama, having short hair, has to incorporate straps into her clothing; Kate can use the visual effect of her hair to create covered shoulders. If you look at photos of Kate from behind, she deliberately pulled her hair to the front and left a little in the back, and I haven’t seen a photo where more than half of the bustline is uncovered.

    Just a few thoughts, and I welcome any feedback.

    • Thanks for your comments re hair vs dress straps. I’ve thought for a while that she uses that loose hair as somehow part of the ensemble.

      Catherine has also grown up in a much more image-conscious age and must have more savvy than the young Di re not getting dodgy photos taken. Though you have to make the odd mistake — like the yellow frock in Canada — not that it didn’t still look good even with a bit of leg exposed…

      • I think that media-consciousness has something to do with it, but Kate and Diana are entering the Firm with much different ages and life experiences. How helpful the Palace is or was also has a lot to do with it.

        Diana looks like an awkward 19 year old playing dress up, which is what she was doing. From what we have learned, Diana also got no help from the Palace with regards as to what to wear, how to work public events, etc. Who hasn’t had a bad fashion moment or wardrobe malfunction at 19? Most of us, however, don’t have the pictures on google 10 years after our passing. Pictures of an older Diana w/ a black strapless gown have no relationship to picture of her at 19, which is as it should be.

        Kate is 30, an university graduate, and has been preparing for this role for almost a decade. Kate’s youthful fashion and wardrobe malfunctions are not on google. The Palace is much more supportive and Camilla, for all of her baggage, has been extremely helpful. Even the yellow Packham dress incident was on tour w/out a dresser. When Kate is photographed in England we have not seen any wardrobe malfunctions, and Kate has learned one lesson–don’t wear something lightweight on a windy day. Some things you just have to learn by experience.

    • I love this look! Simply beautiful!

      I also agree with Christina. I think the hair was to take emphasis away from the neckline, softening the look and avoiding scandal. I often wear my hair this way when wearing strapless dresses, for this reason.

    • VERY smart observations, Christina. I completely agree. Though I do find it interesting that she wore her hair half-up when she wore the Amanda Wakely gown to the charity event, instead of using her hair to provide coverage. Maybe she simply felt more comfortable at that event being a bit more revealing? Or possibly the straps made her more comfortable?

      • I think it is a mixture of both. Kate has to think of the mechanics of an event. A evening fundraiser is not a red carpet, photos from all sides event. Plus you have the fact that she was going to be onstage giving an award. You never know what angle a camera will shoot from at this sort of thing.

        The Amanda Wakely gown had straps, even if they were small, so a wardrobe malfunction would have been prevented. Additionally, there were probably only 1-2 photographers there. The chance of getting a exposed sideshot was minimal.

        I do stand corrected. Diana getting out of the car showed some major cleavage, but I did notice that there are no photos of Kate getting out of the car. Perhaps she was shielded from the cameras when she was getting out of the car?

  19. Simply sensational! The dress does everything for her, the fishtail shape balancing out the lack of hips, and, oh, does she look well in black! I think the reference to Di is overdone — I’d have said this was a completely dffferent dress, with only a minor ruffle detail similar, but hardly a duplicate. Love the bling — and doesn’t she do it well. Utterly regal, par excellence.

    And with that superb fit, not much grist for the pregnancy rumour mill here.

  20. I think there is something different about Kate’s eye makeup here – her lashes are amazing!

  21. Simply Bellissima!!!

  22. Spectacular choice!!!! Never ceases to delight! Love her selections! Yes I agree WKW updo would have been a tad more elegant… but then again her hair is simply stunning down as well.

    One of my ALL TIME FAVORITE looks on her (not including the engagement and wedding dresses, of course!)


  23. Simple stunning. I have not been wowed by Kate since her Canada tour, until this post. :)

  24. She is simply stunning. It took my breath away to see her in a dress so similar to Princess Diana’s famous black strapless dress. An homage to Diana ~ William must be so proud and his Mom is surely smiling down on both of them. They are the real deal together and Kate is a class act. Love her style and her quiet confidence.

    • I was going to say that the dress looked familiar…It was Diana, of course. They both pulled out this classic piece very nicely.

  25. This is beautiful. Velvet is the perfect fabric for winter and it adds a whole new level of sophistication to the dress, which has a lovely silhouet. It reminds me of another favorite look- the black velvet coat with black fascination that was worn to a wedding I believe.

  26. Amazing. I *almost* like this more than the wedding dress! She seems so normal and so relatable (yet gorgeous!) when wearing Zara one week, then in the next stratosphere, goddess-like, with McQueen. It must be so incredible to have Sarah Burton on speed dial to custom fit and alter your gown! Her hair looked even better than usual imo. Does anyone else think it looks a little darker/redder even, or is it just the photography?

  27. I really wish she wore her hair up. Thats the only thing keeping this from being a 10.
    In regards to the necklace being covertable, I doubt it. It doesnt appear to have the structure of a convertable piece that Sophies does. Not to mention that the necklace was a gift from a family friend, so they probably dont have the resources to make a tiara like that. It doesnt look like it would be the easiests tiaras to wear, either.

  28. I love this look! I must say her hair looked even better then usual today. Much shinier and the texture looked sleeker. I liked the relaxes curls tonight. Her makeup looked decidedly better as well.

    Just curious if it is a bit of a jump to say she was paying homage to Diana with the dress? I am not at all familiar with much of Diana’s style choices, and am around Kate’s age, then again I’m sure at this point she has studied up. Just curious what the general opinion is on that. Either way, its a beautiful gown that flattered her and very brilliantly shut the door on pregnancy rumors IMHO. I really liked the detail added to the neckline.

    This may be completely off (I really have very little concept of fashion and am constantly amazed at the level of detail some of you ladies pick up let alone technical terminology etc)..but I think the earrings are similar in design to something we’ve seen her wear previously. It sounds and looks like tonight’s accessories were a matching necklace-bracelet-earring set (though can’t see enough of the earrings, I don’t see the ruby in them? could it just be the necklace and bracelet were gifted?). I think she has a similar pair of earrings with that circle-rectangle-circle design that she wore with her purple Issa dress in Canada. She’s worn them another time, with a similar bracelet to this one actually (but no ruby so clearly a different one), but I can’t recall one. Just wondering if this might be a clue as to who created and who may have gifted them.

    She always wears such massive shoes to formal events. Do you think its to look more photogenic next to Will since he is about 6’1 or for effect with the longer gowns? Again, not my forte so I’d love to hear your “professional” opinions on this ladies. I don’t recall her wedding shoes being much then 3 inches. I personally can’t imagine wearing almost 5 inches of heel all night, the thought of it makes my feet hurt and I would need plenty of practice otherwise I’d face plant, ALOT.

    • Not a stretch at all- the dress of Diana’s that’s mentioned in the blog post was very, very famous, and this dress is a nod to it in several ways. Basically, anyone who’s read a single biography about Diana knows about this dress, and I’m sure Kate’s learned all about her late mother in law’s history.

    • I agree — Kate wears such massive shoes to formal events.

      I think it’s to make her so much taller than everyone else, and thus more confident and comfortable in front of everyone.

      I’ve seen only one picture where Kate and Pippa are both wearing flat shoes, and Kate is maybe an inch taller than Pippa.

      However, Kate always wears heels, even with her sister. There are some pictures from a few years ago where Kate was in wedges, and she was talking to some friends standing on the curb so she towered over them all. There was no reason for that, and it was to the point where I’m surprised she didn’t feel awkward.

      But I think Kate uses height as her tool for appearing powerful/striking/confident since she’s really only 5’8″ or 5’9″ — still a respectable height for a woman, but not near the towering she achieves from these massive heels.

      Also, the dress is textbook Diana — Kate actually seems to model Diana’s style a lot. There’s no way Kate would have missed the Diana reference, especially since she had the ruffles added to the dress.

    • Why does she wear massive heel? For the same reason all the current royal women, celebrities and model always wear at least 4″ heel to an event?

      And according to Hello Magazine William wedding tailor said he was 6’4.25″

  29. Absolutely beautiful. And the guys look great too! My best to all the military.

  30. I love it all!!!! I do wish her hair was in some sort of updo, but since they were honouring the troops I won’t freak out about it.

  31. Simply stunning.

    (I think if Kate had worn her hair up, she might have been too formal for the event, which was black tie-lite.)

  32. This is my favorite evening dress of hers by far! I absolutely adore the whole look. Ditto on having no interest in nit-picking the hair; she could have had her reasons anyway. Perhaps she worried about visually exposing too much skin with it up? I think that seems like a key difference in the first impression between her and Diana’s gowns (besides all the other bigger details). Wonderful post, as always!

  33. Oh, I am so glad you posted tonight.

    I LOVE Kate in this dress! I am just struck with how pretty she really is!

  34. I think it goes without saying this must be added to the upcoming poll! Simply stunning. She always looks lovely but it’s always on a whole new level when she is in McQueen. I think the earrings are the unidentified ones from Zara’s wedding, do you agree?

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