Feb 082012

Tonight Kate made what many are calling her first solo performance at an official public engagement, she attended a private viewing of the National Portrait Gallery’s Lucian Freud exhibit. The evening last October when she stepped in on behalf of Prince Charles for a charity dinner is apparently not considered a public engagement. (More on that evening here.)

The Duchess’s attire this evening definitely stymied Kate fashion followers.

Via Majesty Magazine Twitter

The Palace revealed it was made by now-defunct fashion brand Jesiré, a bit of a surprise for many Kate fashion aficianados. The double breasted coat dress had an exaggerated shawl collar, three-quarter sleeves and the full skirt style Kate is known to favor, she also wore an ornate belt.  Many of us have looked high and low, we’ve yet to locate any photos of this exact piece.

Here we see Kate speaking with Sarah Howgate, curator of the exhibit, and Sandy Nairne, he is the National Portrait Gallery Director.

Picture by Jorge Herrera © Jorge Herrera 2012 via National Portrait Gallery Facebook Page

Here is a better look at the back of the garment.

Frances Vale, Sky News Twitter

Kate accessorized with the glittering diamond bracelet and earrings we first saw in Canada, described only as being “a gift”.  She also wore the Asprey Button Pendant again, white pavé diamonds surrounding a central amethyst, all set in 18ct white gold.


We also saw the reappearance of Kate’s sky high black suede heels (previously discussed in this post), originally identified by WKW FB friend Ashley and others.  This evening we were able to look at an outstanding closeup of the shoe’s sole, the general consensus is now that these are the Jimmy Choo Cosmic.

Via Net-a-Porter

The heel really is high, 5″, but there is also a 1″ platform, making it less of a nightmare to walk in. More on the style from Net-a-Porter.

These shoes are part of the Jimmy Choo 24:7 capsule collection of best-sellers and classic styles that every woman should own. Jimmy Choo’s black suede pumps provide a chic foundation to any outfit. Wear them to punctuate a draped dress for a polished evening look.

The style can be found in many other shops, just not the black suede version. Kate also carried her black suede clutch with the tiny bow.

Many will remember that Kate’s degree from St. Andrews is in art history, the show is something very much up her alley. Also on hand for the event, Sir Paul McCartney’s daughter Mary, who is a photographer and a Museum Trustee. Other notables at the function included Lucian Freud’s daughter, Bella.

Reaction to Kate’s first big solo appearance from London media was interesting:

The Daily Mail:

The Duchess of Cambridge looked buoyed and confident as she embarked on her first solo engagement since joining the royal family.

Kate may have slipped on a belted Jesire coat dress (aka a Cress – consider it a formal Jacardigan) for the Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition but the subdued colour and black accessories are light (slash bright) years away from her favoured green and/or red frocks of late.

The Express:

THE Duchess of Cambridge looked every inch the confident royal tonight as stepped out for her first solo public engagement.

Below we see Kate leaving the Gallery.

Peter Hunt, BBC Twitter Feed

For those interested in learning more about the exhibit, tickets, etc., click here. The Gallery has a wonderful selection of items in its gift shop related to the Lucian Freud Portraits show.

National Portrait Gallery Shop

As far as upcoming engagements, not including the Liverpool appointments on the 14th, here is a snippet of the Telegraph’s story:

A spokesman for the Duchess said: “It’s an honour for the Duchess to be patron of such a distinguished body and having spent the last few months preparing for the role she has been looking forward very much to this.

“It marks the start of a six to eight-week period in which the Duchess will visit all of the charities of which she is Patron.”

The Daily Mail has a brief video of Kate’s arrival, it gives you an idea of the blinding flashbulbs she faces on occasions like tonight’s.

The Daily Mail

As far as Kate’s portrait being done, the London Evening Standard has more:

Kate, who broke with protocol when she refused to pose for a formal painting as a new royal bride, has begun talks to sit for her first official portrait.

Gallery director Sandy Nairne said: “It’s very early days, but we’ve started a discussion. It will be at least the summer before there’s anything concrete and we can start to look for an artist.”

The paper also has solid background on Kate’s initial meetings with the Gallery about being a patron.

Mr Nairne said: “It’s very exciting. She came to see us last September when she was deciding which organisations to support. She was fizzing with intelligent questions.”

This was a stellar appearance by Kate, the piece was tasteful, she accessorized elegantly and looked very nice.  It had to be somewhat daunting for the Duchess, making her first (or second, depending on your perspective) solo appearance, from all accounts she handled it with aplomb and looked lovely while doing so.

  64 Responses to “Kate Surprises at National Portrait Gallery in Jesire”

  1. Why did Kate refuse an official wedding portrait?

  2. For those who may be looking for a version of the Jesire dress, Michael Kors has a version that is VERY similar in cut, design, color and fabric. It’s a much lighter grey but would go lovely with grey or black heels and a grey or black belt. Not sure what the design is. I saw the Kors dress at the TJ Maxx/Marshall’s chain of high-end discount retail shops in Illinois in the U.S. Unfortunately, the chain does not sell online, only in store.

  3. I had dinner a few weeks ago with one of the most fashionable young ladies I have ever met — her mother is the publisher of a fashion magazine. Long story short, her silhouette was exactly like Kate’s — cinched in waist, full skirt, she was even wearing an Alexander McQueen belt. Maybe this is fashion forward? In a retro Mad Men way?

  4. I saw some other photos of her and it looked like she was wearing blue mascara, which would have been a new, interesting, and bold choice!

    She does look like she’s put on a little weight (in a healthy way, not a bad one)… cue the pregnancy rumors! ;)

  5. I love the dress. She looks so classy and classic. But how can she bear to stand much less walk in those shoes? 5″ heels? Ouch! She is already tall. I don’t get the uber shoes.

  6. This dress would NOT have been my choice at all. That said, I think Kate looks great in it; it is amazing to me how the fashion world appears enthralled with it! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the model is so pretty. She is getting a lot of high marks (from blogs and online articles) for this particular selection. It is so interesting to see Kate’s choices, isn’t it?

  7. Updo, Updo!! (would have been so chic and appropriate with the shawl collar)

    And, too, it would have been great for one of her first solo outings. A distinctive, different look. But, maybe then, it would’ve set a precedent she isn’t ready to set yet (understandingly).

    But, otherwise, kudos and love Kate!!!!!!! (I still think of her as “Kate” because she grew up by that name.)

  8. Love this! It reminds me of what Charlotte York from Sex and the City would wear to an art gallery opening. Art galleries are like going to a ballet: one should wear classy clothing, not edgy. Save edgy for fashion shows. Catherine is elegant, as usual.

    • I really don’t quite understand why anyone thinks there’s a divide between “elegant” and “edgy”. In a context like this; there is not.

      It is entirely possible to be both elegant and edgy. Why on earth not?

      Moreover, Lucian Freud was an extremely complex, edgy, and “modern” artist, despite having been representational. (Some people seem mistakenly to believe that only an abstract artist can be described as “modern”. That is not what the word means, as art historians like me regularly teach. )

      I repeat: I love the dress. I simply think it would have worked better for an exhibition of say, portraits by Reynolds, Lawrence, Gainsborough, Sargent, or Sully. A Lucian Freud exhibition, however, would have been my cue to experiment just a bit.

      And what on earth do you people think I mean by “edgy”? PVC miniskirts and ripped tights? Of course not. I mean, a bit fashion-forward and progressive.

      It’s not an either-or propostion.

      The admin posted this dress from Zara a few months ago as something the Duchess might wear. I own it, and I have worn it to the theater, to a modern dance performance, and a gallery opening. It has worked well for all of them. It’s what I mean by “edgy” in the context of a museum opening:


  9. It’s only my opinion, but though I like the dress, I think she should have worn her hair off her neck. I like the shawl collar. You can’t really see it with all the hair. Her hair is beautiful, granted. That being aid, she should change it up when the outfit calls for it. It’s almost like her hair is a crutch. I’ve seen it up and she looks gorgeous.

  10. Nice dress the neck is not the most flattering but she still looks great ! Glad she’s put some weight back on looks much more healthy!

  11. Elegant, classic, and timeless – very Jackie-O meets Lucille Ball meets Audrey Hepburn. :) I love dresses with full skirts and cinched waists … so elegant. I agree that the shawl collar, while really beautiful, made her look a bit hunchy. But it’s so pretty! And I also think she would have looked gorgeous with an up-do, although that would have dated the look to a more 1950s era. This way she was able to channel that era without dating herself. Although who wouldn’t love to see Kate rock some pinup hair, eh? ;)

    I am an art and lit major, and I’ve attended openings and such, and I just don’t see the fuss about being edgy and modern. She’s not a 19 year old art student trying to be hip. She’s a classy royal trying to make a VERY good impression. This is her first solo engagement: this is NOT the time to step out of the box. I disagree with anyone who said this would be the perfect time to branch out. Respectfully, I think this would be the absolute WORST time to be more original. She had people to impress and traditions to uphold, and going modern or edgy simply would not be proper.

    When I go to gallery openings, I try to dress elegant, not modern or hip. It’s an art gallery. Why art has lately been considered hip, ultra-mod, etc. is beyond me. Art is classic, unique, and beholden to certain rules that ALL artists, even the most unique ones, uphold to a certain degree. Kate’s fashion really represented tradition with a touch of flair. Just like art. And Lucien Freud isn’t exactly the most modern artist out there. He’s wonderful, and while his subjects may be raw and sometimes shocking, his style is ultra-traditional.

    So, judos, Catherine, for looking like a princess should! I LOVED this look.

    Although, I have to say, usually she looks SO much taller than anyone, but here she really didn’t – and she’s wearing such high heels! They put her over six feet for sure. So why didn’t she look taller? Hmmm


    • I’m not a 19-year-old art student trying to be “hip” either; I’m an art historian with a PhD, someone who has taught at universities and worked for major art museums. Moreover, I am serious about fashion and prefer an elegant, chic look to one that is utterly progressive and overly fashion-forward.

      However, when I attend openings and private previews, I try to dress in an interesting manner, suited to the fact that people in the art and museum world, where I come from and in which I work, appreciate original style. I like the Duchess’s dress. I simply think that she could have done better for a museum exhibition celebrating a complex artist like Freud.

      But then, she doesn’t work in the art world and hasn’t actually been involved with art and art history since she completed her degree at St Andrews 9 or so years ago. She is not an art professional. Perhaps it was expecting too much to think she might be somewhat more experimental for this occasion.

      • Ouch.

        Kate looked lovely, as usual.

      • i’m not in the art world, professionally.

        but i do have a sense of wanting to dress appropriately *or what i consider appropriate!* to the event, to what people expect. (as do most people i think)

        i’m sure kate liked what she wore.

        i just think she could have worn something a little more fashion forward for an art event with an artsy crowd. not ripped jeans or whatever, but something more progresive and creative than a 1950s style tweed day dress. her black and white circles dress would have been a better option imo, or the lavender roksanda ilincic (sp?). pull out one of your mcqueens!

      • Yes, ouch.

        Surely having a PhD and experience of many years in universities all around the world makes one the definitive authority in said area, thus justifiably extinguishing all other contrarian opinions that may exist in so personal and subjective a topic.

  12. Kate looks stunning. This Jesire dress is absolutely gorgeous, and such a shame that this British label is not trading, maybe someone can bring it back. A label liked by celebs as well, Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Louise Redknapp, Cerys Matthews, Mylene Klass, Mischa Barton etc.

  13. I can see where some folks think she should have branched out a bit and gotten something “edgier,” but you know what? This event isn’t about HER, and Kate is keenly aware of that fact. She knows she’s a draw and will get attention, but she doesn’t distract from the focus of the event, and I find that admirable in her.

    I like this dress a lot, actually. She wears it well, I love the vintage feel to it, and I LOVE the shoes. Hair and makeup, while boring (because we’ve seen this look a thousand times before), are perfectly appropriate for the occasion.

  14. Dress aside, she looks great because she looks so much less gaunt than in previous months!

  15. I would love to know what her process is for selecting what she wears for her occasions! I know she doesn’t use a stylist, but does she have to get her choices “approved” by anyone? The reason I wonder is because her coatdress is from a liquidated company. It’s a great way to avoid showing up in the same outfit as someone else and has a sense of frugality about it (like she just pulled something older from her closet), but I wonder how much pressure she feels to select current British designers and/or boost British fashion as an industry?

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who has thought this! Does she have someone from her staff stop by her house and say “Wear this dress, but with those shoes instead”? She always picks just the right thing, with appropriate touches (like the red and white in her outfits during her North American tour). Is that all from her, or does she have someone who helps her out?

  16. i’m with lili: she should have worn something hipper and younger. this is a major gallery evening reception for an edgy and sometimes controversial, modern portait artist.

    save the retro, tweed dress with the fussy collar for a day event with the queen.

    besides being a day dress (imo), i just don’t like the shawl collar. it looks like her shoulders are scrunched up.

    • Er..edgy, modern artist? ‘scuse me but Freud is definitely representational & all the critics have been hollerin’ for for the past twenty years or more is all that “installation” milarkey. I don’t get video or even iPad “art” myself — give me Freud anyday, and anyway, he’ll be the one remembered when all the other fads fade. Won’t he? What do I know…

      And also — not sure about retro — I mean for Kate’s generation isn’t this 50′s-style first time around? I thought maybe it only looks dated to those of us who everso slightly remember seeing this sort of stuff before!!

      In fact it reminds me of Princess Margaret’s style a bit — and there’s a need for a shorter hairdo/updo to counter the big collar. Agree with you re hunched up look.

      • I think an updo would counteract the scrunched look. Evening gowns with bare shoulders, and daytime look fine with hair down. Not so sure that this is the best look for the evening.

        I like the belt. Not so sure about the dress. The fitted waist and full skirt is a style which Kate can carry off beautifully!

        Grey though. I don’t know about grey. Not one of my fav colours. In fact I don’t think of it as a colour in its own right really.

      • Take it from a professional art historian: an artist does not have to be non-representational to be regarded as “edgy”. And Freud was certainly a “modern” artist. He had and has plenty of fans among the critics.

        It doesn’t matter whether 50′s style is “first time around” for someone; it can still be called a retro look.

  17. I dress is beautiful BUT I wish Kate had chose something more edge/creative/young, the “night in the museum without William” was probably the best oportunity to dare a bit. The dress is very classic and could be used by a woman twice her age… it ages Kate a bit and make her look a bit “fat” even though she’s not. Look like something Adele would wear…

    The shoes are beautiful, I wish I could wear 5in heels (my limit is 4in), good for her, it make her legs looks great.

    The jewels: the bracelet is great, but I think the necklace although beautiful is unecessary in this look.

    Curiosity: Doesn’t Kate feel cold? Isn’t like snowing in England this days? She seems to be completely unaffected by it!

    • If that looks fat, I’d hate to think what I look like! ;p She looks svelte, just not gaunt. :)

    • I suspect Kate’s driver picks her up in a warm car right at her door and drops her off at the door upon arrival so she doesn’t need a coat for the brief time it would take her to get in and out of the car. Or perhaps she has one with her in the car but doesn’t wear it to go into the building. She has to know people are anxious to see what she is wearing. I bet we’d all be disappointed if she covered up with a coat and we couldn’t see the dress.

    • coats? how old-fashioned?! :)

      i completely agree with your questioning why no one has a coat. i hate the cold myself, and am the kooky (but warm!) person you see in hat, gloves, scarf, coat *and* sweater, heavy socks and wam shoes as soon as it goes below 50 degrees!

      on the other hand, i’ve noiced these events are about being seen, and v few wear coats. i remember last winter there was a v fancy event on an incredibly cold night in london, and ladies were not ony not wearing coats they wore cute little dresses with no sleeves, strappy sandals, etc.

      and yes, it is only possible because they have door-to-door car service and are outside for about 3 mins.

    • Agreed. I thought it looked like something a bit “older” and most on the WKW facebook page started theorizing this may have belonged to Carole, which would explain it. Can’t see her having a need to buy this two or so years ago when 27ish. I think its a nice dress and I like it although in some shots she does look scrunched and theres one or two where it gives the illusion its really swallowing her up. I like the belt a lot, its beautiful, but wonder if it being cinched over such a thick looking fabric contributes to why some people think it makes her look heavier?

  18. Kate looks A-MAZING! I love how different the silhouette of this dress was compared to many of the other dresses she’s worn.

  19. I think this is my new favorite dress of hers! Great article, as always. And now I have Jimmy Choo “Cosmic” on my “must have” list.

  20. Other than the red evening gown she wore last year, this is my least favorite dress she’s worn. Of course, she didn’t ask me first :)

  21. Great dress and I’m so pleased that she didn’t wear black tights with it. She looks fabulous! I only wish she’d styled her hair slightly different.

  22. a little bit too much bon ton, but definitely gorgeus as usual

  23. More pics of the visit here:–


  24. Sophisticated choice for a sophisticated event — how many Royals launch their solo duties with anything as classy as Lucien Freud? Wonderful dress, great fit, and understated savvy fabric — the full skirt giving her extra at the hips, and the neckline really pretty around her face.

    Only quibble — I think hair needs to be up with that 50′s-style look. Some pictures from the side make the long hair tumble over the collar to create a slightly hunchback effect.

    Also have a personal preference for everso slightly longer skirt with heels — just being old-fashioned on that point!

    All-in-all a classy inner-city choice for an event chock full of seriously heavy intellectual types. Brave girl.

  25. This dress has been growing on me all day, and now I really love it! I wasn’t too sure about the grey at first–I feel like she’s been wearing a lot of neutral colors lately and I had been hoping to see some color. But I agree that the details (especially the shawl color, which I personally love!) really make it more interesting, while still elegant and appropriate. I also think the skirt is a slightly fuller silhouette than we’ve seen before, and I love that–very vintage feeling.

    My one quibble is that it would be nice to see her with her hair pulled back occasionally–she wore some very nice ponytail/demi-chignon hairstyles on tour last summer, and it would be great to see her bring those back just for some variety. On the other hand…if I had hair that beautiful (and the time and money to get it looking like that), I would probably want to show it off all the time too!

  26. Ahhh I love this dress! It’s so different from anything I own. Must start looking for a repli-Kate immediately.

  27. I have a question… If this is the worst winter in years in the UK, where is everyone’s coat and gloves? I live in Minnesota and I would freeze if I didn’t wear a coat with my dress to church… BTW – she does look nice.

    • They probably left them at the coat check, or – especially in Kate’s case – they got into a heated car in a heated garage and didn’t have far to go.

      We mortals in MN of course wear coats because who knows where we will park? Even during this “mild” winter.

  28. Well, I like this dress. The shawl/portrait collar, 3/4-length sleeves, and double-breasted styling are quite chic, and I like the tweedy fabric, a close-up of which I saw elsewhere. I’d prefer it with a slimmer skirt — I am not a fan of full skirts, which are less than sophisticated in my view — but I think it’s an elegant design for something so apparently inexpensive. I’m a dress fan who is always looking for interesting and unusual examples for daytime or relatively informal wear, so this was bound to appeal to me.

    The collar and sleeves give the dress a strong vintage feel. If the skirt were rather longer, this could pass as a late 40′s or 1950′s New Look design.

    My one quibble is this: as an art historian, I’ve attended many exhibition openings and private previews at art museums, and frankly, I think the Duchess could have worn something more unusual, edgier, especially given that the artist on display here is Lucian Freud, not Joshua Reynolds or Gainsborough. This dress was rather too conservative a choice for the occasion.

    As for the shoes, I find that thick platforms like this make high-heeled shoes MORE, not less, difficult to walk in. The heavy platforms drag the shoes down at the soles near the toes, so that your heels have a tendency to slip right out. I love heels but not with platforms like this.

    • Lili, thanks for your perspective about the appropriateness of this dress for the occasion; I was wondering about that. I like the dress, as well (although I quite like the full skirt, but one needs to be young and slender to carry it, alas) but I just thought it too..I don’t know, daytime?? conservative??.. given that she was attending an exhibition opening. I know she dresses conservatively as a rule but she has worn pieces which are “edgier” than this. But perhaps she wanted to play it safe, this being her “first” solo engagement.

      That quibble aside, she looked lovely, as usual. I love double-breasted styles on Kate, and liked the reference to the occasion (intentional or not) with the exaggerated shawl/almost portrait collar on the dress. Most importantly, she seems to have carried off the engagement wonderfully. Kudos, Kate!

    • I agree with you, the one occasion she could branch out was this event!

  29. Did she lighten up on the eyeliner & blush?

  30. The outfit reminded me of the costumes worn by the actresses in “The Help”, late 50′s early 60′s. I don’t particularly like the neckline on her, Princess Diana tended to wear similar necklines in her early years. I think she suites a structured neckline but this looked nice on her just not a favorite. I like the belt and diamond bracelet and see she recycled her favorite staple pair of shoes.

  31. PS – I think that it’s time to put Jenny Packham under the favorite designers. Jimmy Choo under favorite shoes. The Erdem dress and wedding dress under iconic looks. Just a suggestion from the peanut gallery!

  32. I’m sorry, but are the words “Cress” and “Jaquardigan” real words?!?! That made me laugh! Well played by Kate – none of us are going to be able to find this beautiful… Cress! I need a really good repliKate.

  33. Is it just me or was she channeling some Jackie O? It’s definitely working for her, she looks fantastic.

  34. Is it possible that the belt came with the dress? The dress was certainly designed to have a belt, although she could have removed it. This picture shows the loopholes for the belt: http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lz3ixyEhh81r0e0igo1_1280.jpg?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1328838237&Signature=VtRNwb96xhabmf6A788%2BGgg%2BzcI%3D

  35. I love this look! The classic lines and styling of the dress are stunning.

  36. Did anyone else notice she wore a portrait collared dress?

    • Yes. I noticed. But although Kate is beautiful, her dress is not. I hope she stays away from unflattering dresses like this in the future. It’s no surprise why the designer went out of business.

  37. Ok, so she looked lovely, but she must have been freezing! With all the coats she owns, she went without one over this dress?

  38. I always love this silhouette which reminds me of days of Lucille Ball and Debbie Reynolds. :)
    Did she pull on a bit weight? Her face looks somewhat fuller which is pretty. :)
    Admin, do you happen to know if she attended the event in memory of Charles Dickens in London? The camera flashed really quickly and I only saw Camilla and Charles…

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