Hello-Hello, what a delight to be back after doing some serious catching up with work and some resting up!
We begin with additions to Kate’s Calendar:
- Monday, August 4: William and Kate will be in Belgium for two services commemorating the centenary of World War I. From a Palace news release: “HRH The Duke Cambridge, accompanied by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, will attend a service of remembrance hosted by the Government of Belgium at Liege. TRHs will subsequently travel to St Symphorien Military Cemetery, a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Mons, Belgium, for a UK commemorative event.” The second event is at the St. Symphorien military cemetery. The website says the event will be broadcast live in the United Kingdom. Click here for the Commonwealth War Graves website with more info, and here for the newspaper article about the event & William and Kate’s role.
I use the plural on “additions” to the calendar because there are several other events where it is likely we will see the Duchess; click here to see those dates and accompanying information.
Let’s congratulate, Susan R; she will receive a stunning Terre-et-Mer necklace that she gets to customize! A huge thank you to everyone who participated, it was such fun seeing which necklace style you liked from the collection. And a huge Tip of the Tiara to my friend Pascale for sponsoring the giveaway, not to mention sharing an insider’s view of the Taronga Zoo with all of us.
We move now to discussion of our primary topic, what Kate wore during the Royal Tour. When looking at tour wardrobes it is helpful for me to organize looks in three categories:
- pieces from UK designers and stores
- looks from designers/retailers with local ties
- the “other” category
Here is how the numbers break down when comparing the three tours undertaken by the Cambridges.
A quick reminder of the pieces with local ties worn by (or carried by in one case) the Duchess on the just concluded tour: In New Zealand we saw the turquoise Emilia Wickstead dress and Rebecca Taylor’s Sparkle Tweed separates; in Australia Kate wore Zimmermann to Sydney’s famed Easter Show, carried an Oroton clutch and wore a hat by Jonathan Howard.
It turns out that the number of ‘local’ pieces on this tour surpasses the number for the N. American tour by one. On that tour it was the Smythe jacket, Erdem’s Cecile and Jacquenta dresses, and the DVF Maje dress worn in Los Angeles. Why did there appear to be a marked difference on the most recent tour with many feeling Kate didn’t wear enough pieces by local designers? A couple of contributing factors:
- The duration of the New Zealand/Australian tour was almost three weeks, more than a week longer than either the N. American or Jubilee tours. Perhaps some felt that on a percentage basis Kate could have showcased more local designers and companies.
- A number of newspapers and bloggers covered the local designer angle extensively in the weeks and months leading up to the tour. In this space you saw multiple posts featuring designers and brands in both New Zealand and Australia. Did the advance coverage create unrealistic expectations? I don’t believe that is the case: there was no reason to think Kate’s interest in showcasing talented companies with local affiliations would decrease on this tour. If using only a percentage basis to gauge things, you could arguably make a case that one or two more locally relevant items would have kept this tour on par with others.
I think a great deal of research and planning goes into what Kate will wear on tour. Almost every piece has purpose, be it sending an unspoken message of respect to a host country or acknowledging contributions made by military personnel and their families. Kate didn’t pack the Noa black coat from Temperley London on a whim; I believe the Duke and Duchess always planned to attend the ANZAC sunrise service but didn’t want to potentially create a distraction to the dawn event by announcing their attendance ahead of time. In some cases an item may simply have provided a more fiscally responsible option. I’m sure Kate, William, and their advisors are fully aware there will be articles and stories purporting* to tally up the cost of her clothing and accessories; if there is an opportunity to save money, she will. Below, a recap sharing possible explanatory reference points for each look seen on the tour, followed by photos of the styles being discussed:
- MaxMara dress when changing planes: Kate wisely realized there was no need to wear anything new for walking through the Sydney airport, and she also opted for a new pair of shoes with much lower heels, a good idea for the trek, especially when carrying Prince George. The only photo we have of this is tiny, we won’t include it in this group of images.
- Wellington arrival in red Catherine Walker: combining one of the host nation’s colors, red, with the fern brooch given to HM, made for a splendid look
- Tory Burch Plunket playdate: Kate sported New Zealand colors again (black & white) in the Paulina dress from Tory Burch
- War Memorial, Aviation Heritage Center: the blue bespoke Alexander McQueen utility coat had a military feel with its flaps and pockets; Kate’s red poppy pin underscored this reference
- State Reception: Kate’s custom Jenny Packham dress with custom fern decor, New Zealand’s national symbol, sent another strong message of respect to the host country
- RNZAF Base & Sailing: Kate’s Zara blazer and Breton stripe top from the UK’s Me + Em had a nautical feel
- Hospice Tea Party, Cambridge Visit, Cycling Center: the green Erdem ‘Allie’ coat and white/green ‘Budding Heart‘ silk tea dress by Suzannah were bright, vibrant pieces; my guess is the Duchess was looking for something that would make it easy for the children to see her at the hospice. This was also another opportunity to wave the British design flag. Not to mention Kate wears a significant amount of green and I expect we’ll see one, or both pieces, again in the future. (Can you say Irish Guards Saint Patrick’s Day?)
- Dunedin arrival & Palm Sunday services: the Emilia Wickstead dress was another nod to the host country (Ms. Wickstead is originally from New Zealand) & Kate’s Jane Taylor hat sported fern decor
- Dunedin Rugby: the Jonathan Saunders sweater and Mint Velvet sneakers again waved the UK designer flag
- Queenstown wine tasting: one of the few occasions when I didn’t notice any overt or subtle references, other than perhaps frugality; every item Kate wore is either from the high street and/or has been worn many times previously, like the Corkswoon shoes from Stuart Weitzman
- Luisa Spagnoli suit in Christchurch: from my perspective, this was one of the more remarkable looks of the entire tour, for it showed the meticulous attention to detail in planning the New Zealand wardrobe. The red and black colors were especially appropriate as William and Kate were visiting the area most damaged by the 2011 earthquake; after that devastating event there was a red and black day when all New Zealanders wore those colors to show their support for those impacted by the disaster.
- Police College & Departure: Kate’s suit from Rebecca Taylor, a designer with New Zealand ties, was ideal for the couple’s final events in the country; additionally, the blue could also offer a color reference to police uniforms.
- Sydney arrival/Opera House reception: the yellow ‘Ryedale’ dress by Roksanda Ilincic was a reference to Australia’s colors, gold (yellow) and green
- Blue Mountains: it’s no accident Kate chose a frock covered in a blue print for this event, the ‘Patrice’ dress by Diane von Furstenburg
- Sydney Easter Show, Hospice & Beach Visits: the Roamer dress from Zimmermann (Australian brand) was a good choice for the day’s three engagements
- RNZAF Amberley Base, Brisbane Reception, Walkabout: the Lasa Poppy dress from royal favorite LK Bennett could be considered to have multiple military references, the poppies as one and the color blue as another; accessorizing with a clutch from an Australian heritage brand, Oroton, made this a home run in terms of unspoken diplomacy that speaks volumes about respect for one’s hosts.
- Saturday night rugby: while this was technically an ‘off-duty outing,’ wearing a Beulah London scarf underscored Kate’s commitment to showcasing British brands (no photo, I apologize)
- Easter Sunday church services: an ensemble from Kate’s go-to designer, Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, was a solid choice for the day’s church services
- Taronga Zoo: Kate’s choice of the yellow broderie anglaise dress first seen on the 2012 Jubilee tour was another nod to Australia’s green and gold colors, as well as a way to repeat a garment appropriate to the setting
- Canberra Airport Arrival: this is another look for which I can’t find any unspoken message or reference, it was the third time we saw Kate’s ‘Ridley’ dress from UK label Stella McCartney
- Indigenous Training Academy: while some thought the frock overly formal for the setting, I believe Kate wore this Roksanda Ilincic dress for the Academy’s graduation ceremony to show her respect for the occasion and the students/faculty/families at the Academy. The muted earth tones were selected to help keep attention focused on those involved with the ceremonies as well as on the brightly colored jewelry presented to Kate.
- Uluru Cultural Center/Ayer’s Rock: changing from the Ilincic into the more casual Hobbs Wessex dress was a good call, allowing Kate to wear less formal footwear while still in muted hues
- Elizabeth/Adelaide: the blush pink separates from Alexander McQueen were elegant. This is one of those isolated instances when I see no unspoken message in the color, cut, or designer, other an opportunity to showcase British design.
- Arboretum/Parliament/Portrait Gallery: This is an excellent example of Kate’s proclivity for a literal interpretation of the day’s engagements functions: the green in her Catherine Walker coat is a direct tie to the green associated with the Arboretum.
- Government House Reception: I think this was simply a case of Kate deciding to wear a frock she already owned that hadn’t been worn publicly, the Circle Lace Trim Dress from American designer Lela Rose
- ANZAC Day Dawn Service: the black Noa coat from Temperley London made sense for the dawn service; previously worn, it was respectful and understated
- ANZAC Day National Service: Kate’s twill coat from Michael Kors & winged hat by Australian milliner Jonathan Howard provided another nod to the military as well as to the host country
Wrapping up our look at tour styles by the numbers, there were really three primary factors differentiating this collection of clothing and accessories from previous tour wardrobes. The biggest distinction is the “other” category explained above. On the North American tour, there were only three pieces lacking strong connections to either British design or the host country: the dresses by Roland Mouret, Roksanda Ilincic, and Malene Birger fit this classification, although Ms. Ilincic shows at London Fashion Week.
On the Jubilee Tour, the only piece fitting the ‘other’ category was the TAV Pacific sundress.
But when you get to this year’s tour there was a significant change, with 9 pieces or looks fitting this classification. Below, a quick refresher on those items: the MaxMara wrap dress worn when changing planes at the Sydney airport, the Paulina dress by Tory Burch for the Plunket playgroup, the Zara and Gap separates at the Amisfield wine tasting, in Christchurch & Canterbury we saw the re-worked Luisa Spagnoli, the yellow Roksanda Ilincic was worn when arriving in Sydney, Kate wore the Patrice dress from Diane von Furstenberg when visiting the Blue Mountains, another Ilincic dress for some of the Uluru engagements, a 2012 Lela Rose dress at a reception, and Michael Kors for the ANZAC service & Australia departure.
Why so many styles that didn’t reflect either the host country or British design? One obvious factor: five of the brands in this category are US-based, although I am unsure why we saw so many US designers represented. I don’t think there is any single, specific reason; some pieces just worked for certain engagements. For example, the Lela Rose frock was something Kate purchased a few years back that she hadn’t been seen wearing, so it was a budget-friendly choice ideal for the occasion. Diane von Furstenberg is a label Kate has worn for years and if in the Gap shopping for Prince George, why not grab a few basics for yourself? The other US designers Kate wore are known for a style aesthetic very much in sync with her taste. Both Tory Burch and Michael Kors offer tailored pieces with classic lines, avoiding any frou-frou that can make a garment look overly precious or twee. Having introduced these American labels on the tour, I think we will see Kate wearing several, if not all, of them again.
The second element differentiating this selection of clothing and accessories is the overall look of the ensembles: simply put, this was a more mature wardrobe. The Duchess conveyed a sense of gravitas we’ve not seen previously, with looks that were more measured. This was not an in-your-face display, but something far more subtle. And yes, hemlines were a little lower. Below left, Kate’s Catherine Walker ensemble as she and William said goodbye to Canada in 2011, on the right it’s the new Catherine Walker look worn when the Cambridges arrived in Wellington, New Zealand on this tour. The New Zealand pieces are only an inch or two longer, but the visual difference is clear.
As mentioned, these are not dramatic changes. Nor is every single thing in the royal walk-in being overhauled and altered. For example, when comparing the primrose yellow dress first worn on the 2012 Jubilee tour and seen again at the Taronga Zoo this year, the length of the dress appears to be the same; there aren’t any changes to the frock that I could see, other than the self-belt being removed.
It is a look that is more polished, and more substantial. Kate is not only older and more seasoned at public engagements and events, she is also a mother now. Those are factors that directly impact one’s self-image, often prompting consideration of how one is perceived by others. Those factors and the knowledge you are representing Queen and country will have a substantial impact on sartorial selections.
The third factor impacting what Kate wore and how she looked: there is a much stronger sense of identity accompanied by a significant boost in self-confidence. Kate looks much more comfortable at engagements and she seems more at ease in formal situations. It is the walkabouts and impromptu conversations where she really shines; there were many times when it was clear Kate was genuinely enjoying herself, having fun meeting and greeting, posing for selfies and also sharing her young son with the public. She is an outstanding ambassador for the Royal Family, and it is clear she often revels in that role.
If there is one graphic display of the changes in Kate and her wardrobe, it is this one. On the left we see Kate at Saint Andrews in February of 2011 and on the right we see her this April. While that is a short time in many respects, just three years, it can be light-years for someone in Kate’s situation, prompting minor, but very real changes in Kate’s style and status.
NOTES: we seem to have a plethora of updates on items Kate has worn, it seems easiest to let you know about them all in one spot.
- the Oroton blue Odeion clutch will be back in stock in July according to the international website ($235 + $19.95 delivery)
- Kate’s Budding Heart silk tea dress is available in all sizes 8-16 (UK sizing) on the website ($717 USD/£475)
- the Zimmermann Roamer dress will be in-store in June, you can sign up for email notification by writing firstname.lastname@example.org; the frock is also expected to be offered at ShopBop.
- Me + Em’s Breton Stripe Top will be re-stocked in early July (£48/$80, delivery to the US is an additional £20, about $34)
- the Ryedale dress by Roksanda Ilincic is in stock at Matches Fashion, available in UK sizes 6-14 ($1441 / £879)
We have one more quick update to share, this one about the darling sailboat romper Prince George wore as the family arrived in Sydney.
Many erroneously attributed the piece to upscale children’s retailer Annafie. However, that is not who manufactured the piece. It was actually a gift to William and Kate from Désirée Hohenlohe, founder of Les Petites Abeilles (the Little Bees). The company is making more of the smocked one-piece style, expected to be available in late May; anyone interested in pre-ordering is encouraged to email email@example.com. You can read more on the story at our sister blog, What Prince George Wore.
We’ll be back tomorrow with the first of our tour polls.
* = I say “purporting to tally up the cost” because some items included in the calculations are pieces Kate has had for years, not something purchased new for this tour. It’s also possible the Duchess is offered a discount on some of the designer garments, although I’ve nary a clue whether or not that discounted price is accepted, or if full retail value is paid. So unless one is budgeting what the retail cost would be to acquire each and every item worn or carried on the tour, the data is inaccurate.