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2016: The Year Kate Amped Up Her Working Wardrobe

We are back with some quick updates and then the first of our pieces reviewing what Kate wore in 2016.

We begin with two new engagements on Kate’s Calendar next week.

  • Wednesday, January 11th: Kate and William will visit Child Bereavement UK’s London Centre; this is the Centre’s one year anniversary. The Duke & Duchess will see a Family Support Group session where children, their parents, and carers meet other families to explore themes of memories, feelings, support networks and resilience.  Prince William is the organization’s royal patron.
  • Wednesday, January 11th: The Duchess will also visit the Anna Freud Centre’s Early Years Parenting Unit (EYPU) to learn more about their work with families who have children under five years old. This is the Duchess’ second visit to the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families since she became the charity’s patron in May of last year.


Also today, news about an honor I thought was announced last year, but apparently was not: Kate has been made an honorary lifetime member of the Royal Photographic Society.

©Todd G / Macca / Splash News

©Todd G / Macca / Splash News

The honor is not for the sort of photos Kate has taken on tour (above, Kate in Canada in July 2011), but for the pictures she has taken of Prince George and Princess Charlotte. From ta BBC story:

Chief executive Michael Pritchard praised the duchess for her “talent and enthusiasm” behind the lens. Kate, 34, took the first official photograph of Princess Charlotte when her daughter was born in 2015.

©HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

©HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Back to that story:

Mr Pritchard said the society chose to recognise Kate for her “long-standing” interest in photography and its history. “She is latest in a long line of royal photographers and the society is pleased to recognise her talent,” he said.


©HRH The Duchess of Cambridge


Now, to our primary topic, an in-depth look at what Kate wore in 2016. Strictly addressing apparel, unless otherwise mentioned, here are the themes that stood out:

  • Kate remains true to her practice of mixing designer pieces (e.g., Erdem, Jenny Packham, Temperley London and Alexander McQueen) with high street brands (like LK Bennett, Reiss, and Russell & Bromley), as well as fast fashion labels like H & M and Topshop.
  • The Duchess continues to champion the British and Scottish fashion industries, showcasing UK brands at engagements both home and abroad.
  • Kate wore styles from many of her ‘go-to’ designers, but also broadened the spectrum of labels in her closet, adding new styles by companies based in Italy, France, and the US.
  • Kate’s sartorial diplomacy skills were evident again this year. For both royal tours, she included pieces by high-end designers with local ties like Naeem Khan (India) and Sentaler (Canada), as well as mid-range companies like Anita Dongre.  She also wore very inexpensive items like the pair of artisan-made earrings she discovered at a tourist shop in Bhutan.

But the most striking theme about Kate’s clothing choices last year is one that transcends the others: it appears the Duchess decided to kick things up a notch, taking risks and injecting some bolder looks into her wardrobe. We saw a few daring designs that were a departure from Kate’s generally conservative aesthetic. And, we saw the Duchess embracing some contemporary trends more than she has in the past. It is unlikely we will ever know if this was a conscious decision Kate made, something she discussed with stylist Natasha Archer or something that happened gradually over the course of the year. It should be noted that for the majority of her appearances Kate was dressed in her more ‘standard uniform’ (for lack of a better term): a dress, often a sheath, fit and flare, or shirtwaist style, and heels with a coordinating bag. However, we are seeing Kate taking risks and trying new looks more frequently than we have in the past.

This change in approach was evident in the work of designers new to Kate’s closet: a total of 23 new brands if one includes pieces worn on the India/Bhutan and Canada tours.  With one exception, we only included apparel brands in the count, not accessories or jewelry. This excludes items like the Monreal sweat/track pants worn in Edinburgh, and the Henri Lloyd sailing separates, things unlikely to be seen at more formal engagements.

We’ll start our review with the tour wardrobes. These are separated from the rest of Kate’s ensembles because we’ll never really know if they are items she would have purchased were she not going on tour. I don’t know that the Duchess would have shopped for a maxi dress at Glamorous like the one worn in India, or purchased a Carolina Herrera coat were it not in that precise red matching the Canadian flag were she not going on tour. I should also note that we deliberately did not include the styles Kate wore for the British Vogue shoot as part of this post.

For an afternoon cricket match, Kate wore a new dress by Anita Dongre, one of India’s best-known designers. She chose the Gulrukh Tunic Dress ($236.60) in a classic pattern. When visiting a Delhi train station, Kate showcased a brand based in Manchester, England, Glamorous UK. The maxi dress featured a placed print and lace-up front, and its original retail price was just £50.  



We saw an unexpected brand when Kate and William attended a Bihu celebration in Kaziranga National Park; Kate chose a dress by American designer Anna Sui for that event. The Printed Crinkled Silk Chiffon Dress featured multiple patterns and colors and was influenced by the designer’s boho design aesthetic. For official welcoming ceremonies in Bhutan, the Duchess wore a half-Kira skirt crafted of locally-made fabric and a cape by a French firm, Paul and Joe. That company was launched in the 90s and named after founder Sophie Mechaly’s two sons.


©i-Images/i-Images/Splash News/Polaris

Of course, the Naeem Khan dress worn for the couple’s visit to the Taj Mahal was a favorite among Kate fashion followers. Founded by Mumbai-born Naeem Khan, the brand is known for its elegant and intricate evening gowns and dresses, many made of custom-woven fabrics.

© All Nunn Syndication/Polaris

© All Nunn Syndication/Polaris

Piece(s) from this tour most likely to be seen again: the Naeem Khan dress.

Now to the tour of Canada. We’ll get the two jackets out of the way off the top. I don’t believe these are necessarily items Kate would have purchased were it not for the opportunity to showcase two British companies while in Canada. There’s nothing wrong with the pieces, but we do know that Kate is fond of her Barbour jackets. Below left, the ‘Lightweight Multi-pocket Safari Jacket’ worn for a rainforest visit; the piece is by British heritage label Holland and Holland. On the right, the Troy London Wax Summer Parka the Duchess sported for a tour of Victoria Harbour.


©i-Images/Polaris/Splash News/Canadian Heritage

For the most formal event of the tour, a reception at Government House, the Duchess wore a vibrant red dress from British luxury label Preen. Founded in 1996 by Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, and headquartered in London, Preen has become immensely popular; the brand is worn by clientele ranging from Gwyneth Paltrow to Michelle Obama. For engagements in Whitehorse, the Duchess debuted a new coat from another new designer, Carolina Herrera. The coat is from the CH Carolina Herrera collection, a diffusion line offering “ready-to-wear and accessories for men, women, and children.” 


©Splash News/Splash News/i-Images/Polaris

For the highly anticipated children’s party Kate wore the Pointelle Knit Cotton Blend Dress from See by Chloé, the diffusion line of parent brand Chloé. The label is based in France but its design director, Clare Waight Keller, is British. On the right, a piece from Canada’s Sentaler brand, the firm’s Wrap Coat with Ribbed Sleeves (for anyone still waiting for one of these, the site says it is still on backorder until April).


©Canadian Heritage/Splash News/Canadian Heritage/i-Images

From the Canadian tour, there are several garments we may well see again. They include the Preen and See by Chloé dresses and the CH Carolina Herrera coat.

The first new label we saw in 2016 was Le Kilt, a Scottish brand worn in February when Kate visited a primary school in Edinburgh, Scotland. (If fond of Kate’s houndstooth kilt, it is on sale at Le Kilt, discounted from £480 to £335 [an original price of roughly $600, now on sale for $415].) Le Kilt is a young firm, founded in 2014. It sources its fabrics in the UK, and the styles are manufactured in Scotland. For a film screening at Kensington Palace in March Kate wore a new frock from the now-defunct Jonathan Saunders diffusion line at British retailer Debenhams. The bird print dress dates back to roughly 2012, so it was something Kate had in her wardrobe for some time. It was a pocketbook-friendly piece, originally selling for just £60 at the time, about $75.



Kate opted for a suit by another British label, Eponine London, for a March mentoring engagement. This is also a young company, and it too manufactures its products locally, in this case, in London.  The retro-inspired suit showcases a fitted top and A-line skirt with pleats.

©Splash News

© All by Splash News

In May we learned about a new official photograph of the Duchess. In the new image, Kate wears a Philosophy jacket; Philosophy is the diffusion line from Alberta Ferretti, an Italian-based brand. Collections are geared to a younger customer but still have many of the feminine touches Alberta Ferretti is known for.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, we saw Kate in a piece from fast fashion retailer H&M when visiting Cornwall in September.  The top worn under her Smythe blazer is an off the shoulder piece originally priced at $34.95, on sale it retailed for $15.

©Chris Jelf/

©Chris Jelf/Ben Stevens, i-Images

In July the Duchess made a strong style statement at the Art Fund Awards, wearing a dress by Brazilian-born Barbara Casasola. The London-based designer’s off-the-shoulder style generated quite a bit of buzz online. We rarely see Kate with bare shoulders unless she is in an evening gown and that factor, coupled with the form-fitting design, created a more glamorous, sophisticated look for the Duchess. Many felt the dress was a nod to the approaching Olympic Games in Brazil; Kate wore a new shoe brand that is Brazilian, Schutz shoes. In a British Vogue interview, Ms. Casasola described her label as “Pared-back but sensual,” perhaps an apt description for Kate’s dress.

Kate debuted another unexpected label when she wore a dress by Altazurra for a September school engagement. She was in the US-based company’s ‘Aimee’ dress from the designer’s pre-fall collection. Made of a stretch-crepe the dress showcased many different design elements, including side ruching, gathered shoulders, and a thigh-high slit. It was proof positive the Duchess was taking stronger steps, wearing things we would not have seen her in a few years back. 



When attending a film premiere in November, the Duchess wore a gown by Self Portrait, another London-based brand. The dress showcased some of the brand’s popular design traits, particularly the use of lace and sense of femininity.


©i-Images/Splash News/Polaris

For World Mental Health day events the Duchess was in a new dress from Kate Spade, another US label.  Known for its whimsical take on the preppy style, the brand still carries its signature handbags and accessories but has expanded into home goods and other merchandise categories. Label founder Kate Spade sold her remaining interest in the company in 2006; she has started a new retail endeavor, Frances Valentine. (FYI, Kate’s dress is discounted and still available in many sizes at Kate Spade.) At the Heads Together Christmas and volunteer gathering the Duchess debuted a new dress by French designer Vanessa Seward, the ‘Cai’ style in a festive red and green print.


©Nunn Syndication, Polaris / Allpix, Splash / Splash News / Nunn Syndication, Polaris

At a special Cub Scout meeting in December, we saw an online-only brand added to Kate’s closet, as the Duchess wore the Grace Cashmere Jumper from Iris and Ink. The label is the house brand for discounter The Outnet; The Outnet was an offshoot of luxury fashion site Net-a-Porter, it stocks the site’s overruns, returns, and other goods.   



There were some pieces that stood out to me from this batch of new designers: the Self-Portrait, Preen, Altazurra, Barbara Casasola and CH Carolina Herrera. Fashion insiders covet styles by almost all of these designers. Some of them provided a bit of an edge, while all seemed to imbue the Duchess with an extra fillip of poise and polish, she looked confident and comfortable in the designs.

© As Noted

© As Noted

I mentioned there was one new brand that was not a clothing retailer; it is milliner John Boyd.

©i-Images /

©i-Images / Splash News

Kate wore two hats by the milliner last year, both of them with wide, sweeping brims. I include Mr. Boyd’s work because it represented a departure from Kate’s usual fascinators and small hats, these both made strong style statements. The Duchess wore the gray chapeau to the Commonwealth Church Service in March, and the black was worn for both Remembrance Sunday and a memorial service.

There are several pieces from Kate’s existing groups of designers and brands that also stood out last year; we will take a closer look at those pieces next week.  There was also a wealth of new jewelry brands the Duchess sported in 2016, as well as the new shoes added to her collection. We will also look at them more closely in a future post.



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Monday 9th of January 2017

Some hits and some misses in 2016, but a very confident Duchess emerged this year, calm, relaxed and dare I say regal?in all her engagements.


Sunday 8th of January 2017

What a fun and informative post - thank you, Susan! A joy to read. I agree with the commenter below that the off-the-shoulder Barbara Casasola dress was a stand out this year. I would never have picked it for her, but she looked amazing.


Sunday 8th of January 2017

Please cover the walk to church from Sunday Jan 8th. has released 1 photo, Kate is in a fur hat and green coat!!!

It is a side shot so I could not see much since William was blocking part of it but the big gray fur hat caught my eye!


Sunday 8th of January 2017

Working on that post now! :)


Sunday 8th of January 2017

Thank you, Susan for this wonderful post! You wrote your article with clear perspective, rather than allowing it to turn into an exhaustive (and exhausting to read) "best of 2016" post. I'm such a fan of your writing. Very refreshing. Happy New Year!!

A question about the blog's content in 2017. Will you consider posting extensively about Pippa's wedding? I'm sure we'll glimpse Kate that day, but I hope you'll consider devoting a significant amount of coverage to the bride's gown. I'm ready for another fabulous and chic Middleton wedding! It would be a wonderful diversion for all of us!


Sunday 8th of January 2017

Susan has a unique way of doing things appropriately and so I certainly hope she will indulge us in some photos and information about Pippa's wedding.

The Middleton's seem to do things with understated elegance. Therefore, I am expecting just that in this wedding. It will most likely be tasteful, sophisticated and never showy or tacky.

Yes indeed something for us to look forward to.


Saturday 7th of January 2017

For me, I really enjoyed nearly everything she wore on the India/Bhutan tour. It was a chance for her to let her inner-hippy shine...something we've seen a few glimpses of in the past. She looked really radiant, comfortable, enthusiastic and happy on that whole trip, like she was having the time of her life. I was less enthused about her outfit choices for Canada (my home country) and felt there were too many red pieces chosen for her tour outfits. Overall, I felt her choices here lacked originality and were a bit cliched...a faux pas for many trying to "dress Canadian". I also appreciate her more sophisticated the grey outfit with the John Boyd hat worn for the church service. I felt it was exquisite and definitely had a coming into her own as a royal vibe. It would be interesting to see a comparison of her 2016 looks with 2015, as I feel her style sense really took a great leap forward last year.

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