Hello-Hello, and welcome to a post with a couple of news items as well as our first look at ensembles worn by the Princess of Wales that generated significant discussion and debate.
First, our news updates, beginning with three new military appointments for the Princess of Wales. (This is what the ‘feature photo’ references, the image showing the Princess at Army Training Centre Pirbright last September. By no means is it a ‘polarizing look.’) Many of you may have heard about these as the changes were announced ten days ago as part of a longer list of military appointments announced by Buckingham Palace. First, some background from the news release: “Following His Majesty’s Accession, The King is pleased to announce further military appointments for working Members of the Royal Family. The new appointments will continue to reflect the close relationship between the Armed Forces and the Royal Family in His Majesty’s reign.” Below, the Duchess of Cambridge arrives for an event honoring the 75th anniversary of the Royal Air Force Cadets.
The statement noted, “The Princess of Wales’s existing military appointments include Colonel, Irish Guards and Royal Honorary Air Commodore of the Air Cadets. Her Royal Highness is also Sponsor of HMS Glasgow – the first of the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Frigates which is currently under construction. The Princess’s grandfather served in the Royal Air Force.” Below, the Princess with the Irish Guards on St. Patrick’s Day.
Following are notes on the three new roles:
- The Princess will be the Colonel-in-Chief, 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards, nicknamed the “Welsh Cavalry.” A Newsweek story notes this is “a role that Charles has passed down to Kate himself and holds a special personal meaning to him. Charles took on being colonel-in-chief of the regiment, which has previously served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2003.”
- She also takes on the role of Commodore-in-Chief, Fleet Air Arm, the aviation branch of the Royal Navy. This was a position Prince Andrew held until last December.
- The Princess becomes Royal Honorary Air Commodore, RAF Coningsby, a role previously held by Prince William. The station is home to two frontline, combat-ready squadrons and is the training station for Typhoon pilots. It is also where historic aircraft of the famous Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are housed. Nearly 3,000 Service Personnel, Civil Servants, and contractors work at RAF Coningsby. Below, a Typhoon fighter jet takes off from the base.
More on the RAF Coningsby position from The Telegraph’s story about the appointments.
The Princess’s new role is a nod to her grandfather, Captain Peter Middleton, who was an RAF pilot who served during the Second World War and who flew alongside the late Prince Philip during his two-month flying tour of South America in 1962.
The new senior RAF role marks the first time that the Princess will be associated with an operational front-line RAF unit, defence sources confirmed to The Telegraph.
The defence source also explained what the new title will entail for the Princess, saying: “It is likely she will visit relatively frequently, probably fly with us, attend significant functions, parades and events, meet the people, get involved with the base community, invite peers to events she is involved with elsewhere, maybe support base charity work etc.”
If you are interested in seeing the complete list of appointments, the news release may be read here.
The other news update is simply that the Wales children return to school on Wednesday, September 6. I imagine we will start seeing the Princess at new engagements following that date.
Now for our foray into the ‘most polarizing’ zone. The term “polarizing” is described by the Cambridge Dictionary as “…something that contains different people or opinions, to divide into two completely opposing groups…”. Today’s post examines what I have dubbed “Honorable Mention” outfits, looks that weren’t quite “epic-level” in prompting conversation but styles that inspired positive and negative reactions. How were ensembles selected for today’s post and the upcoming posts covering the most-debated outfits? I looked at the number of comments on posts, the content of those comments, people’s reactions when commenting on the outfits a second time in year-end polls, and how people reacted on the WKW Facebook page and other media. A couple of notes to keep in mind:
- These are not the most disliked outfits worn by the Princess.
- In many cases, comments were divided fairly evenly between those fond of specific styles and those not fond of a look.
- The items are listed chronologically. The underlined dates link to the original post for each ensemble.
- If items worn by the Princess are still available to purchase, I have included links to retailers offering the items.
- I’m sure there are ensembles I missed in compiling the lists. Please leave a comment or send an email to Susan@WhatKateWore.com.
- Thank you to Beth E., a longtime WKW reader, commenter, and friend, for her fab idea about a post covering this topic!
APRIL 2014: We begin with a dress by American designer Lela Rose. The “Circle Trim Dress” was worn in Australia for an evening reception at Government House during the 2014 tour. The knee-length design had a peplum and sleeves made of lace circles, with a concealed zipper and back slit.
Accessories included the black “Bayswater” clutch by Mulberry, the “Cosmic” heels by Jimmy Choo, and the diamond deco-style bracelet and earrings believed to be a gift from Prince Charles. One fan of the ensemble, Bessie, asked a rhetorical question in her comment, saying, “How can a cocktail dress be saucy and demure at once – I love this dress!” Those not as fond of the look felt the lace was “clunky” and “limp.”
APRIL 2016: In advance of the India/Bhutan tour, the Duke and Duchess hosted a reception at Kensington Palace. The Duchess chose a modified version of the “Mary Illusion Dot Dress” by Saloni London for the event, a floor-length style with a high ruffled neck, sheer sleeves, and an exaggerated keyhole opening on the back.
The Duchess accessorized with her Rupert Sanderson “Malory” heels (£345, about $440 at today’s exchange rates) and Cassandra Goad “Temple of Heaven” earrings (£2360, roughly $3010). Fans liked the color and the polka dot fabric; negative comments referred to the high neckline and a dislike of the modesty panel added to the bodice of the dress (while understanding the need for the modification).
She accessorized with the Jane Taylor hat initially worn for Princess Charlotte’s christening, the “Nina” clutch by LK Bennett, and Gianvito Rossi 105 pumps in ‘praline pink” ($795). Fans appreciated the clean, tailored lines. At the same time, criticism involved the combination of the hat and the appliqued lace, with one comment suggesting it veered into “too much frou-frou.” There were also multiple comments from readers who didn’t think the pumps enhanced the look, with several saying the heels detracted from the ensemble.
JULY 2016: The Duchess chose a dress by Barbara Casasola for an awards gala at the Natural History Museum. The “Tribal Dress” showcased an off-the-shoulder design with multiple fabric panels, a front zipper, and a fluted skirt.
The figure-hugging stretch jersey style was a bit of a departure for the Duchess, and many applauded the “edgy look” while others took issue with the garment’s fit, but fans of the ensemble outnumbered those who didn’t care for the outfit. The Duchess accessorized with a vintage bag, suede sandals by Schutz, and Soru’s Baroque Pearl Earrings ($197).
The Duchess brought the dress back for a June 2019 engagement. On that occasion, she styled it with a clutch by Wilbur and Gussie, her Dégradé Glitter Pumps by Jimmy Choo, and Kiki McDonough Lola Blue Topaz and Diamond Earrings (£3500, about $4500 at today’s exchange rates). Opinions were also divided on the second wearing, but fans outnumbered those who disliked it.
The Duchess accessorized with a suede Miu Miu clutch, Russell & Bromley heels, and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee earrings. The dress was a modified version of a Broderie Anglaise design from the Resort 2017 collection with tiered and pleated layers, a mandarin-style collar, and handpainted buttons with a floral design.
As noted in the original post, both the bespoke version and off-the-rack dresses feature a fitted bodice with a contrasting band collar. But then the designs diverge: the billowing open sleeves with their wide silhouettes were replaced with longer, more standard (fitted) sleeves, and cuffs were added to the sleeves on the Duchess’s dress.
One fan commented, “Where else can a princess wear a dramatic, out of the box, high fashion dress if not on a royal tour? The detail and workmanship are truly mind-boggling,” while another said, “…there seem to be two different approaches taken here, schoolmarm on top, dancehall skirt on the bottom.”
MARCH 2017: I was surprised to see the debate about an Alexander McQueen dress worn in Paris for a reception at the British Embassy; I had forgotten the level of discussion regarding the garment. Or perhaps more accurately, the jewelry paired with the dress, as that generated much of the conversation.
The sleeveless dress was crafted from a textured material that looked like it was accented with eyelash lace or fringed trim at the neckline, armholes, and hem. The Duchess’s accessories included a thin belt with a bow, Mary Jane-style pumps by Gianvito Rossi, her Cartier watch, and pearl jewelry.
The earrings were a pair seen before, the Balenciaga “Eugenia” style first noted at Trooping the Colour in 2016. Unusually, the Duchess wore a matching ring by Balenciaga; we do not often see the Princess wearing rings at engagements. The earrings and ring are made of silvertone brass, with faux pearls and an outer border of clear crystals. The necklace may or may not be part of the set; the pearls did not appear to have the crystal border seen in the ring and earrings.
One fan commented, “I love this dress and unusual fabric for the style which lifts it away from being just another black dress,” but another noted, “…jewellery is all wrong – too much of it especially when it is so clunky.”
JULY 2017: The yellow Jenny Packham dress worn when visiting Germany in July 2017 was another look that brought diverging opinions. The color was considered a diplomatic nod to both the German flag and Heidelberg’s coat of arms.
The dress was crafted of a deep yellow floral lace motif atop an ivory background. It had a fitted bodice with Princess seaming accentuated by white piping, a set-in waistband, and box pleats that created volume in the skirt. She wore her “Fleur” espadrille wedges by Monsoon and carried an Alexander McQueen clutch. The earrings were by Oscar de la Renta, the brand’s “Pearl Star Button” style.
A commenter named Alisa thought the Duchess looked “…like a beautiful daffodil. I love the whole outfit.” Quite a few readers thought the wedges didn’t work with the dress and other accessories, although many remarked they were probably better than a standard pump or sandal for walking on Heidelberg’s cobblestone streets.
MAY 2019: An Alessandra Rich design that divided opinions pretty evenly was the navy polka dot design worn to an engagement at Bletchley Park, a dress first seen in an official 70th birthday photo of Prince Charles released in November 2018. The silk dress featured a dropped waist, button front, contrasting spread collar, contrasting cuffs, and a pleated skirt.
Accessories included Emmy London’s “Rebecca” heels ($490), the Smythson “Panama” clutch, a brooch that belonged to her grandmother, who worked at Bletchley Park, and Annoushka Pearl Drops ($480) suspended from Kiki McDonough hoops (£700).
Those who disliked the ensemble thought elements of the dress were “off” (my word), including where the dropped waist hit and the dress length; others didn’t feel the shoe color worked with the dress color and/or the handbag. Those who liked the outfit cited the retro design, the polka dots, and the overall look.
MAY 2019: The Erdem maxi dress worn to the preview of the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show preview prompted discussion. The “Sheba Floral Silk-Cotton Gown” was described as “showcasing the Victorian influence on the British label,” and it included a high neck, three-quarter sleeves, vertical ruffled trim at the center bodice, a tiered skirt, and distinctive white crocheted lace accenting.
The Duchess had several inches in length removed from her dress; the piece as shown in product photos was significantly longer.
Commenters referred to the dress as “prairie style,” with some appreciating that look and others holding not-so-positive memories of the style when it was popular in earlier eras. A fan of the look named Paula commented, “Sometimes she dresses old for her age, and I am all for dressing young for your age, but this is just perfect.” Shoes were again a hot topic, with Ellis saying, “…this dress needs something really sleek and modern to balance it out, and the wedges are just too clunky and heavy.” As with some other Erdem designs, we had comments saying the dress just had “too much going on.”
MARCH 2020: Our final dress in this category is a metallic design by the Vampire’s Wife worn for a reception at a Dublin bar.
The “Falconetti” dress (£1590, roughly $2030) in iridescent emerald silk/polyester metallic chiffon showcased a fitted bodice and round neckline, semi-sheer sleeves, and ruffles at the sleeves and hem. The Duchess accessorized with the BB Dark Green Velvet ($695) by Manolo Blahnik, her Charlie Gold Glitter Classic Clutch (£245, about $315) by Wilbur and Gussie, and a pair of goldtone earrings by H&M.
Those fond of the dress cited its shimmering green fabric and edgier look as positives, with Mary B. commenting, “Oh my, I love this dress. I have been a not-fan of hemline flounces since the long-ago days of the Erdem flowered dress, but I have now been won over.” Many others were vocal about disliking the flounce, and some felt the ensemble was too dressy for the setting.
You can see similar themes arising out of this group of looks: accessories (especially shoes) that some felt didn’t work with an ensemble and opinions saying items were “too frou-frou” or “fussy.” Another theme in comments uses the term “aging” in describing styles that people didn’t think worked well.
We are fortunate to have a terrific community of readers who comment on posts here at WKW. Here are a few thoughts to ensure we keep it that way when on comments that apply not only to this series of posts but to comments on the site overall:
- Please keep in mind this is not the forum to be disrespectful of the Princess or your fellow readers.
- If not commenting positively about a look, a reminder that it is one thing to say something isn’t flattering or not a great outfit; those comments are welcome, It is another thing entirely to direct those comments at the Princess; those comments are not published.
- This is not the forum to change someone’s mind about an outfit or attempt to persuade them their opinion is correct/incorrect. As one reader put it in an email I received this summer, “I just wanted to say what I thought about the dress. I didn’t come here to have someone(s) try and convince me otherwise. I felt like I was being chastised for my opinion.”
Early next week I will have a post up looking at a group of more polarizing looks than those shown here.