It’s hard to recall a time when people all over the world weren’t royally obsessed with Kate Middleton’s style. From the official engagement photos (that navy Issa dress!) to the Royal wedding itself and every gown/tailored coat/nude pump in between, the fascination with tracking and trying to repli-Kate the Duchess of Cambridge’s every sartorial move is real. With Will and Kate returning to Canada on September 24th for their second official royal tour since 2011 (this time with kids George and Charlotte in tow!), the “Kate effect”—her far-reaching style influence and knack for making items fly off the rack with a single wear—is fiercer than ever. We got some intel from royal style expert Susan E. Kelley, a Michigan-based broadcast journalist-turned-blogger who makes a career out of following and reporting on Kate Middleton’s looks for her site What Kate Wore, on what Kate *might* wear and the great nude panty hose debate.
Why do you think Kate Middleton’s wardrobe is so popular with the public?
One reason is that when she came on the international stage—before the wedding and the first tour in Canada—it dovetailed with an unspoken desire on the part of a lot of women to see a different type of clothing than what we’d been seeing so much of—the anti-Kardashian, if you will. I think people had started to get very tired of the blinged out, over-the-top, nearly naked celebrity style that we were seeing everywhere. And I think they were eager to see that you could wear clothing that was perhaps more conservative but still look very elegant and chic and sexy.
The other thing I think people find very appealing is that a lot of her clothing and accessories are accessible. She’ll wear a $35 H&M top that most people can afford and there’s something about being able to wear the same dress or the same blouse as the Duchess of Cambridge, the future Queen of England, that makes people feel like, “Gosh, she’s kind of like me.” She’s not aristocracy, she is what’s called a “commoner” who married into the Royal family, and I think there’s a girl-next-door element to it.
Do you think that accessibility translates to why people are also so interested in what the kids are wearing?
Yes, I think a lot of people find the notion that your daughter can wear the same snowsuit that Charlotte wore—a £28.00 off-white snowsuit from John Lewis—appealing. It’s fun and perhaps rewarding for people’s egos.
Has Kate ever had a major fashion misstep since she’s been in the public eye?
It’s kind of remarkable that in five years she really hasn’t set a foot wrong. The closest thing to a faux-pas are some repeat instances of skirts blowing up in a gust of wind. I think now she’s had weights put in her garments just like the Queen and Camilla do. But, that being the worst thing that’s happened in five years as well as all the years preceding the actual wedding, that’s a pretty good track record.
Do you think she’s made people more accepting of items that many consider stuffy, like nude panty hose?
I think that she has demonstrated that being a little more conservative does not necessarily mean frumpy. And I will tell you that the panty hose is the single most polarizing topic because there’s really not a lot of middle ground for people. We’ve done a couple of polls on it and there’s the camp that says “I’ve not worn them, I’m never wearing them, please don’t expect me to wear them” and then there’s another group that thinks she looks very polished and that you can’t really see the hose she wears. I don’t think it has that kind of 1980s, dark tan colour that was clearly not your skin tone thing going on.
Do you have a favourite look of hers?
It’s going to sound goofy but my all-time favourite look is when they were in Canada in 2011 and William was doing some helicopter demonstrations. She was wearing a navy trench coat from Ted Baker and a red scarf and her hair is pulled back and she just looked so in her element. There’s also a number of formal gowns she’s worn that I think have been drop-dead stunning. There’s an Alexander McQueen black velvet strapless gown and a couple of Jenny Packham gowns that she looks radiant in. I do think a lot of people who follow her love a pretty party frock!
There aren’t a lot of opportunities in the tour schedule for formal wear. What kinds of looks are you expecting?
I think we’ll see her in a dress and a dress coat when they arrive on Saturday, September 24. On the Monday, there’s a reception hosted by the province of British Columbia at Government House and I think we’ll see a dress there that’s one level more formal than what I would call “day wear” but there’s certainly not going to be any floor-length gowns. It is a much more casual itinerary.
What are you expecting in terms of Canadian designers?
I love that she can champion and really put local brands on the fashion map and I’d love to see her wear some more Canadian designers. We know she loves Erdem and we know she loves her navy Smythe jacket (pictured above) which I would expect to see again, but it would be great to see her in a different designer like Pink Tartan or the kids in Joe Fresh or one of Hudson’s Bay’s private labels. It would be nice to see some additional brands showcased, like some Canada Goose or a Roots tote bag.
Are there any trendier or more daring looks you’d like to see her in?
I don’t know that they’d be appropriate at any of the engagements this tour, but people do like to see her take a risk. She wore a blue Altuzarra dress last week (pictured above) that was something new and different for her. Not only was it a new designer, there were some different lines and elements of the dress that are not her standard style. But I think she is always cognizant of being respectful of the situation and respectful of whatever is going on at a given engagement, whether it’s people being honoured or some other sort of function. She doesn’t want to upstage anyone, I don’t think. So, that can be a little restrictive.
What do you think we can expect to see the kids dressed in?
It would be nice to see one or both of them at some point in that Canadian red!
Do you think Kate will wear the poppy red? What about accessories?
Yes! We may also see a new maple leaf brooch. William and Kate were given a set of platinum and diamond Harry Winston pieces when they were in Yellowknife before that we may see. There’s a brooch that’s a little silhouette of a bear with some stars above it meant to represent the Northern Lights. If ever there were a time to wear it, this trip would be the time. There are limited opportunities though—she’s not going to wear a diamond brooch on top of a leather vest if she’s out hiking!