Does Kate have style fit for a princess? Is she our new Princess Diana? Or is she more of a Princess Anne? Can she survive the fashion rollercoaster?
Since she first stepped out in that black bandeau bra and knickers, covered only by a sheer lace dress, Kate has had her fashion choices keenly watched by millions – and picked apart at the seams by others. The fashion world and those who follow it have never been into royal fashion as much as they right now.
From polo matches and royal weddings to working at Jigsaw and nights out on the town, Kate has managed to pull off a variety of different looks while always remaining discreetly stylish. Her transition from student to princess hasn't always been easy, or without criticism, but mostly Kate has been a style inspiration, evolving her wardrobe from her casual student look to the elegantly regal and resolutely chic outfits she now wears as a matter of course.
Kate may look demure at first, but she can be daring too and has a real royal edge. She has swiftly become a designer's dream and the most sought-after young royal around. The fashion world has been disarmed by Kate and completely charmed by her fashion sense.
Kate's first foray into catwalk fashion is just about forgivable under the circumstances – it was for charity – but since then she has certainly come a long way from the young girl who was maybe a little fashion-challenged, trying to impress the royal family and a young William.
When Kate hit the limelight at the Game Fair at Blenheim Palace in 2004, her long tweed overcoat, matching skirt, smart riding boots and pinstripe shirt looked more like an attempt to be accepted by the royal family than the 21st-century chic that we have come to expect from Kate. And while her choice of outfit certainly showed off her enviable long legs, winning her a few points, it probably would have been much more suited to the Duchess of Cornwall or Princess Anne.
As a student, Kate followed the St Andrews fashion formula, which included wardrobe staples like boot-cut jeans, neutral cashmeres, tailored jackets and Ugg boots. Even without a royal on her arm, as a middle-class student Kate's look was particularly preppy and largely influenced by shops and boutiques found on the King's Road in London, giving her an air of aristocracy. In 2005 Kate was spotted wearing a typical preppy outfit at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park. Her brown tailored jacket, crisp white shirt, stone-washed skinny jeans and brown knee-high boots, accessorised with a brown cowgirl hat, is a perfect example of Kate's student wardrobe.
But soon after graduating in 2005 Kate, in her university gown and a strikingly short skirt – bearing more leg than some would dare at their graduation – was beginning to show signs of becoming a fashion-conscious young woman and a style inspiration.
After an unpromising start in 2006, Kate the style icon emerged wearing an eye-catching vibrant red coat and black Philip Treacy hat – her outfit to watch William graduate from his military training at Sandhurst. The length of the coat suited Kate fabulously and the cut was sleek and sophisticated; it was a perfect outfit all round. It was the first time she had been seen at a high-profile public event, attended by the monarch and senior royals, as William's guest and her outfit, as well as the occasion, certainly attracted a lot of attention.
From that moment on, Kate has rarely put a foot wrong and she has definitely raised the royal style stakes. Every time she has been seen wearing 'high street' designs, like the simple black-and-white Topshop dress she wore to work on her 25th birthday, it has sold out within days. And almost every expensive designer outfit she has worn has produced high-street copies. After Sandhurst, a 21st-century British royal icon was born.
When Kate went to watch William receive his RAF wings at RAF Cranwell she wore a classic white fitted coat with black buttons and black accessories. She has since been seen in similar designs on several other occasions, prompting a fashion frenzy for this sophisticated winter look. So it was no surprise that in that same year Kate made it into Vanity Fair's list of the top ten best dressed women in the world, alongside Carla Bruni, wife of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy. And her fashion accolades have kept coming.
INSIDE KATE'S WARDROBE
No Kate style-stealing guide would be complete without a few staple wardrobe pieces.
Even if you don't hunt or shoot, you can still add some traditional countryside-inspired pieces to your wardrobe. Give them a contemporary, feminine twist to emulate Kate's country girl image. A white blouse, tasteful tweeds by William and Son or a Barbour jacket paired with tight dark denim jeans and suede boots will channel the country look without you having to invest in an atrocious granddad-green fleece and muddy Hunter wellington boots.
If you really want to turn heads like Kate, get hold of a tweed coat by Katherine Hooker like the one Kate wore to the Cheltenham races. Just make sure your hat isn't made of mink, or you will be turning heads for all the wrong reasons!
Complete your Kate summer wardrobe with a few light, floral dresses. Jigsaw and Kew are great places to shop to find the real deal. Don't forget to wear the right type of shoe to finish off your outfit – think espadrille wedge sandals or cute kitten heels.
To look the part, a couple of preppy pieces are essential additions to your wardrobe. Think white skinny jeans, denim skirts, polo shirts, round-neck jumpers and a matching gilet. If you can afford to splurge, invest in a small Prada bag or the latest Mulberry design to sling over your shoulder to complete the look.
Or alternatively opt for a sophisticated trench coat from Burberry, like the blue one Kate wore to the Cheltenham races, teamed with a grey dress and a pair of knee high boots. There are plenty of stylish trenches to be found on the high street if you can't afford a designer one.
Tidy Tailored Jackets
Want to really pull off Kate's style? No wardrobe is complete without an immaculately-tailored jacket. If you are lucky enough to have a teeny-tiny waist like Kate's, remember to invest in a design that is nipped in at the middle for that trademark tailored look.
A show-stopping Issa London dress
It goes without saying that if you want the definitive Kate wardrobe, you'll need to invest in a couple of Issa London dresses, like that stunning blue engagement dress or the black-and-white sequined Issa party dress that Kate's sister Pippa was seen wearing at an glamorous event! Team your dress with a tailored jacket, a pair of peep-toe heels, a small clutch and a simple necklace or pendant.
Most of Kate's style knockouts have happened at royal engagements or at wedding ceremonies. Of course, life as a royal requires outfits which are occasion-appropriate, but over the years being occasion-appropriate hasn't always meant being fashionable in the royal family. Kate, on the other hand, has been a breath of fresh air; she has always looked fashionable, on trend and innovative for a princess, making her a fully-fledged royal fashionista.
In the past, Kate has pulled out all the stops at several royal weddings, but one of the most spectacular has to be the black and aubergine ensemble she wore to the wedding of the royal couple's close friends Harry Aubrey-Fletcher and Louise Stourton in January 2011. She certainly has an eye for the unexpected. Almost outshining the bride, Kate chose to wear an outfit made up of a sleek and delicately tailored black velvet coat, with a plunging neckline, and a daring black ISSA dress with a semi-sheer bodice. The outfit was made complete with a jaunty black felt beret from Whiteley Fischer, a British hat manufacturer who has been in the millinery trade for more than 60 years, and aubergine shoes with a matching clutch bag.
Sophie Cranston, a young British designer for the fashion label Libélula, designed the coat, which cost £310. Libélula is Spanish for 'dragonfly'. Sophie has worked with Alexander McQueen and Alice Temperley and can name Emma Watson, Tamara Ecclestone and Jerry Hall as some of her loyal clients. Now she can add Kate to the list too!
Some of Kate's other spectacular moments have included the stunning royal blue dress, trademark black tailored jacket and wide-brimmed hat she wore to the wedding of Harry Meade and Rosemarie Bradford in October 2010, the simple ivory fitted jacket and black-and-white lace skirt she chose for Hugh Van Cutsem and Rose Astor's wedding, and the gold brocade silk coat and cream dress with matching feather fascinator and bag for Laura Parker Bowles' wedding.
Kate has also worn two show-stopping lilac numbers in the past, one of which featured her trademark tailored jacket and the other a long tailored patterned lilac overcoat designed by Jane Throughton, who has dressed both Jodie Kidd and Laura Bailey.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
One of Kate's biggest fashion influences has been her mother, Carole. While most mothers and daughters enjoy spending the day together shopping, not every mother and daughter come away from the shops with similar purchases!
Kate gets a lot of her good looks and sophisticated style from Carole. They both love to wear soft tailored jackets and neat coats all year round, traditional country casuals in the day and jaw dropping, vibrant gowns for the evening. Next time you want to know what Kate is going to be wearing, you had better check that Carole hasn't been seen in it first.
'SO DISCREET AND STRAIGHTFORWARD BUT HIGHLY AWARE OF FASHION TRENDS ... SHE WILL HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD TO BECOME FULLY INTEGRATED INTO HER NEW ROLE AND CHOOSE THE MOST SOPHISTICATED AND PRECIOUS DRESSES AND OUTFITS FOR OFFICIAL OCCASIONS.'
'FOR THE ROYALS, APPARENTLY THE ROYAL BLOOD IS NOT IN DEMAND ANY LONGER. BETTER FOR THE GENERATION TO COME ... SHE SEEMS A VERY WELL-BALANCED AND A HAPPY PERSON. SHE IS CHIC IN A WAY THE POSITION NEEDS.'
Nearly a decade down the line, Kate has evolved from student to princess effortlessly. She now possesses a lot of power in the fashion industry and has the ability to make or break designers, inspire generations of women and influence fashion editors worldwide. Everyone is waiting for her next style move and, as a new addition to the royal family, Kate's style credentials are only going to get bigger and better.
ROYAL FASHION PROTOCOL
Although it's obvious Kate has taken her role as a royal seriously, and has made her transition from student to royal princess almost without a single hiccup, she will still have to watch what she wears and adapt her own personal style to accommodate the rules of royal dressing.
Even though some have crowned it the fashion saviour, and it can be found in nearly every woman's wardrobe, the Little Black Dress (LBD) will never be found hanging inside a royal closet. Royal ladies don't usually wear black unless they are in mourning. Unfortunately, it does mean we won't get to see any more of Kate in those sheer-bodice black dresses. Let's hope Kate finds a way to bend the rules! The Queen has only ever been seen wearing black at funerals, during Remembrance or in the company of the Pope. And Princess Diana only wore black on one occasion after her engagement – she never made that mistake again. Of course, once she had separated from Charles, little black dresses became her ultimate wardrobe essential!
While black is a 'no-no', bright bold colours are absolutely 'go-go' for the royals. Royal ladies usually wear brightly-coloured clothes to set them apart from the public. The only time you will see them in dowdy colours is when they are in the countryside, when they will wear the tweed outfits that are in keeping with countryside tradition.
Fortunately for Kate, she will never be able to repeat her biggest fashion gaffe on the catwalk, or in public, again. See-through clothes are without question ruled out of a royal wardrobe and so too are short skirts and low-cut tops. So there will be no more shots of Kate sunning herself in her bikini or partying in a short dress.
The monarchy's diary is always full of dates that require a hat for the occasion. Kate is regularly spotted wearing different headpieces, from a casual beret to a feathery fascinator, and she will have many more opportunities to wear glamorous hats in the future. The Queen has great flair when it comes to the hat department, let's hope Kate, as the queen of style, keeps her hats simple and stylish and doesn't try to steal the Queen's limelight!
Traditionally royal women wear gloves while shaking hands with people, although it is not compulsory. Diana never wore gloves when meeting and greeting the public but the Queen is nearly always seen wearing gloves when touring and greeting the public.
Jewellery, including tiaras, necklaces and earrings, is an important accessory to many royal women. Kate will have access to some of the wonderful jewels that the monarchy has inherited. Pearls and diamonds have always been popular with the royal family so expect to see Kate wearing lots of traditional beautiful statement necklaces – but let's hope she adds her own modern twist to keep her on trend.
A WORLDWIDE ROYAL INSPIRATION
Kate isn't the only stylish princess in the royal fashion pack. Around the world there are some stunning, fashionable and intelligent princesses setting a very high standard. So if Kate is ever in doubt, she will have a choice of classy royal women to look up to and take inspiration from. In fact, she will have a lot to live up to!
Crown Princess Letizia of Spain
Name: Her Royal Highness the Princess of Asturias, Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano.
Date of Birth: 15 September 1972.
Parents: Jesus Ortiz Alvarez and Paloma Rocasolano Rodriguez. Letizia is the eldest of three sisters.
Married: His Royal Highness The Prince of Asturias, Felipe, at the Cathedral of Madrid, 22 May 2004.
Family: Two daughters – Leonor born 31 October 2005 and Sofia born 29 April 2007.
Education: Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Complutense University of Madrid. A Master's Degree in Audiovisual Journalism from the Institute for Studies in Audiovisual Journalism.
Work: Worked in the media as a journalist, writing for the Mexican newspaper Siglo 21, Austrian newspaper La Nueva España, ABC newspaper and EFE Agency. Television work has also included Bloomberg TV, newscaster, editor and reporter at CNN+ and TVE (Spanish television). She received the Larra Award, awarded by the Madrid Press Association to the most distinguished young journalist of the year.
Official Duties: Letizia began undertaking the duties of her husband Felipe, Prince of Asturias, as soon as they were married and travelled extensively through Spain in representation of the King. They also represented Spain in other countries including, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Brazil, Japan and China.
Fashion: 'Her clothing is still elegant, but it's more contemporary, even semi-daring for a princess. She feels more comfortable with herself in the role, and her clothing reflects that.' Montes-Fernandez, fashion editor
Letizia was named Vanity Fair magazine's fifth best-dressed woman of 2008 and number two on Vanity Fair's renowned Best Dressed List for 2009. She boasts a wondrous wardrobe full of designer dresses, enviable heels, gorgeous gowns, and a collection of matching accessories. For many, she became a fashion icon the moment she waltzed down the aisle five years ago in Manuel Pertegaz couture. Spanish women can definitely relate to her style. Her look is the perfect combination of Spanish high-street pieces and high-end fashion. In the past Letizia has teamed demure shift dress from the high street with designer shoes straight off the catwalk. Like Kate, she embraces bold colours and shops local, but where Kate looks to high-street shops like Topshop, Jigsaw and Whistles to liven up her royal look, Letizia turns to Spanish high-street brands like Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti to wear with her high-end pieces