Thursday September 13, 2012
Kate - Regal and real
By DZIREENA MAHADZIR
From glamorous Alexander McQueen gowns to recycling her clothes, she is a duchess who sets off a fashion revolution.
IN 1981, a beautiful, former kindergarten teacher married the heir to a throne. She went on to become the people’s princess and was acknowledged as one of the most stylish women in the world.
Though she died tragically before her time, her son, now also in line to the throne, married a beautiful “commoner”, who is presently acknowledged as one of the most stylish women in the world.
Is fashion history repeating itself? And who really wears the crown of eternal style? It would have been interesting to witness the bonding of the late Diana, Princess of Wales and her daughter-in-law, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Would they have gone high street shopping together? Why not? Princess Diana did raise her children to lead an ordinary life.
Catherine, arguably the most watched woman on the planet at this point, has the ability to move fashion unlike anyone else. (It will be interesting to see what she’ll wear on her visit to Malaysia. Prince William and Catherine arrive in Kuala Lumpur today; their visit is in line with the celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee).
By just donning a dress, Catherine – more fondly known as Kate – can quite literally turn an outfit into a must-have, never mind that it’s out-of-stock, or from the past season or two. In some cases, some of these designs were reissued.
Who else can do that? This is quite extraordinary, as in the world of fashion, it’s the kiss of death to be seen in last season’s clothes.
The duchess however, has made it not only fashionable, it is now perfectly acceptable to wear an outfit ... twice. And at high profile events.
For example, a grey shift by Roksanda Ilincic worn at an event at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on July 31, 2012 was first spotted in 2011 on an official visit to Los Angeles, the United States.
She’s even wore the same outfit in a space of (gasp!) two weeks: an Emilia Wickstead dress worn to a reception before Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee lunch on May 18 was then seen at a garden party at Buckingham Palace on May 30!
And just to let you know how she is so much like the rest of us (don’t lie and say you’ve never raided your mother’s wardrobe before), she made her first official solo speech at the opening of the Treehouse Children’s Hospice on March 19 in a blue Reiss frock that her mother, Carole Middleton, wore to the Ascot horse races in 2010. Do not faint, she is just like us.
So if someone says to you, “Haven’t I seen you wearing that outfit before?”, you can reply in your snootiest air: “Darling, I am doing a Duchess of Cambridge. WE are always in style.”
As always, when it comes to fashion or style icons, their wardrobe is dissected to death; either cut to shreds or gushed with reverence by the self-appointed fashion police.
Every single fashion critic or writer would have written reams on their choices and colours. I’ve written before on the Duchess’ style evolution, and of course, have waxed lyrical on Princess Diana, my all-time favourite Princess.
In the interest of being a fair critic, and bearing absolutely no favouritism, as I’m also a major fan of the Duchess, let’s do a rundown on how their styles panned out (see sidebar on Princess power).
But before I go any further, can I just point out something: No matter who you find more stylish, I can’t quite see the Duchess turning an emerald choker into a headband like her late mother-in-law did.
Diana was the epitome of style and she carried it with major attitude, while the Duchess is the perfect ideal of what a modern day princess should be, according to the palace.
We can’t presume to know what really goes on behind closed doors, but the Duchess has so far, not put a well-shod nude L.K. Bennet foot out of place. She is polished, impeccably groomed, wears British designers, does her own hair and make-up (even on her wedding day) and she even recycles her clothes. Is that not the blueprint of a model princess in these economically-challenged times? Or Duchess, in this case?
You can say the royalty should be different, and not like the hoi polloi, but that’s not the way it’s done today. The world of the opulence, excessiveness, decadence and indulgence belong to the world of the nouveau rich, reality stars and footballers’ wives or girlfriends.
Kate is never one of those women who followed trends slavishly. She wore classics, but somehow still managed to make them look modern. Even pre-engagement, she was never seen in trendy items. She liked cropped blazers and floral dresses paired with cardigans. Her skirts tended to be just above the knees and she loved her boots.
Favourite brands were British, of course, with Jigsaw, Kew, Whistles and L.K. Bennett leading the way, and high-end brands were added as she got closer to the nuptials, culminating in Alexander McQueen and Burberry.
What’s interesting about the Alexander McQueen outfits is that hers are of the more sober variety; the actual McQueen outfits are more edgy. She dons the wearable versions.
As she moved into duchess territory, her look became more honed and polished. Like Diana, the combination of the tailored jacket and fitted skirt works well for public engagements. Her choices are pretty much pared down to well-cut suits, smart coats (preferably double breasted), the perfect hat or fascinator, and the ever-present nude pumps.
Her bags are rather discreet and tend to be a little clutch or a carry-on. And when it comes to dresses, it is never anything outlandish.
For colours, she’s not afraid to take risks, sailing down London’s River Thames for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant in a red Alexander McQueen dress and clutch with a floral hat by Sylvia Fletcher for John Locke and Company.
McQueen remains a favourite as she wore a white dress with a Jane Corbett fascinator for the Order of the Garter procession at Windsor Castle this year. There are also the military style outfits, also by McQueen, which is a look she carries off very well.
And she likes the designer so much she has no problems with repeating the outfit, wearing a white dress with navy trimmings to a visit on Prince Edward Island in Canada in 2011 and a year later, to a match at Wimbledon.
My favourite outfit of hers to date has to be the white Roland Mouret gown she paired with Jimmy Choo heels at a gala event marking the countdown to the London Olympic games. I think she looked stunning.
Such is her influence, the fashion industry has coined a term for it: the “Kate effect”.
Do you doubt the power of Catherine the great? Here are some fashion moments:
> The famous deep blue Issa wrap dress she wore during the announcement of the engagement flew off the racks immediately and launched a thousand imitations.
> The Reiss dress she wore for her official engagement portrait (which was from her own wardrobe and from the 2009 line) was reissued by the brand.
> The beige Burberry trench coat in 2010 sold out in stores immediately.
> The beige Reiss bandage dress she wore when she met Michelle Obama at Buckingham Palace was sold out in the United States. It also caused the retailer’s website to crash.
> An appearance in pair of coral jeans while meeting members of Britain’s hockey team caused a boost in sales for the jeans.
> When the Duchess accompanied Queen Elizabeth II to Leicester earlier this year to kick-off her Diamond Jubilee tour in Britain, she wore a jacket and dress designed by L.K. Bennett. Of course, it was sold out after she wore it.
This is just a sample of the “Kate effect”; to go into every single one would be like doing a dissertation.
And she topped it off by heading the list of Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list this year and being on its cover this month.
Actually, she just did something even better. She helped London outdo New York in the style stakes. Reuters reported earlier this month that London had topped New York as the global fashion capital for the second consecutive year.
According to Paul Payack, the president of the Global Language Monitor (GLM), which compiles the annual results, the Duchess and the 2012 Summer Olympics helped London retain the title for the second consecutive year.
“Kate Middleton has proved to be incredibly impactful on the British fashion brand,” said Payack, adding that a recent survey showed her influence has contributed to millions of pounds in sales this year.
“The second thing is the Olympics being in the UK.” Please note the Olympics came SECOND after the Duchess.
Those who feel that Kate doesn’t take enough fashion risks don’t realise that the Duchess is someone, who like most stylish women, knows exactly what will work for them.
The combination of high street choices and a few luxury brands thrown into the mix, is worn with a clear eye as to what really suits her.
That’s what personal style is about. Witness other pillars of style and see how they worked it. The Duchess of Windsor, Jackie Onassis, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Dello Russo, Carine Roitfeld, Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham, just to name a few.
They all know what suits them and they all have a distinct personal style. And yes, I didn’t forget Princess Diana, she was always stylish as well.
These were all women who also styled themselves, not for them the personal stylists!
The most important message Kate sends out when it comes to her appearance is this: you don’t need a million bucks to look fabulous.
She makes it perfectly natural to wear the same outfit again, don reasonably-priced clothes, do your own hair and make-up and yet still come out looking polished and perfect.
Kate, like her late mother-in-law, will go down in fashion history as one of the most stylish Royals of our time.
And what’s more astonishing is that she has managed to accomplish all these in just one year. Long live the Duchess of style!
Want that Duchess of Cambridge style but can’t afford a Burberry? The Daily Chilli asked experts to show how anyone can get the Kate look with a little clever make-up and some smart tips on high street fashion. Go to dailychilli.com to see how we transformed one regular girl into a royal beauty.