I am so excited and extremely honored to have Jane Barr, the talented writer of From Berkshire to Buckingham take over the blog today! I am a huge fan of Kate Middleton, her amazing style and the way Ms. Barr blogs about her. From Berkshire to Buckingham is one of the most popular Kate Middleton blogs in the world, recently picked up by fashion network StyleList. Please enjoy!
I have already written this post once...and then I clicked delete instead of save. It was one of those restrain-yourself-from-smashing-your-computer-screen-in moments. Thankfully, I overcame the urge and here we are with Round 2. I will try and keep it shorter this time. I am Jane Barr, and I write the blog From Berkshire to Buckingham. Krissi asked me to write a guest post on Kate (Middleton) Cambridge, which I am very happy and excited to do!
I thought I would talk about Kate's style evolution, particularly related to tours. There has been a lot of talk in the media as we approach the April tour of Australia and New Zealand, that the Queen has mandated a change in Kate's style. Is this true? Are we about to experience a seismic shift in Kate's clothes? I want to look at the few major times we have seen Kate change up her look, not the usual progression from early 2000 bootleg jeans to skinnies sort of thing, but big shifts, radical changes. Kate is pretty even keel, but she has had a few. Let's take a look.
Kate has always been simple and classic. From the time she came to public attention when her name was first whispered in conjunction with the world's most eligible bachelor, her style stayed pretty steady. She was classic, British country, preppy, a little Sloane Ranger...conservative, with a modern twist. We saw the first big shift in 2007.
William broke Kate's heart when he called off their relationship in April. Rather than hide from the world, Kate threw herself into high gear. Her heels got a little taller, hemlines skyrocketed north, she added more glitz, a little glam, and a mega-watt-my-heart-isn't-broken smile as she aggressively hit the London party scene. She was splashed across every front page looking fabulous.
|Kate in July 2007 Clubbing in London|
Kate joined a rowing team of women who planned to race a dragon boat across the English Channel. The early morning workouts and intense fitness regime really saw a change in her body, which I believe also contributed to the change in clothes.
It worked. William realized he had made the mistake of his life and the two were back together by late summer, but Kate had found her sartorial feet as a 21st century princess-in-waiting. She was sleeker and sexier, while remaining sophisticated.
If you followed Kate back in the day, you know the reigning queen of Kate's "couture" was Issa. From evening gowns to day dresses, Issa was the go-to label. Kate's style was very much full, swinging skirts, and simple, simple evening gowns. Kate loves the plunging neckline, she likes to show off a little skin, but usually not too much at one time. Issa fit Kate's style profile to perfection.
The gunmetal Issa Kate wore to her charity event for Starlight in 2008 was a perfect example of the use of layering and geometrical designs to create detail and dimension. We still see that today.
Kate turned to Issa for one of the biggest moments of her life, when she stepped in front of the world in a royal blue jersey-knit that impeccably accented her priceless sapphire engagement ring. The swing of the skirt, the plunge of the v-neck, the relaxed fabric all epitomized Kate Middleton. It was perfect.
But, Issa's star was setting. Boosted by the world attention, Issa's founding designer Daniella Helayel decided to expand worldwide, and she partnered with Camilla al Fayed for financial backing. Camilla bought a 51% stake. Camilla is the daughter of Mohammed al Fayed, and the sister of Dodi, who met an untimely death in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris with Diana, Princess of Wales. Mohammed al Fayed has waged a ceaseless and vitriolic campaign against the Windsors ever since, insisting that Diana and Dodi were murdered by the Royal Family. In fact, right around the time that Kate and William announced their engagement, al Fayed took the Royal Coat of Arms and burned it on his estate. Kate wore Issa twice on her North American tour and she has never been seen in the label since. (Although, I am sure she still wears Issa plenty in private. That girl could go months in all the Issa she owns.) Sadly, in May 2013, Helayel left Issa altogether, so it isn't entirely clear that the partnership was a good one.
Who would fill Issa's place for Kate? Who would fill the gap for all of her most important moments? Naturally, all eyes were on her wedding day. Whichever designer snagged that commission had the coveted job of the century. When Kate stepped out of the Bentley at Westminster Abbey, the world heaved a collective sigh of delight, and McQueen took center stage. Indeed, McQueen has reigned fairly supreme ever since. Kate turns to the label again and again for modified or bespoke pieces, but to my mind, McQueen did not actually replace Issa. That fell to another designer we had yet to meet.
It took a while for the dust to settle and to determine that Jenny P was the new it-girl. Prehaps when you are a princess you have room for two top labels. McQueen still fills many of Kate's very regal moments. The BAFTA Goddess Gown, as I like to term it, the black velvet Millies dress, and the cream ruffled suit she christened her son in, are all McQueen, to name just a few. But, Kate has turned to Jenny P for many prominent moments, as well. In perhaps the most historic moment since she stepped into Westminster, Kate chose to wear Jenny Packham on the steps of the Lindo Wing as she presented her first-born, and the future king, to the world.
McQueen dresses the new princess that Kate has become, Jenny Packham taps into the Kate Middleton from the home counties, just with the right added glamour needed for the wife of the heir to the throne. My personal favorite evening gown since her marriage is the turquoise Jenny Packham that Kate wore to Our Greatest Team Rises. If this doesn't make you gasp, you need fashion therapy.
The second major style shift happened on her first tour. In 2011, not many months after her marriage, William and Kate traveled to Canada (and SoCal) for a North American Tour. This called for a massive wardrobe and so it was ripe for a fashion earthquake. Kate debuted a host of designers who have since become staples of her wardrobe, and she debuted a new look: the structured sheath dress.
Certainly a tad more professional, sophisticated, and regal, she injected this new silhouette into her style repertoire over those two weeks, and it has never left. Obviously, she maintains the same roots. She likes clean lines, she likes simple, but now with more structure. It took a little getting used to, but I love them all.
Did her style change when she went on her second tour to South East Asia? Not really. Not anywhere as much as the NA tour. Every tour has a certain theme. Interestingly, on the South East Asia tour, almost every skirt was full, with only a few sheath dresses in the mix.
Kate is a brand ambassador. As a UK royal, she predominantly wears British labels, although she heavily peppers her choices with Ralph Lauren, whose preppy style is perfect for Kate's British country, upperclass vibe, and random other designers--French designer Roland Mouret being a great example. As a nod to host countries, she might wear labels associated with the nation she is visiting or choose styles that fit in with the local heritage, traditions or climates. The Asian tour saw a lot of the old-faithfuls: Jenny P, Temperley, McQueen, etc, sometimes stylized for the climate and the culture.
So, what can we expect from this next tour? I suspect more of the same. Fashion is the language that women (and men) express themselves and tell their story with. We all organically evolve with the prevalent trends of the day, but a major style shift is usually brought about by something major in one's personal life. Certainly, this has been the case with Kate. The 2007 change was crisis for her. William was walking away. Kate didn't change her style for him, she released more of her true personality to the public. She dropped some of the princess-in-waiting care she had cloaked herself with, and let the sassier Kate come through. It worked, and I think she learned an invaluable lesson, which she expressed in her engagement interview: Be yourself. Express the real you.
In 2011, she had undergone another huge change. She had married William, been instantly transformed into the Duchess of Cambridge, the Countess of Strathearn, the Baroness Carrickfergus and a Princess of the United Kingdom. She had a new, shockingly public role to fill. So we saw a big shift.
If we see another shift this April, more formal attire, more jewelry, more "royal trappings," if you will, it will be to my mind because of a major shift, not because some palace aide suggested something. William has quit his job in the RAF, and the move toward full-time working royal is fast galloping up. Furthermore, they have a son now, an heir to the throne. Life is different, Kate is different. We may well see more gravitas, but I don't expect anything too radical. It is, however, important to remember that Australia and New Zealand are huge chunks of the Commonwealth, so it won't be surprising if the tone of the clothes for this tour have added weight.
That wraps it up for the moment! The tour will be amazing! I cannot wait to see her many choices. Thankfully for fashion bloggers everywhere, I do not expect Kate to wear four outfits a day. She hasn't done that in her past two tours, and I don't think we will see that on this one. We will still have plenty of variety, and plenty of changes--it should be a wild ride. And of course, little (big) baby George will be along, as well. Hope you join me for it! You can find me on Twitter @HRHKateBlog and on Facebook.