Quiet, composed and refined, the new Princess of Wales is never anything but the picture of professionalism.
When Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge in the spring of 2011, there was a marked shift in her style. Now, more than 10 years on, the royal is embarking on the next chapter of her life, as the new Princess of Wales. If we thought watching Kate retire her Longchamp totes and Issa wrap dresses—so long, Sloane Ranger!—was a transformation, this next step on her path to becoming Queen Consort will be a subtle, but powerful rebrand.
Her decade in the spotlight has been valuable preparation for the position. As the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate learned the power of diplomatic dressing, the symbolism buried deep in the royal family’s jewelry box, the importance of sustainability, and the value of approachability combined with a killer blow-dry. Now, she will have to elevate this image further. Clever tweaks have already come into effect.
Kate’s most recent look—a deep blue Chanel bouclé blazer, Roland Mouret wide-leg trousers and Gianvito Rossi pumps— was a statement of intent regarding the Princess’s wardrobe. Dating back to 1995, the most valuable year for vintage, Kate’s Chanel jacket showed that she is not only keenly aware of the importance of championing archival fashion over always buying new, but that she understands what a true investment looks like and what it stands for (Deloitte recently suggested a Chanel handbag is currently a smarter purchase than a car).
The luxury acquisition—something we can expect more of as Kate builds her own timeless archive—followed a couple of Zara blazers and a memorable Karen Millen dress, which made clear that Kate might have the bank account of a Princess, but she’s not about to turn her back on the high-street brands that benefit from her support. The “Kate effect”, whereby an affordable label sells out of an item as soon as she is photographed wearing it, is a valuable form of currency for both parties. Kate is one of the most powerful fashion influencers in the world, and her new status will only amplify this.
Much has been made of her stepping into the role of the former Princess of Wales, Lady Diana, but Kate’s style is markedly different from her late mother-in-law’s. Aside from the occasional sentimental nod to Di’s wardrobe, such as their shared love of polka dots, the newly appointed Princess seems to take more cues from the Queen. Lively colors—the sunny hue of that Karen Millen pleated midi was not an obvious choice for autumn—have become a mainstay of Kate’s aesthetic, and her appointments since Her Majesty’s funeral show she’s not paring back this cheerful approach in line with her new, arguably more serious persona. Let’s not forget that it was all about classics for the Queen, too.
The key to tempering these bolder moments and keeping them sleek is Kate’s relationship with her tailor. The immaculate fit of all her workwear is down to some nifty behind-the-scenes nipping and tucking. Nothing ever looks too boxy or pinched (compare and contrast with the ill-fitting uniforms of the politicians the Princess is frequently pictured alongside in the news). Alterations are key when you’re photographed from every angle and this, like the senior royals she has learned from, will be Kate’s secret weapon going forward. It is hard to put a foot wrong, as she proved when meeting Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska recently, and greeting volunteers from the Queen’s funeral, when your everyday armour is refined.
In the few weeks since Kate’s title has changed, she has also made it clear that she’s still keen to project a fashion-conscious image to the world (Diana’s influence at play, perhaps). As well as that Chanel jacket—a true gem which will always pique any insider’s interest—she has worn chunky Laura Lombardi jewelry. No, this is not earth-shattering royal style news, but it’s enough to send a signal to editors that she is keeping a finger on the pulse while ticking all the sensible style boxes.
As Kate’s new role becomes more defined, we’ll naturally see the same Alessandra Rich tea dresses, DeMellier top-handle bags and Kiki McDonough hoops in action, but make no mistake, the wardrobe pillars Kate is currently focusing on— tailoring, vintage, forever pieces and silhouettes—will come to define her own legacy. Quiet, composed and conservative, the new unfailingly put-together Princess of Wales is never anything but the picture of professionalism. With the world watching her more closely than ever before, Kate is slowly but surely picking up a baton from the late Queen—by unfailingly representing quality fashion that’s built to last.
This post was originally published on Vogue UK