The Duchess of Cambridge’s Style Evolution

The Duchess of Cambridge in green Dolce and Gabbana dress during kelowna visit in 2016
Canadian Heritage Flickr

The Duchess of Cambridge is well known for her elegant, classic, sartorial style, and as one of the most photographed women in the world, a lot of consideration is put into every outfit. While her fashion has evolved over the past (nearly) ten years since joining the Royal Family, she has always managed to retain her signature regal flare whilst incorporating the changing trends. Let’s take a look back at how her style has evolved.

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The Duchess attended her first official engagements with Prince William in late 2010 and early 2011 in the months leading up to the Royal Wedding. We saw her dress in outfits that very much echoed her pre-royal style, but with a slightly more polished touch.

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Throughout 2011 she debuted a number of big designers, such as Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham, and Erdem — designers which she would return to many times over the years and still does to this day.

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The Duchess gravitated towards a lot of just-above-the-knee dresses during her first several years of marriage, opting for many youthful designs and styles we see little of today.

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The Duchess of Cambridge is a very effective ambassador for the British High Street and designer fashion, often wearing a mixture of the two to her various official engagements. High Street brands we have seen a lot of over the years include LK Bennett, Goat, Hobbs, Reiss, Jane Taylor, Emmy London, Beulah London and Really Wild Clothing. Below we see her in a jacket and dress ensemble by LK Bennett, one of her most-worn brands for clothing and accessories since she became a Duchess.

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From 2011 until late 2014, her most-worn pair of heels was easily her LK Bennett ‘Sledge’ nude pumps, seen without fail during the warmer months.

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One item we have seen dominate the Duchess’ wardrobe since she joined the Royal Family is the classic knee-length coat-dress, many of which are by Catherine Walker. These designs have been a constant staple for her when attending church services, memorial events, garden parties and weddings, and we continue to see them to this day.

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When it comes to Kate’s maternity styles, a number of her outfits were repeated through her three pregnancies. She would opt for a lot of knee-length dresses and coats during each pregnancy in 2013, 2015 and 2018, with many solid and bold colours.

The Duchess of Cambridge wearing Jenny Packham blue contrast trim coat
Jenny Packham blue contrast trim coat (photo RCOG)

As for ball gowns, The Duchess of Cambridge has always managed to provide the ‘wow’ factor, and more often than not she wears a bespoke or customised design — her go-to designers for black and white tie events being Alexander McQueen or Jenny Packham.

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Through the years we have seen her experiment with slightly more daring and bold ball gown designs (bold for a Royal, that is!), including dresses with thigh-high slits, deep V-necklines, off-the-shoulder necklines, and modern cuts.

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While some of her outfits are considered ‘safe’, Kate has worn the occasional unexpected look that draws very different opinions from fans. An example is her gold floral gown by Erdem, worn during the Royal Tour of Sweden and Norway in 2018, shown below.

The Duchess of Cambridge wore mustard Erdem gown in Sweden

Something that has remained consistent throughout the past decade is The Duchess of Cambridge’s expertise in sartorial diplomacy, also referred to as ‘diplomatic dressing’. Many of her outfits reflect a deep understanding of the particular occasion and location. She often opts for particular colours, designers, or custom details that pay tribute to the place she is visiting or the people she is meeting. These little touches are sometimes so subtle that the average person would miss them, but it just goes to show the immense thought and planning that goes into her wardrobe.

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These thoughtful details are often seen on royal tours, where we see the Duchess try new styles and designers from the country being visited. An example of this was during the Royal Tour of Pakistan in 2019 when Kate wore the traditional salwar kameez (tunic and trousers) and dupatta (scarf) to a number of events, created by local designers and incorporating specific flowers and colours significant to the country as a nod to her hosts.

The Duchess of Cambridge won the heart with her diplomatic dressing during the Pakistan visit in 2019
Kensington Palace

Another consistency in her style has been her penchant for Alexander McQueen bespoke designs. Ever since she married William in a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding dress, The Duchess of Cambridge has returned to the designer label for bespoke dresses and dress-coats made especially for her for significant royal events such as the Trooping the Colour, Order of the Garter, various church services, weddings, and christenings.

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Kate’s casual, country-style has also remained similar from 2011 until today. She is great at putting together a quintessential English country ensemble for her outdoors engagements, usually opting for jackets, jumpers and gilets from brands such as Really Wild Clothing, Troy London, Dubarry and Barbour, paired with skinny jeans (often Zara) and a pair of boots. Her brown Penelope Chilvers boots have been in her wardrobe since 2005!

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As the Duchess of Cambridge grows in confidence in her role as a member of the Royal Family, she seems to have also gained more confidence in experimenting with the latest fashion trends and venturing outside of her style comfort zone. We saw a move from her go-to knee-length dresses, skinny jeans, and nude pumps, to midi dresses, wide-leg trousers, pantsuits, and padded headbands.

The Duchess of Cambridge has learnt to experiment with her wardrobe as her profile in royal family increases

From 2016 onwards, we saw a gradual shift away from the above-the-knee dresses as she discovered a new favourite hemline: the midi. Even though she favours the longer hem these days, it is a fresher, less formal and more on-trend look that she can pull off incredibly well with her height.

In the end of 2018 the Duchess of Cambridge left behind her chic style and moved towards the real wardrobe

In late 2018 we saw her embrace the wide-legged trouser trend, which she has continued to experiment with over the past couple of years, putting together very trendy but elegant ensembles from a mix of high street and high-end labels.

The Duchess of Cambridge wore floral headpiece to Prince Louis christening
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Another key trend the Duchess has enjoyed recently is the padded headband. She has worn several different styles of the headband, each of which provides a very flattering look and a bit of a change from her usual cocktail hat. While The Duchess often returns to the same selection of designers she knows and loves, over the past two or three years she has added quite a number of new designers and brands to her wardrobe. We have seen her branch out into the likes of & Other Stories, Faithful The Brand, Massimo Dutti, Gabriela Hearst, HVN, The Vampire’s Wife, Sandro Paris and Needle & Thread.

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Over the past decade, as the Duchess of Cambridge has settled well into her role and grown in confidence, we have seen her style gradually evolve from youthful, flirty and floaty styles to more sophisticated, grown-up choices that more directly reference the key fashion trends of the seasons. She has branched out and experimented with very fashion-forward looks over the past several years, while always managing to add that elegant, regal flare she is known for as she prepares for her role as Queen Consort one day.

The Duchess of Cambridge wore Emilia Wickstead's Anatola Pleated Polka-Dot Crepe Shirtdress at the launch of Tiny Happy People
Kensington Palace

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