The Duchess at 40 Part 2: Daywear Designs

Hello-Hello, I am back with Part 2 of The Duchess at 40.  Today’s post focuses on daywear.  I initially said it would also include formal outfits, but that would make it much too long.  (And it is already too long.)  

The Duchess of Cambridge encounters many different environments and situations when carrying out engagements.  Some are casual, some dressy, and some are formal.  The majority fit in what I call the ‘daywear’ category, encompassing basic dresses, trousers, and suits.  (We’ll have a separate look at the Duchess’s sporty and casual styles.)  

COATS: The Duchess has long had a strong coat game.  We begin with a personal favorite, the aubergine coat with princess seams and funnel neckline by ‘an independent British dressmaker’ (many of us believe this is an Alexander McQueen design), seen on Christmas Day 2011; the by DAY Birger et Mikkelsen style showcasing a gold-tinged brocade fabric seen at Zara Tindall’s 2011 wedding (seen again at other events); when visiting Dundee, Scotland in October 2015, the Duchess wore a striking blue houndstooth design by Christopher Kane described as a “slim-fitted dogtooth wool tailored coat with belt” atop a black turtleneck and matching blue kilt; when doing a day of engagements in Manchester in October 2016, the Duchess chose a checked design by Erdem with softly rounded lapels and lightly padded shoulders; for a May 2014 visit to Scotland, the Duchess wore Jonathan Saunders’ Athena’ coat in a wool-mohair blend; on Christmas Day 2014 the Duchess wore the Moloh ‘Turpin’ coat in a brown and cream tweed with epaulets and decorative tabs at the cuffs.

Other notable designs include the much-loved Black Watch tartan Alexander McQueen design first worn on St. Andrew’s Day in 2012 when Kate visited her old prep school.  For Christmas Day 2017, the Duchess wore the Miu Miu Tartan Pea Coat, a double-breasted style with a velvet collar and back tab.  At the March 2016 Commonwealth Day service, the Duchess wore a grey and black Erdem style with a laser-cut design.  The Roksanda’ Denton’ Coat was worn in early January 2020 when the Duke and Duchess attended church at Sandringham.  It is done in a striking fabric that mixes midnight-blue and orange hues in a midweight wool-blend fabric.

Other outerwear in the Duchess’s solid coat collection: the red and green double-breasted Catherine Walker designs seen on Christmas Day 2018 (berry red) and at a November 2018 Remembrance event, both showcasing velvet trim at their collars, cuffs, and pockets.  Next, the light blue caped Mulberry design worn in Northern Ireland in 2019, described by the brand as “a reinterpretation of the classic trench coat.” For a January 2020 engagement, the Duchess was in a design by Massimo Dutti, the brand’s Cashmere Wool Camel Coat, another double-breasted style.  Also in January 2020, the Duchess debuted a new dark green coat by Alexander McQueen during a day of engagements in Bradford, then brought the garment back in Galway in March 2020. One more Alexander McQueen in this montage, the light blue military-inspired Utility Coat first worn in May of 2014 at the Blenheim War Memorial in New Zealand and seen at several other engagements, most recently in 2019.

When hosting a special movie screening last May at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland, the Duchess debuted a striking tartan design by Holland Cooper, the Marlborough Trench Coat.  Many will remember the M Missoni design seen at one of the June 2016 Somme commemorations.  The Long Snake Stitch design showcased the distinctive Missoni zig-zag motif accented by metallic threads in the fabric.; it was first worn in December 2014 and again in December 2017.  In the center, a Catherine Walker style worn for a National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s in June 2016.  Next, the rich blue M Missoni design first worn in March 2012 to visit Fortnum & Mason with HM and the Duchess of Cornwall.  We round out this group with Seraphine Maternity’s ‘Marina’ coat on the far right, an empire-waist design in a wool-blend bouclé specially designed for the Duchess and then added to the brand’s inventory.

Our final group of coats includes styles by the Duchess’s go-to cadre of designs.

Above left, an Alexander McQueen design first seen at Remembrance Sunday in 2015 and worn again at a November 2016 memorial service, a double-breasted design featuring black velvet panels.  Second from the left, the much-loved ‘Samurai’ design by McQueen, with its sculptural elements was worn to the Duchess’s First Trooping the Colour ceremony in 2011 and brought back for June 2012 Order of the Garter as shown above.  In the center, Catherine Walker’s coat worn for another Order of the Garter event, this one in 2016.  (It was first worn in July of 2011 during the Canada tour.) The next design is also red and also by Catherine Walker, the Russian Greatcoat worn to the March 2019 Commonwealth service; it initially debuted when the Cambridges arrived in Wellington, New Zealand, in April 2014; on the right, a green Catherine Walker design worn multiple times.

COATDRESSES: The Duchess has demonstrated a strong affinity for coatdresses, a category that can be confusing.  First, some background on the subject.  In 1915 Vogue wrote: “The coatdress has an assured future.  It can be worn over a waistcoat, petticoat or princess slip.” Wikipedia defines a coatdress this way: “A coatdress or coat dress is a woman’s dress that resembles an overcoat, usually with collar, lapels and front fastenings similar to a coat, and made in spring- or autumn-weight fabrics.” You may note that the item is even spelled two ways; I’m going with the one-word version.  Another source of confusion: some garments referred to as coatdresses in product descriptions may be worn as a coat by the Duchess.  Despite the confusion, there are several pieces that should be included in this category. Some of the most notable styles by Catherine Walker and Alexander McQueen.

Below, three recent Catherine Walker coatdresses.

Above, the red and black ‘Beau Tie’ coatdresses seen at the December 2021 taping of a Christmas Carol program (red) and the April 2021 funeral for the Duke of Edinburgh.  The description for the red dress reads, “A Scarlet red wool coatdress with pleats falling gently from the shoulder to tie into a bow at the neckline.” For the May 2021 Closing Ceremony of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Duchess chose a cornflower blue wool style with princess seams, an off-center front closure, and a full skirt with box pleats. 

Below, four more looks, beginning with a Catherine Walker design that has the fit and flare silhouette the Duchess is so fond of, worn for the April 2019 Anzac Day Service.  It is a modified version of the brand’s ‘Amber’ style, described this way as a “sharp peacock blue coatdress.” Second from the left, a pale blue Emilia Wickstead design worn for a May 2017 solo trip to Luxembourg.  It is made of double wool crepe fabric and showcases a fit and flare silhouette.  For July 2017 events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, the Duchess wore another Catherine Walker design, the brand’s Melrose coatdress.  Another Emilia Wickstead design was worn for Order of the Thistle events in 2012 and seen again in April 2016 when arriving in Bhutan. 

Alexander McQueen has designed several garments that some consider coatdresses.  (Several of these strike me as dresses more than anything, while the official Palace release on the dress worn to the Meghan & Harry wedding referred to that garment as a “coat.”) From left to right: the look worn for August 2014 ceremonies in Belgium commemorating the Centenary of the First World War, a design based on McQueen’s “Bullett Pleat Short Coat dress”; next, a pink pleated piece worn at a May 2019 Buckingham Palace garden party; the ivory style worn for Princess Charlotte’s christening; and the very similar design worn for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding in May 2018. 

SKIRT SUITS: The Duchess clearly favors dresses for daywear, but she has worn many skirt suits over the years.  Most feature a fitted jacket with a full skirt, as seen in the following montage.  From left to right, the white Alexander McQueen design worn during the 2012 Jubilee Tour in Singapore; a tweed ensemble by Rebecca Taylor worn at the February 2017 opening of a Ronald McDonald House at Evelina Children’s Hospital; a purple Oscar de la Renta suit crafted of a stretch wool boucle worn for the November 2019 Nook Hospice opening (it was first worn in February 2017 and again in January 2019); another tweed design, a Dolce & Gabbana look seen at a school conference in February 2015, (this skirt is a drop-waist style cut on the bias with a fringed hem); the Paule Ka style brought back for February 2017 engagements in northern Wales (first seen in October of 2012). 

One of the Duchess’s most frequently worn skirt suits is this Luisa Spagnoli design.

We move now to the garment forming the Duchess’s working wardrobe base: the dress.  The Duchess has worn many designs and designers, from luxury brands to high street labels like Zara, Topshop, and H&M.   

DRESSES: We’ll begin with dresses that may appear simple on the surface, offering little ornamentation or embellishment.  The Duchess has worn many solid color pieces that are elevated a notch because of design and tailoring details like darts, pleats, and other methods used to create points of interest.  Here are four examples: the Reiss ‘Shola’ dress was worn for William and Kate’s 2011 meeting with the Obamas; the ‘Scarlett’ dress by GOAT Fashion (now Jane Atelier) was worn for a July 2014 school visit, crafted of a wool-crepe material with pleating and darts at the waist; LK Bennett’s royal blue ‘Detroit’ dress is a rayon/poly blend with a cinched waist; on the far right, a vibrant red Armani Collezioni suit seen at an April 2017 school engagement. 

The Duchess frequently wears designs offering a full, pleated skirt.  Below you see the Kate Spade ‘Diamond’ Pleat Dress worn for a November 2017 visit to the Foundling Museum;  an Alessandra Rich style seen at the May 2021 V&A reopening; the Chanel dress seen when the Duke and Duchess visited Paris in March 2017; a black and white houndstooth Zara dress worn to October 2021 engagements in London that was first worn in January 2020). 

The Duchess’s working wardrobe includes several memorable designs featuring placed prints – dresses where the architecture of the dress requires precise cutting and seaming to showcase a specific section of fabric.  We share several below, beginning with one of the most-loved frocks worn by the Duchess, the Lasa Poppies dress by LK Bennett, first worn when the Duke and Duchess visited an Australian Air Force base in 2014 and again in August 2016; next, Alexander McQueen’s ‘Obsessions Talisman’ print seen at Wimbledon in July 2016; we return to Wimbledon in 2017 when the Duchess wore a Catherine Walker design, a classic fit and flare design showcasing the Fleurs Sauvages, or “Wildflowers” pattern; on the far right you see the Naeem Khan dress worn when the Duke and Duchess visited the Taj Mahal in 2016. 

There are specific fabrics the Duchess favors, including Broderie Anglaise or English embroidery (sometimes referred to as eyelet).  While not seen as frequently now as in Kate’s early years as a Duchess, it still shows up in her working wardrobe.  Here you see several examples (from left to right): the ‘Mabel’ shirt by MiH Jeans, featuring scallop trim on the neck and puffed sleeves, worn at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show; the tiered red and white Alexander McQueen dress worn during the 2016 Canada tour; the ‘Roamer Day Dress’ by Australian brand Zimmermann was seen at Wimbledon in July 2014, but here it is shown as first worn during the 2014 Australia tour; the midnight blue dress from Mulberry seen on the Jubilee Tour in 2012; and the primrose yellow dress created by an “independent dressmaker,” initially worn on the 2012 Jubilee Tour, then brought back for a 2014 visit to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. 

A closer look at the textiles used in some of the designs shown above. 

Another favorite fabric: lace. From left to right: Dolce and Gabbana’s Lace Guipure Dress in a color called ‘eggplant,’ first worn in October 2015; Dolce & Gabbana’s Black Lace Midi Dress worn to the 2015 Festival of Remembrance; a white lace Dolce and Gabbana worn to Royal Ascot in 2016; more white lace at Ascot, this time an Alexander McQueen design worn in 2017; at the 2019 Royal Ascot meet, the Duchess chose soft blue separates by Elie Saab.

There are other instances when the fabric makes the dress, in these following cases, primarily solid colors with design details that separate the dresses from your run-of-the-mill everyday look.  We begin with a green dress was by Eponine London made of wool bouclé with cut-out pockets and button detailing at the hip.  For an October 2017 visit to Paddington Station, the Duchess wore a soft peach Orla Kiely dress with appliqued flowers.  When visiting a traditional German market in Heidelberg, Kate wore a sunny yellow piece by Jenny Packham with a fitted bodice and princess seaming accentuated by white piping.  The blue Temperley Eclipse was worn in October 2017 for a Buckingham Palace reception and would work as well in the lace montage above as it does here.  On the far right, the See by Chloé knit dress features a fit and flare design with an openworked bodice and sleeves.  It is shown when worn for a May 2017 palace party; it was first seen during the 2016 Canada tour.

The Duchess is more than fond of floral prints.  Examples include the ‘Encore Rose’ Chiffon Dress by Kate Spade seen at World Mental Health Day engagements in October 2016; next, a dress by Ridley London worn for a June 2019 photo workshop; second from the right, Emilia Wickstead’s ‘Aurora’ dress in cotton seersucker, worn for the September 2019 unveiling of the ‘Back to Nature Garden’; when helping plant a garden in June 2020 at The Nook Children’s Hospice, the Duchess wore the Marie-Louise Midi Dress by Faithfull the Brand. 

One cannot overstate the importance of Kate’s cadre of designers across her wardrobe, not just for black-tie occasions. 

Catherine Walker designs cover everyday engagements, outerwear, dresses, coatdresses, suits, and maternity wear.  The light blue suit worn for the Duchess’s solo trip to The Netherlands in October 2016 featured a fitted bodice with a wide collar and peplum waist; second from the left, a dress worn for engagements in Leicester in November 2018 (this one could also be considered a coatdress); a coat worn last May for a day of engagements in the West Midlands; on the right, the chocolate brown maternity style seen several times.

With Alexander McQueen, we see the Duchess wearing pieces that can be considered occasionwear, like christening ensembles, Trooping the Colour styles, and Remembrance Sunday designs.  Many of these styles are then seen again at less formal events.  Below, the red dress worn for the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant in 2012 and brought back for two other occasions; the design worn for Prince George’s christening in October of 2013 was repeated at a May 2016 garden party; in the center, the Duchess wearing a soft pink dress in Australia in 2014; second from the right, the champagne lace dress first worn for a 2012 church service marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; on the far right, the soft yellow dress worn for 2019 Trooping the Colour events.

The Duchess has worn Emilia Wickstead for tours, special occasions, maternity wear, and everyday engagements.  Here you see the Duchess in a version of the ‘Denver’ Dress worn for last year’s Ladies’ Singles Final at Wimbledon; the tartan skirt worn for a 2019 Christmas party at Kensington Palace; an ivory Wool Crepe Midi Dress worn for engagements during the India Tour; the pink pleated design first worn to the May 2012 Sovereigns’ Luncheon; on the far right, a modified version of the designer’s ‘Marella’ coat worn to a May 2013 garden party at Buckingham Palace. 

Tops, trousers, sweaters, shoes, handbags, dresses, and coats by LK Bennett have been a part of the Duchess’s wardrobe for more than ten years.  Below left, the ‘Dee’ Crepe Shift Dress worn for the June 2021 launch of the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood; second from the left, the Duchess in the ‘Mortimer’ dress, a 100% silk design seen at London engagements in December 2018; in the center, the ‘Cersei’ dress in a silk/rayon chiffon, worn for a November 2016 children’s party at the Natural History Museum; next, the much-loved Jude jacket and Davina dress, pieces that were first worn for a series of 2012 engagements with HM and the Duke of Edinburgh, and seen again in December 2015; on the far right, the brand’s ‘Parker’ wide-leg trousers worn to a May 2019 announcement about the King’s Regatta. 

Styles by Beulah London remain part of the Duchess’s working wardrobe.

Erdem’s design skills have contributed significantly to the Duchess’s wardrobe.  From left to right: the ‘Jaquenta,’ worn in Canada during the 2011 tour; the ‘Christina’ Velvet Bell-Sleeve Dress was worn for a January 2018 celebration of Swedish culture in Stockholm, done in a cotton-blend velvet-devoré, also called ‘burnout,’ a technique used on velvet to create a pattern; when attending a January 2017 reception, the Duchess wore the designer’s ‘Evita’ dress, a classic sheath made in a polyester/polyamide matelassé; on the far right, the Duchess wears a version of the ‘Sheba’ Floral Silk-Cotton gown at the May 2019 Chelsea Flower Show, where her ‘Back to Nature Garden’ was featured.

Other designs and designers are covered more extensively in the upcoming formalwear and special occasion post.  

COLOR BLOCKING: We are seeing ensembles showcasing bright color-blocked elements more frequently.  Below left, for an October 2021 Action on Addiction speech, the Duchess glowed in vibrant red hues: a top believed to be Polo Ralph Lauren Cashmere Turtleneck Sweater and a pleated skirt by Christopher Kane.  Second from the left, the pink Runaway Belted Coat by Max & Co. atop a Boden sweater in a color called Azalea Pink; second from the right, the royal blue separates worn for May 2021 engagements in Scotland, a Zara blazer first seen during a May 2021 video call, paired with the Contrast Hem Pleated Skirt in cobalt by Hope Fashion.  For an October 2021 Generation Earthshot event at Kew Gardens, the Duchess brought back the green Erdem ‘Allie’ coat seen on multiple engagements over the years, atop a vivid green knit design. 

EDGIER DESIGNS: The Duchess has increasingly worn designs that transcend the everyday wear for engagements, pieces that could be considered edgier, riskier looks.  Here is a sampling: the green cocktail dress worn for a Dublin cocktail reception was a design by The Vampire’s Wife, the Falconetti Emerald Metallic Silk Dress. When attending an October 2018 event at the V&A, the Duchess wore Erdem’s ‘Iman’ dress, its asymmetric collar and layered off-the-shoulder design are crafted of bouclé tweed.  In the center photo, you see an off-the-shoulder Barbara Casasola ‘Tribal Dress’ first worn in July 2016 for the Art Fund Museum of the Year awards was seen again in June 2019 for an Action on Addiction dinner.  At a July 2017 cocktail reception in Warsaw, Poland, Kate chose Polish designer Gosia Baczyńska.  The midi-length sleeveless dress showcased jagged edges and pleating, creating a look that was a departure from the Duchess’s standard cocktail fare.  The final design in this group is a sleeveless Alexander McQueen dress worn for a March 2017 reception at the British Embassy in Paris and made of textured fabric with a deep vee neck and fringed trim at the neckline, armholes, and hem.

MATERNITY STYLES:  I thought about just incorporating this into the Daywear category but ultimately decided it deserves its own quick overview.  The Duchess has worn a mix of designers and styles when expecting all three Cambridge children.  Favorite maternity designers included Erdem, worn on multiple occasions.  Below you see (l to r): the ‘Suzi’ Guipure Lace Dress was worn for a February 2018 Buckingham Palace reception; at a party celebrating The Goring Hotel’s reopening in March 2015, Kate opted for the ‘Darla’ from the Resort 2013 collection; she wore the designer’s ‘Stephanie’ dress when visiting a Manchester school in 2013. 

It wasn’t exclusively luxury labels for the Duchess’s maternity wardrobes.  She incorporated many pieces by Seraphine Maternity, what I think of as a more mid-price brand (those with more experience in maternity brands, correct me on this one!) Below you see the Florrie Printed Maternity Dress (now out of stock); the ‘Marlene’ Maternity Cocktail Dress seen for the first day of the Sweden tour; wearing the ‘Natasha’ Maternity Coat for January 2018 engagements;  On the right, the Tailored Maternity Dress seen at the launch of the Mentally Healthy Schools program in January 2018.

Here is a quick sampling of other maternity looks: when expecting Prince George, the Duchess wore an icy blue Emilia Wickstead design for an April 2013 event at the National Portrait Gallery (one of my all-time favorite looks); next, the By Malene Birger coat worn when the Duchess joined HM and Prince Philip for a visit to Baker Street Station; when expecting Princess Charlotte, the Duchess repeated a soft pink Alexander McQueen ensemble for the March 2015 Commonwealth Service (it was first seen for 2013’s2013’sing the Colour events); she also wore a soft blue Matthew Williamson coat when visiting Wales in late 2014; when expecting Prince Louis, the Duchess chose a red and white houndstooth coat by Catherine Walker atop a wool-blend bouclé Alexander McQueen dress during the January 2018 Sweden visit. 

As one would anticipate with maternity styles, there were repeats.  Below, a chocolate brown Catherine Walker coat first seen in 2015 for St. Patrick’s Day, when the Duchess was expecting Princess Charlotte, a double wool crepe design with princess seams and box pleats.  She brought the garment back for Easter services in 2018 when she was expecting Prince Louis.  You also see the Seraphine Natasha mentioned above, when it was first worn in January 2015 and again in January 2018.

This post shows all of the Duchess’s maternity engagements and arranges items by color for a comprehensive look at all three maternity wardrobes. 

CASUAL STYLES: One of the biggest shifts we have seen recently from the Duchess: a move away from skinny jeans to tailored trousers, a trend I believe that will continue.  She has worn wide-leg silhouettes, cropped styles, and straight-leg designs.

Above (from left to right): a lush Gucci blouse (notably worn ‘backward’ with the buttons in the front as opposed to the back) was paired with a previously worn pair of Jigsaw trousers when the Duchess visited a children’s center in March 2019; a checked Smythe blazer and Joseph trousers seen at a November 2019 celebration for Shout Crisis volunteers; for a September 2021 visit to an RAF base, the Duchess sported the Reiss Larsson Blazer and UFO wide-leg trousers; when attending engagements in St. Andrews last May, the Duchess wore a double-breasted blazer by Holland and Cooper atop Erdem’s Lotus Stripe Jumper, a piece made in Scotland.  On the far right, the Duchess sported an aqua Massimo Dutti sweater for October 2020 World Mental Health Day engagements.   

TROUSER SUITS: The Duchess only recently started wearing matched jackets and pants; I expect to see more in the future.  Below, two examples: the vibrant purple Emilia Wickstead styles worn for September 2021 Northern Ireland engagements and the Marks and Spencer suit seen for a March 2020 engagement at an ambulance call center.

For anyone who made it this far, thank you!  I’ll be back on Friday with a much shorter post focusing on formalwear. 

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