The Duchess at 40 Part 3: Touring and Tiaras

Hello, and welcome to Part Three of our series looking at the Duchess’s style. Her 40th birthday seemed an ideal jumping-off point to look back at her wardrobe and also contemplate what we might see in the future. Today we turn our attention to designs seen during the Duchess’s many trips to different countries and continents, along with a look at occasions when she has worn a tiara. 

TOUR WARDROBES: The Duchess’s tour wardrobes serve several purposes. They offer a high-profile showcase for the British fashion industry, and they also provide multiple opportunities to engage in some sartorial diplomacy.

Above, six notable looks worn on tours (from left to right): the Reiss’ Nanette’ dress, worn for 2011 Canada Day celebrations, was first seen in one of the Duke and Duchess’s official engagement photos; also in July 2011, a red Catherine Walker ensemble worn as the couple departed Canada; the yellow ‘Ryedale’ dress by Roksanda Ilincic was first seen for the couple’s 2014 arrival in Sydney, Australia (Prince William was famously said to have commented it made her look like a banana); an Alexander McQueen ensemble worn for Easter Sunday engagements during that 2014 Australia tour; when arriving in Canada for the start of the 2016 tour, the Duchess chose a collared sheath by Jenny Packham design; a rich turquoise Catherine Walker ensemble created for the beginning of the October 2019 Pakistan tour was a nod to the country’s traditional salwar kameez.     

Below, six outfits worn on tour created by British brands (from left to right): the Duchess wears a Catherine Walker dress during the 2011 Canada tour; during the 2012 Jubilee Tour, the Duchess chose Beulah London’s ‘Sabitri’ dress and matching scarf when visiting a mosque in Malaysia; she wore a Mulberry double-breasted coat during the December 2014 New York visit; for 2014 engagements in Adelaide, Australia, the Duchess opted for a soft pink Alexander McQueen design; while visiting India in April 2016, the Duchess wore Temperley London’s ‘Desdemona’ dress for a private lunch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi; when visiting Germany in July 2017. she wore separates by Canadian-born, British-based in Erdem.   

We have seen something of a shift over the years that was underscored during the Pakistan tour: the majority of the Duchess’s traditional styles in Pakistan were created by local designers (excluding the Catherine Walker ensemble worn for the arrival). Below, the Duchess in Pakistan wearing three looks created by Pakistani designers. From left to right, a white tunic by Élan, an upscale Pakistani label founded in 2006; in the center, another traditional ensemble by Maheen Khan; on the right, a white custom salwar kameez by Gul Ahmed, a popular Pakistani brand. 

We’ll see going forward if the Duchess will continue to showcase the work of local brands while still elevating British designers or if this was more specific to the Pakistan visit.  

Signs of respect for host countries are shown in many ways: the Duchess may wear a design in a country’s flag colors, incorporate national symbols into the wardrobe, or wear pieces by designers with local ties. Below, four examples: on the left, the Duchess wearing a dress by Singapore-born designer Prabal Gurung while at a 2012 state dinner hosted by the President of Singapore; next, the Duchess in a piece by Mumbai-born designer Naeem Khan when visiting the Taj Mahal in 2016; second from the right, you see the Duchess in Germany in July 2017 wearing a style by Markus Lupfer, a German-born, London-based designer; on the right, the Duchess during the 2019 Pakistan tour wearing a traditional salwar kameez (salwar is the loose-fitting trousers; the kameez is the fitted tunic) and dupatta (long scarf) by Pakistani designer Maheen Khan.

More looks created by local labels and brands include (from left to right): the Duchess wearing Sydney-based Zimmermann in Australia; a New York-based Tory Burch coat seen during the 2014 visit; a dress by Mumbai-based Anita Dongre worn during the India tour; wearing Stockholm-based Ida Sjöstedt while visiting Sweden.

Sometimes a message of respect is conveyed through the Duchess’s accessories. Below, three hats: on the left, the red maple leaf hat by Sylvia Fletcher for Lock & Company, worn in Canada in 2011; in the center, another maple leaf, this one seen for the Cambridge family’s 2016 Canada arrival, also a Sylvia Fletcher design; on the right, a fern is showcased in a Jane Taylor design worn when visiting New Zealand in 2014. The maple leaf and fern are national symbols for Canada and New Zealand.   

Semi-formal designs are sometimes called for when touring. Below (from left to right), this soft blue and ivory Temperley London design was a version of the label’s ‘Aster’ flower dress, worn to a September 2012 afternoon tea in Kuala Lumpur; this Jenny Packham fern-embellished design was worn for an April 2014 reception at Government House in Wellington, New Zealand; the Duchess chose Beulah London’s ‘Amara’ style in black lace with a fit and flare silhouette when visiting New York; the red Preen ‘Finella’ dress first worn for a 2016 reception in Canada featured an asymmetric neckline and off-the-shoulder style; Temperley London’s ‘Delphia’ crop top and coordinating skirt were ornately embellished pieces with light-catching crystals and black crochet trim worn for a 2016 reception in India. (The Temperley pieces could go in the evening gown category, but they felt just a skosh removed from those designs.)

Formalwear is often needed when touring other countries. Here you see the white and gold Alexander McQueen gown worn for a state dinner in Malaysia that featured the hibiscus, Malaysia’s national flower; the blue Jenny Packham design worn for a 2016 Mumbai fundraiser featured an embellished bodice and matching wrap with material that was hand-beaded in India; the Tory Burch embroidered tulle gown was the Duchess’s choice for a 2016 private dinner with the King and Queen of Bhutan; the Duchess wore a soft pink Alexander McQueen gown with sheer overlay for a February 2018 dinner in Oslo, Sweden; when attending a Paris dinner in 2017, Kate chose a Jenny Packham design with a layer of embroidery on tulle atop a silk satin dress.

Five more noteworthy gowns seen when the Cambridges have been on tour: the iconic lavender design worn in 2011 to a BAFTA dinner in Los Angeles; this inky blue (also referred to as ‘petrol-colored’) Jenny Packham design features a deep vee-neckline front and back and is shown here when the Duchess wore it for a gala 2014 dinner at the Met in New York; for a 2016 reception in Bhutan, the Duchess was in the ‘Juliet’ style by Beulah London, which showcased an abstract poppy print (the national flower in Bhutan is the Himalayan Blue Poppy); the gold Erdem design worn to a January 2018 dinner in Sweden is one of the Duchess’s most polarizing looks; on the far right, you see the sequinned green Jenny Packham design worn for a 2019 reception in Pakistan.

Some looks are so memorable they immediately evoke images of the place and time when they were worn: the Duchess running on Australia’s iconic Manly Beach in the Zimmermann’ Roamer’ dress (also shown above); wearing an Alice by Temperley embroidered design topped by a grass skirt for a September 2012 dinner in Tuvalu; the LK Bennett’ Lasa Poppies’ dress first worn in Australia (and featured in the daywear post); the look for the couple’s 2016 arrival in Bhutan included a cape by Paul and Joe and a half-kira (a full kira usually is draped around the entire body) in a fabric that was woven in Bhutan by noted artisan Kelzang Wangmo.

The Duchess has worn a broad mix of daywear designs on tour. Below I share some in soft neutral tones: when attending a 2011 polo match in California, the Duchess wore a Jenny Packham silk dress showcasing a de Gournay’ silver and marble chinoiserie’ motif; the first of two Roksanda Ilincic designs was worn when the Duke and Duchess arrived in the US in 2011, the ‘Peridot’ style (that’s the name despite its lack of resemblance to the green gemstone) with its draped neck and pleating; a similar design by Ms. Ilincic was worn for a 2014 visit to Uluru and the National Indigenous Peoples Training Academy in Australia; next, the Hobbs’ Wessex’ dress in linen with a boatneck and full skirt, a repeat worn also worn for the Uluru visit that was initially seen at a SportsAid engagement in July 2012; a white Alexander McQueen style worn when the royals departed from Bhutan; the ivory Alexander McQueen design seen when the Cambridge family arrived in Poland in July 2017.

Looks built around brighter colors include the sunny yellow Jenny Packham design worn for the couple’s 2011 arrival in Calgary, Canada; the Emilia Wickstead pleated dress seen at April 2014 engagements in New Zealand; the Alexander McQueen peplum top and skirt featuring a paisley theme (the pattern originated in India and Persia) worn when the royals launched their 2016 tour in Mumbai India; the deep lilac Emilia Wickstead fit and flare design worn for the final engagements of the Cambridge family’s four-day visit to Poland and Germany; the blue Jenny Packham sheath worn the second day of the 2019 Northern Ireland trip had blue velvet trim at the neckline, cuffs and a wider strip at the waist; the green rose-printed peplum dress by Alessandra Rich design was seen when the Cambridges arrived in Dublin at the start of their three-day Ireland tour in March 2020; also from the Ireland tour, a vintage Oscar de la Renta design worn to an evening reception.

Of course, casual styles are also worn on tour; some will be seen in our closer examination of the Duchess’s casual and sporty styles in Part 4 of our series of reports. Here is a quick sampling: the Smythe ‘Duchess’ blazer and Somerset by Alice Temperley blouse seen during the September 2016 Canada tour; the Holland and Cooper blazer and Erdem striped jumper worn in St. Andrews, Scotland last May; the Seeland Woodcock Advanced Jacket worn during that same Scotland trip; the Really Wild nubuck waistcoat, Jaeger shirt, and Penelope Chilvers boots worn for the April 2016 hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan. 

That wraps up our look at tour wardrobes. 

THE TIARA DUCHESS: This could appear to be a “just because we can category,” but leaving tiaras out of comprehensive posts covering the Duchess’s wardrobes didn’t make sense. Just about everyone loves tiara engagements, but the Duchess has not had loads of them, and the pandemic has knocked them out of the realm of possibility for the time being.

We begin with the first tiara we saw the Duchess wear, the Cartier Halo.

The tiara worked very well with the Alexander McQueen wedding gown designed by Sarah Burton. 

The Duchess’s first appearance in a tiara after her wedding was the 2013 Diplomatic Reception when she wore Lotus Flower tiara, also referred to as the Papyrus Tiara. There were limited photos from that event.

The Duchess wore that piece again for her first state dinner at Buckingham Palace. The 2015 function honored the President of China, Xi Jinping, and his wife, Madame Peng. The Duchess chose a vibrant red Jenny Packham gown for that event. 

The Duchess has gravitated to the Lover’s Knot tiara for the more recent tiara engagements. The first time we saw the Duchess wearing it was the 2015 diplomatic reception, paired with a lacy Alexander McQueen evening gown. 

At the December 2016 diplomatic reception, the Duchess wore the Lover’s Knot with the red Jenny Packham evening gown first seen at the China state dinner. 

We next saw the piece at the July 2017 state dinner honoring Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia. The Duchess was in a lacy Marchesa gown for that event.

We have few photos from the December 2017 diplomatic reception and no full-length images. 

Below, you see the Duchess wearing the Lover’s Knot at the Netherlands state dinner in October 2018 with an Alexander McQueen design.

At the 2018 diplomatic reception, the Duchess paired the tiara with a Jenny Packham gown.

For the state dinner with President and Mrs. Trump in June 2019, the Duchess accented an Alexander McQueen dress with the Lover’s Knot. 

We saw the Duchess wearing the Lover’s Knot at the 2019 diplomatic reception, again paired with an Alexander McQueen evening gown.

Below, a graphic showing all of the Duchess’s tiara engagements. 

Looking ahead to future formal engagements, I believe we will continue to see the Duchess wearing the Lover’s Knot tiara. My guess is she will become associated with it over the years, much as Diana, Princess of Wales, was associated with it. Of course, it could be some time before we see white-tie functions where a tiara would be considered appropriate.  

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