The ‘Kate Middleton effect’ is a modern economic phenomenon whereby the Duchess of Cambridge appears in public wearing clothes, and said garments sell out within hours. But brands and designers such as LK Bennett, Reiss, Rebecca Taylor, Orla Kiely and Alexander McQueen aren’t the only ones to benefit from association with the former commoner and future Queen – sister Pippa Middleton has had a public profile handed to her on a silver platter.
Pippa became an international sensation as men and women alike ogled her figure in her fitted white Alexander McQueen bridesmaid sheath dress at the wedding of the Millennium. The subject of her rear was a widespread talking point, second only to her sister’s dress, at the time of Prince William’s wedding in 2011.
Overnight, the littler Middleton’s every move and look was chronicled, just like her sister. Though Pippa’s style was simple and nothing beyond any other middle class girl on the street, she was routinely applauded in the fashion media for ‘wowing’ and ‘stunning’ in pedestrian ensembles.
Opportunity was knocking on Pippa’s door with fashion designers and press eager to get her on board. Though a career in fashion and perhaps as an ‘It Girl’ seemed to be sitting on a plate, waiting to be devoured, she didn’t seem to run with it.
Instead she doubled her efforts as a party person, in the family business. The upwardly mobile Middleton parents started their careers as a flight dispatcher and a flight attendant with British Airways, but a mail order party supplies business became full time jobs for both by the mid-‘90s.
‘Party Pieces’ is another business to see a huge rise in revenues from association with Kate Middleton. The Duchess of Cambridge’s parents’ online outlet is reported to have done raging sales since her introduction to public life, especially from Diamond Jubilee party favours and decorations (all on sale now, if you’re interested).
After studying English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, where she house shared with British aristocracy, Pippa took roles in PR and corporate event planning. Already on the media radar, Pippa was dubbed in 2008 by Tatler as “the Number 1 Society Singleton” but poked at for frequenting parties, “mainly as the caterer”.
Both daughters took roles in the family business, Kate on the web design and marketing side, and Pippa on the editorial front. The elder of course went on to become the wife of the future king, rarely to be seen in public with her family again, or indeed to mention ‘Party Pieces’. Pippa continues to work part-time for the family business, writing an advertorial heavy blog for the website, ‘Party Times’.
Now known as ‘The Professional Wedding Guest’, rarely a week passes without pictures of Pippa attending high society nuptials. Her style leaves a lot to be desired from a fashion forward perspective. Like her sister she veers toward looks that straddle mature and child-like – a mix of middle-class executive wife and daddy’s girl.
Though much of the media will gush about a wedding outfit consisting of a flying saucer hat and an embroidered Temperley dress akin to an Oktoberfest waitress uniform, fashion is falling out of love with poor old Pippa.
The lady in the waiting, who sat front row at London Fashion Week at Temperley next to Hollywood actress Rosario Dawson and ‘Br-IT Girl’ Peaches Geldof, is seeing her star fading. Being photographed laughing as a friend pointed a gun (albeit a replica) at paparazzi in an open top car in Paris earlier this year didn’t help her profile – resulting in the nickname ‘P Middy’.
The two Middleton sisters attended the men’s final at Wimbledon last weekend, sparking criticism of Pippa being granted access to the Royal box, and rumours of them both sniggering and giving Federer’s wife the cold shoulder. Pippa’s Project D by Dannii Minogue print dress with an apron-like peplum received mixed reviews. It is ironic that Kate’s little sister wore Kylie’s little sister’s frock in a perceived bid for attention.
Choosing to stick to the husband-hunting party circuit and the family business, and taking advantage of the odd public outing with the sister, may pay dividends for Middleton in the long run. She is on the cusp of publishing her first book, an entertaining guide ‘Celebrate - A year of festivities for families and friends’. The book, for which she is reported to have gotten a £400,000 advance, is due to hit the shelves in October - just in time for the Christmas rush.
It’s no surprise that the guide is littered with references to products sold on ‘Party Pieces’ and in-the-box ideas such as this one for 4th of July festivities - “Tell your guests to dress up as American icons – from Marilyn Monroe and Abraham Lincoln to Mickey Mouse or the Statue of Liberty”. No doubt it will be a bestseller. Don’t forget the power of Kate.
With Pippa, the public has an actually accessible Middleton, who underwhelms. Royal watchers and the fashion community want a spare Kate. Being caught up somewhere between the limelight and her sister’s shadow, she is failing to live up to expectations.
Perceived as a sad creature, Pippa is seen to be failing to make the grade style-wise. Attending prominent weddings date-less can translate to social oblivion in British high society. There are constant jabs that she should cosy up to Prince Harry - what is this ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’?
The book may be a turning point for the second Middleton. Should it be successful, she will have gotten the opportunity based on her name, but also on her skill set. There is a career in television for her if she can turn down the ‘meek mouse’, turn up the charisma, and leave the party favour plugging behind her.
It is time for Pippa to spread her wings; after all she was named TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Influential People of 2012. So what if she dresses plainly and is unmarried - if there is a personality in there, the rest is wardrobe.
Aisling tweets @ashinyoconnor