How Kate became the Royal Recessionista
The Duchess of Cambridge is a thrifty style icon for our times, writes Lorna Hogg
Published 08/07/2011 | 05:00
First she was Waity-Katy -- as everyone wondered when she would get married. Then she was the Fairytale Bride when she wowed the world at her wedding in Westminster Abbey.
Now she's Princess Prudent -- the royal who recognises a recession . . .
She has paraded a series of seemingly perfect outfits throughout her trip to Canada and one thing is clear -- Princess Kate is no style icon. She's not fashion-forward either, and she's certainly not edgy.
But then she's not actually trying to be. What she's doing, and doing really quite well, is using her clothes to send a message to her public, to say I'm an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation doing my best for you. And her audience is lapping it up.
To that end, Kate is channelling her inner recessionista, albeit in royal style. So, expect to see her favourite outfits over and over again -- that Reiss dress, those J Brand jeans -- although she's careful to add a refreshing new twist for each outing.
Think of it as fashion diplomacy.
She may not be able to compete with the natural style of Carla Sarkozy or Michelle Obama, but Kate is attempting to carve her own niche -- quiet, well put-together and guaranteed to offend absolutely no-one.
Forget the bling-encrusted pomp of last weekend's 'love' ceremony in Monaco where the bride, pictured on honeymoon, looked expensive but miserable, this is royalty reinterpreted for the recession.
Kate's style is low-key, accessible and extends through almost all facets of her life as we show here. It's definitely admirable, if perhaps lacking just a hint of sparkle.
RECESSION BEATER -- ROYAL STYLE
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Understatement is key, in all aspects of life. From that relaxed hen night to skipping Royal Ascot, William and Kate enjoy a low-profile social life. They live in a small cottage near William's base in Anglesea, where Kate has been pictured doing her own shopping.
Their new London base at Kensington Palace, already a royal residence, will have minimal staff, if any. They didn't take a large entourage to Canada, just seven people, with no dresser, lady in waiting or stylist for Kate.
MAINTAIN FAMILY TRADITIONS
. . . and regal recycling is one of the best. The Queen, Princess Anne and Diana all recycled their clothes, and Kate seems happy to follow in their footsteps.
However, the international fashion police have the young duchess under observation. Her style has been criticised as being boring, too mature and lacking in adventure. Yet royals use working clothes to send a message: her decision to wear Erdem acknowledged Canadian design, and the Catherine Walker dress was seen as a tribute to Diana on what would have been her 50th birthday.
There has also been criticism of Kate's hats, and bare-legged fans don't like her adoption of the trend for tights.
Maybe the 'Fash Pack' don't get that women love Kate because she wears the clothes that the rest of us do. She isn't trying to be a fashion leader, just to look good.
The American glitterati is fascinated. In a world in which stylists encourage the rich and famous to change outfits up to six times a day, it's news if you wear the same thing twice. Hence the interest in rumours that Kate has been spotted wearing outfits in which she has been already been seen -- good heavens, at least six times.
In fairness, many acknowledge that a change is due -- bad news for the marketing teams but cheering for the rest of us.
MIX AND MATCH
. . . old and new, traditional and modern. Kate has managed to blend traditional royal interest in and concern for people with a modern accessibility.
Following the initial pageantry of welcome, the crowds loved the modern style of the young couple, who got involved with activities, from cookery to water-birding.
. . . Kate clearly follows the recession mantra and does it herself. From the day it was announced that she would do her own make-up for her wedding, she has stayed in charge. She revealed on the tour that she likes to cook, but "nothing fancy".
There have been no makeovers. She chooses her own dresses -- apparently with the help of stylists from stores such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridges for the Canadian tour. She was fully involved in the wedding preparations, reputedly with input into the designs for the cake and even her wedding dress.
We may be in hard times, but more of us are volunteering to help charities. Whatever the state of the economy, however, it's quite likely that William and Kate would have asked for donations to their charity rather than wedding gifts.
In earlier times, some young royals placed extensive gift lists with top stores -- but that is no longer appropriate. William and Kate raised £1m for their 26 chosen charities, and will be closely involved in how funds are distributed.
BE A BORROWER
The Queen loaned Kate that delicate royal Scroll tiara for the wedding, and her Maple Leaf brooch for the Canadian tour. Soon, Kate may follow Diana, Princess of Wales and the Continental princesses who have given a new look to beautiful traditional but occasionally dated jewellery. It has been said that Kate may also have borrowed some dresses from designers for the tour, in order to keep costs down.
KEEP IT APPROPRIATE
Pomp and circumstance were appropriate for and drew the crowds at the royal wedding. However, Canada was intended to be a 'meet and greet' visit to a relaxed and informal country whose people love the outdoors. Hence, outfits and style were appropriate to the occasion -- more life jackets and jeans than ballgowns and bling.
GIVE AS WELL AS GET GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY
We know that Kate gets good value for money -- and she has now shown that she also gives it. As a representative for UK plc, her warmth and style make her a natural ambassador for her country.
Helped by good weather, the royal couple provided Canada with the kind of publicity that money cannot buy. It was a packed schedule, with constant travel in hot weather no time for recover from jet lag, and constantly under scrutiny. Kate delivered the goods in royal style
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PRODUCT
In Anglesea, Kate and William shop in the area, eat out and pop down to the pub. Kate, of course, supports British designers. Her 40 outfits for the Canadian tour included designs from Catherine Walker, Issa, Alexander McQueen, Mulberry and Anya Hindmarch. There were also her high street favourites, such as Reiss and LK Bennett.
In this she is following another royal tradition. Diana, Princess of Wales, was the most recent in a long line of royal ladies who supported British design. So, as the royal mantle slowly settles on Kate's slender shoulders, it's clear that she will wear it well, recycled and subtly updated, and in her own way.