The wife of the future King of England should take her pick of elegant maternity wear for the final stage of her pregnancy
"The whole world,” complained Diana, Princess of Wales, during her first pregnancy, “is watching my stomach”. With so many eyes on the royal bump, dressing it is a sartorial minefield. As well as being fashionable, maternity wear must be practical, so the royal mother-to-be can carry out state duties right into the third trimester.
Clothes must be frugal, but not cheap. Colourful, yet not too garish. Simple, but never dull. Outfits must look good in photographs and withstand the scrutiny of fashion critics and an adoring public.
Over the years, prospective royal mothers have grappled with this style dilemma in their own way. When pregnant with William and Harry in the early Eighties, Diana wore smock dresses and billowing shirts. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, built her maternity wardrobe on baggy coats and tunics. Sophie, Countess of Wessex, opted for pastel jackets and tailored blouses. And now the Duchess of Cambridge is doing it in Topshop.
The high street store’s “polka dot flippy dress” made its second appearance, when Kate donned it for the wedding of friends William van Cutsem and Rosie Ruck Keene in the Chilterns at the weekend. The black and cream number was too flimsy and short for the gusty May weather – as some revealing and unkind paparazzi shots showed – but her outfit won her praise for being low-key and thrifty.
Kate certainly looked the part in her dotty frock. Paired with a black and white fascinator and one of her trademark blazers, the look was young, fun and perfect for a summer wedding. Wearing the dress for a second time, too, was admirable – she, like her grandmother-in-law, is renowned for recycling clothes and a willingness to wear high-street labels. But is a Topshop dress, off the rail at just £38 – not even from the maternity range – really what the wife of the future King and mother of a future monarch should be wearing to a society wedding seven months into her pregnancy?
Clearly, Kate has yet to develop a taste for maternity wear. The floral Erdem dress she donned to visit a primary school in Manchester last month was from the designer’s main range; as was the brown Hobbs coat she chose for an appearance in Grimsby. With her slender legs, toned arms and slim frame, Kate is blessed with a fantastic figure. Let’s face it, she could wear a sack over her bump and still look alluring (who else could have caught Prince William’s eye in that see-through slip at a university fashion show?). But having a good figure doesn’t mean sticking to a regular wardrobe this late into pregnancy.
“Looking good while pregnant is about having properly designed maternity wear,” explains Cecile Reinaud, creative director and founder of maternity brand Seraphine, from which the Duchess purchased a £39 black jersey dress last month. “So far, she’s been fine buying cheaper things and non-specific maternity wear. She’s so slender that she’s been able to get away with it, but now she’s a bit bigger, it could be a turning point. Ill-fitting clothes will only make her look larger than she is.”
Kate’s apparent aversion to maternity clothes is said to stem from a desire to avoid shrouding her bump in baggy, tent-like fabrics. “Kate doesn’t want a frump bump,” a friend told journalists last week. To keep her look bright and fresh, she’s opted for a number of quirky sartorial creations from lesser-known designers – that peach Tara Jarmon coat she wore to a hospice in Hampshire last month, for example. Instead, fashion experts say she should be showing off her bump in well-fitted designs from specialist maternity brands, such as Isabella Oliver, beloved of celebrity yummy mummies Naomi Watts, Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry.
“Kate’s got a really nice style and she can maintain that while pregnant – we just wish she would indulge herself more,” says Bozena Birt, managing director of Blossom Mother and Child, an upmarket maternity boutique on the King’s Road, a favourite shopping spot of Kate’s in the capital. “Pregnancy is a special time and any mother-to-be deserves a bit of extra attention. Everybody gains weight so having a good maternity wardrobe, full of high-quality core basics, is essential.”
Designers ought to be falling over themselves to dress the royal bump, but the Duchess has so far donned only a few custom-made maternity outfits. The powder blue Emilia Wickstead gown she wore to a charity reception last month – dubbed her “first proper pregnancy dress” – was testament to the flattering effect of bespoke maternity wear. With its delicate waistline, scooped back and crepe skirt, the dress made the Duchess’s blossoming figure positively glow. It was infinitely more becoming than a high-street party frock.
Her love of British brands, too, could be catered for by something more discerning than Topshop. She’s clearly a fan (during a recent spree at the flagship store on Oxford Street, Kate reportedly bought a £46 collared dress that she wore on a charity visit in March, and a £37 floral dress, yet to be worn) – but there are plenty of other options for an expectant mother of Kate’s standing. Many of her pregnant friends will no doubt shop at Tiffany Rose, a glamorous label based in Surrey, or Rock A Bye Rosie, a Kent-based stockist of affordable maternity wear – while Boden also does a chic range of pregnancy clothes.
Kate has an “amazing opportunity to show the world that you can be pregnant and look truly glamorous”, says Tiffany London, of Tiffany Rose. She recommends a selection of shift dresses, evening gowns and day-to-day outfits, all priced between £100 and £250, well within the Duchess’s self-imposed maternity budget.
Reinaud says Seraphine’s “luxe” collection is what Kate should be aiming for during her final trimester. “It’s not very expensive, but it’s a little less frugal than what she’s been wearing,” she adds. “There are silks and chiffons, all with a high level of finish.”
But Lisa Armstrong, the Telegraph’s fashion editor, says Kate may find it hard to shed her thrifty ways and upscale her maternity wardrobe. “She’s innately frugal and those habits die hard,” she insists. “It’s not worth splashing out when you only wear maternity clothes for three months. She’s got to look good and obviously she could push the boat out – it would be lovely to see some inspiring looks from her – but she should focus on treating herself to nice accessories, like that Mulberry coat she wore recently.”
So, with only two months until the royal baby is due, here’s hoping the Duchess will put away that Topshop dress, take her pick of the top designers and embrace this glorious final stage of her first pregnancy. Now’s the time to give the royal bump the wardrobe it deserves.