How Kate Middleton updated her look to finally become a contemporary style icon
We’re in the middle of a Midi-ssainace.
Like most style icons before her, Kate Middleton has had a ‘Eureka!’ moment in which she realises evolution is the key to longevity.
After 10 years of pleated midi skirt suits, pillbox hats and nude court heels, the Duchess of Cambridge is shaking it up.
As the most photographed woman in the world, Kate is used to the scrutiny of the world’s media watching her every move and even a haircut, no matter how seemingly insignificant to those non-royal-watchers is big news.
When she chopped an estimated six inches off her hair, a look she debuted at Wimbledon, the fashion press went into meltdown. “Was she pregnant? Did she get botox? Are the Illuminati sending signals through her hair cut?”
As it turns out, the girl just needed a change and change did she get. It seems those extra six inches were quite literally bringing her down as we have seen a lighter and even brighter Kate over the last two weeks, in particular during the British royals’ European tour in Poland and Germany.
From the moment she touched down in Warsaw in an Alexander McQueen skirt suit with a wrap top and deep V neckline, Kate has been on a veritable tour de couture.
By her side, a more youthful looking future King of England, whose makeover is reportedly the work of his wife stylist’s Natasha Archer, who woke up his wardrobe in 2016.
Lorna Weightman, one of Ireland’s top tv and editorial stylists, is just as excited about her style transformation and thinks it’s the next chapter in motherhood influencing her.
“Typically I think she dresses a bit older than she actually is, I’m sure that’s a lot to do with the circumstances she’s in, which requires her to dress conservatively. She’s sizing herself up for that safe, princess role,” she told Independent.ie Style.
“I’d love to know what triggered in her head that it was time for change. Now that her children are a bit older, she has a bit more me time, it’s completely normal for women to think, ‘What’s my style? What do I want to do?’ And I’m sure she’s no different.
“It started with the haircut and now she’s been a little bit bolder with the neckline, there’s been a deeper V, and she’s wearing a lot more print. On Thursday night, she wore a beautiful Markus Lupfer dress, which is not a designer I typically thought she would go for – he typically designs sweatshirts and t-shirts.”
As for her hair, that now famous chop earned her major kudos with the critical fashion community and showed a self awareness in the British royal family’s need to appeal to the next generation, says Anna Stubbs, business manager and Aveda top stylist at Brown Thomas Beauty Lounge.
“I think what’s good about what she’s done is that she’s reinvented herself, but stayed true to who she is. It’s still got that effortless class and glamour, but she’s lost her signature look and created a new one, which is quite hard to do.
“She is the people’s princess, and I think keeping in touch with the market and younger generations, has to do with that. She’s not going to do it in the Instagram way, but her own classic way.”
And most women know that haircuts often mean significant life changes.
“Removing an inch off can be quite a thing off some people, so it’s notable to shed a substantial amount from a long-haired lady. She looks fresher and younger with her mid-length locks.
“I think sometimes when you’ve had a baby, sometimes you almost want to do that thing because you are not that personal anymore, you’re in a new stage in your life. A lot of women feel like that and they cut their hair because they feel like they’re a different person.”
The fact that Kate is (albeit slowly) looking past her rotating roster of go-designers is indicative of a greater understanding of the fashion industry as a whole – she surely isn’t the only woman to appear on the cover of Vogue who had only a passing interest in it.
“It’s nice to see her embrace something very contemporary,” Lorna adds.
“When she wore the Alexander McQueen dress and those Simone Rocha earrings, that red was incredible. She’s worn bardot before but not like this, she’s showing a bit more skin. I like the bolder Kate!”
While Kate is accustomed to be the Middleton sister everyone knows, this last year has been about Pippa and her May wedding to millionaire hedge fund manager, and now husband, James Matthews.
“It’s been all about Pippa the last couple of months with her getting married – with Pippa, you can correlate her style back to thinks you’d have seen on Instagram, whereas Kate was more safe,” Lorna adds.
And while Kate might have access to the best of everything, she maintains an air of accessibility that adds to her mass appeal: for example, she’ll wear €11 earrings from Accessorize paired with a Jenny Packham gown worth €2,500.
“She is an amazing style role model and now she’s a role model in a new way for women who want to embrace change and something different. They see Kate’s doing it, I’m going to do it too. She’ll set up a whole new set of trends like the shorter length hair. As someone who is a style leader, it’s very refreshing.”
While many were quick to jump to the fact that Kate looks “10 years younger” (myself included), she is simply rather dressing her age, moving away from the wedding guest attire synonymous with British royal style.
“I don’t think it makes her look younger, I think she looks more up to date and age appropriate,” Lorna says. “She’s so tall and statuesque that she always looks beautiful, but now she looks her age.
“She was a little samey, there was nothing unexpected or spontaneous. Sometimes I wanted to see her in a leather jacket and t-shirt, but maybe this is a small step in the right direction.
“She wears things that can people can go wear, they can go and buy and can feel like they have a party of her style, I think it’s what part of makes her so popular.”
Do you have Kate worthy style? Lorna Weightman will be judging Ladies Day at the Dublin Horse Show on Thursday, August 10.