Kate Middleton’s show of elegance

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Happy third wedding anniversary to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge today!

It’s hard to believe three years have passed since April 29, 2011 — the morning the fashion world let out a collective gasp when Kate Middleton stepped out of the car in an Alexander McQueen gown and officially began her duties as royal style icon.

Since then, the world has scrutinized her hairstyles and colors (a few gray strands — off with her head!), marveled at her graceful stride in high heels during pregancy (how was she not waddling?), and watched, talked and blogged about any and every possible fashion comparison to her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, the biggest style superstar of all time.

For her whirlwind 18-day tour of New Zealand and Australia with her husband and 8-month-old son, Prince George, Kate faced her biggest fashion dilemma yet: What to pack for an almost three-week trip, when your itinerary includes everything from state receptions and church services to toddler playdates and cricket games?

For the Duchess of Cambridge, there were additional sartorial challenges: Do royals take off their shoes at the beach? And what’s the most ladylike way to climb into a fighter jet while in a pencil dress and high heels?

Tradition says “leather” is the proper gift on a third anniversary. Instead, we’ll give her more ink. Here are the most talked-about fashion moments from Kate’s Down Under tour.

All grown up

Over the past two weeks, Kate, 32, delighted fashionistas with a nonstop parade of stately suit dresses by top designers mixed with her favorite style staples: blazers, wedges, simple court shoes and demure day frocks.

Hems have crept below the knee (reportedly at the request of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), dresses are less figure-hugging, and sleeves cover more of her arms.

It’s a wardrobe that’s markedly more grown-up and more regal than before, royal watchers say. There’s also much more color — bold, traffic-stopping hues — a choice that reflects her growing confidence, both as the face of a new generation of the British monarchy and as a style icon for women all over the world.

Among the hits: A minimalist dove-gray coat with structured shoulders by Alexander McQueen, worn with a matching hat to attend an Easter Sunday service.

Arguably her highest fashion moment came on her last night on the tour, when she stepped out for a state reception in a gorgeous white cocktail dress by Texas designer Lela Rose. The dress featured a lace design on the sleeves and around the waist.

“Kate’s Australian wardrobe choices has refined her take on regal chic, upping the polish and bringing a more ladylike and expensive sheen to her look,” said Katherine Ormerod, fashion editor at Grazia magazine.

Chic banana

Kate mixed things up with block color outfits in bright shades straight from the crayon box: canary yellow, vibrant green, sky blue, bright red. The standout look from the tour had to be the pencil dress in fluorescent yellow by Roksanda Ilincic.

William wasn’t sure he liked it: Kate told reporters he remarked that it made her “look like a banana.” But fashion editors were thrilled by the choice.

“It’s a color favored by the queen and designed to allow her to stand out in a crowd,” said Avril Mair of Harper’s Bazaar. “I liked her Emilia Wickstead aquamarine dress for the same reason. She carries off color brilliantly, and I’d like to see her wear more of it.”

Diplomatic dressing

Dressing for state visits isn’t just about glitz and glamor: It’s also a time-honored royal tradition of paying tribute to the host country. Like Queen Elizabeth II and the late Princess Diana before her, Kate incorporated elements of her host nations into her wardrobe.

A bespoke black Jenny Packham dress worn to a state reception in New Zealand was adorned with a silver fern — the country’s national emblem. While sticking to her go-to British labels like L.K. Bennett and Hobbs, Kate also showed off a white cotton dress from the Australian brand Zimmerman, as well as a navy tweed suit by New Zealand-born designer Rebecca Taylor.

Sporty casual

In between all those state dinners and solemn ceremonies, the duchess had outings to the beach, the vineyard and the zoo — as well as a hands-on cricket match and a yachting challenge.

Casual wear is where Kate’s choice of attire didn’t get so much love from the fashion world. The British media noted that one of her dress-down outfits — skinny jeans, a navy nautical-style blazer, a striped top and wedge shoes — was the exact same look she wore for at least two past sporty engagements in London.

“No one wants to be remembered for thinking that cork-soled wedges are the epitome of sporting chic,” the Telegraph said.

Rethinks for the next tour

First impressions count: When Kate touched down in New Zealand wearing a scarlet military style coat and matching pillbox hat, the outfit drew unkind comparisons to an air hostess’s uniform.

And those 4-inch wedges were the subject of much amusement when Kate sported them running at Sydney’s Manly Beach — a rather incongruous picture among the surfers and lifeguards.

The now-infamous shoes worked even less well when the royal couple visited a vineyard, causing a brief stumble on the grassy grounds.

A pastel pink Alexander McQueen ensemble she wore in Adelaide was elegant and ladylike and featured the usually-flattering, plunging V-neck that Kate isn’t afraid to wear. But it plunged so low that her bra could be seen in photos taken of the duchess bending over, talking to children.

Something tells us the queen might have this one banished from the wardrobe kingdom.

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