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When it comes to style icons, the Royal Family has provided us many.
From the Queen and her neat skirt suits and Balmoral attire (the latter of which has often provided catwalk inspiration for designers) to Princess Margaret’s glamorous gowns and bold accessories, and of course Princess Diana myriad looks throughout her sartorial evolution, from demure debutant (think jumper vests and pearls) to fully fledged vamp – remember that Christina Stambolian revenge dress.
However there is one royal who wins out in the style steaks: The Duchess of Cambridge. Ever since the duchess wed Prince William in 2011, and was thrust into the spotlight, she has served up stylish look after stylish look. Her signature? Kate Middleton’s dresses are always knock-out. From the Alexander McQueen wedding gown, to the electric blue Issa wrap she wore for her engagement announcement, Kate’s dress choices have become synonymous with chic, feminine polish.
In fact, so popular are the duchess’ dresses that several have instantly sold out after a royal appearance. Coined “the Kate effect”, her immense selling power means an endorsement of any brand – whether it’s high end or high street – see’s it catapulted into the fashion conscience and sales rocket.
From designer to thrifty, here are her 11 go-to dress brands.
Kate Middleton’s dresses: the Duchess’s favourite brands
A cult brand during the 1990s, British high street brand Ghost dropped off the fashion radar during the noughties, only to be revived in 2017 with a fresh direction of covetable floral dresses. Always on the fashion pulse, the duchess first wore the brand in October 2019, when she opted for the blue ditsy print Avery wrap dress during the royal tour of Pakistan. Retailing for £195, she teamed it with a pair of equally budget friendly nude New Look court shoes. Though it quickly sold out, the pink version is currently available in the sale in limited sizes.
Having become a firm favourite, Kate made a second outing in Ghost in April this year, when she wore the blue floral print Anouk dress during an appearance on BBC’s Big Night In. With a ruffled statement collar and puffed sleeves it tapped into the seasonal mood for pretty prairie style. Following the appearance, Ghost announced that all sales of the £129 dress would be donated to the NHS. Unsurprisingly, the style flew off the shelves within days, however the similar Lola dress is available also for £129.
L.K. Bennett has long been a go-to for the duchess. Not only is she a big fan of the brand’s nude courts, she has often been spotted in its flattering dresses. The most recent of which was the Cayla, a bold red midi with elbow-length sleeves, which she wore during a video call with veterans to mark VE day. An advocate of recycling her wardrobe, the duchess was first seen in the dress in 2015 when she made her Wimbledon debut. Although an old style, the nearly identical Caterina is currently in the sale for £112.
Not the first L.K. Bennett showing this year, earlier in May Kate wore the Madison, a pretty red midi with delicate floral print, for a video call she made with Prince William to care workers. Just like the Cayla, this is an old favourite which she first wore in 2019 at the King Power Royal Charity Polo Day. A similar style can be found here.
During the early 2010’s, the duchess became an unofficial ambassador for Reiss, after wearing the british retailer’s figure flattering dresses on numerous occasions (she even wore the brand’s white Nanette dress for her official engagement photographs). However, it was her appearance in the blush-hued Shola dress while meeting the Obama’s in 2011 that really made a splash. Not only did the dress sell out in hours, such was the surge in public interest that the brand’s website crashed. Having had a tough few years, Reiss’ subsequent uptick in sales have widely been attributed to the duchess’ support. The Shola has since been discontinued, however a few styles are available on eBay. Alternatively, get a similar look with the Lenny lace mini, £235.
Though a keen supporter of the high street, Kate does have a penchant for the odd designer dress. One of her favorite labels is of course Alexander McQueen. Her most famous McQueen moment has got to be the stunning ivory gown she wore for her marriage to Prince William in 2011. Designed by the then new creative director, Sarah Burton, the plunge-front lace gown with nine foot train sent shock waves (of the best kind) down Westminster Abbey. Since then McQueen has become a go-to for myriad occasions. In 2014 she wore a dusty pink peplum dress during her tour of Australia and New Zealand, in 2016 she wore a white and red scalloped hem number for a trip to Canada, in 2017 she wore a blush pink vintage-inspired midi to sister Pippa’s wedding, and in 2018 she wore an ivory v-neck dress for Prince Louis’ christening service.
Her most recent McQueen look was a white and gold sparking floor-sweeping gown worn to the 2020 BAFTA awards, which made headlines not only for it’s starry quality, but also for its sustainable credentials being a piece the duchess had already worn in 2012 during a visit to Malaysia. The ultimate occasion dress, a similar style is available on Net-A-Porter for a rather royal £5,340.
As well as championing a sustainable approach to fashion via recycling her wardrobe, the duchess is supportive of myriad ethical brands, including Beulah London. The British-based brand, which was founded in 2009, offers employment to vulnerable women and promotes sustainable artisan handicrafts. Kate was seen in one of its dresses back in May this year, when she wore the raspberry-red Calla Rose floral silk dress with contrasting white collar during the Mental Health Minute television broadcast.
She then confirmed her love for the dress in September, when she re-wore it for a visit to the Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery with Prince William. The Calla Rose is currently still available in a good range of sizes from the website, and retails for £550.
The duchess confirmed her down-to-earth approach to dressing when she wore a blue floral wrap dress from Boden to take part in a video call with new parents and midwives ahead of UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May. The Aurora dress, which retailed for £120, features a flowing tiered skirt, mini-length hem and flattering ¾ sleeves. A go-to for the duchess, she also wore it for the 2019 Cambridge family Christmas card, teamed with loose waves and drop earrings. Naturally, the style is no longer available. However a convincing look-a-like comes by way of the Adora midi dress, which is currently down to £60 in the sale.
& Other Stories
A firm favourite among fashion editors, Scandi high street brand & Other Stories is also beloved by the duchess (as well as fellow royal, Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden). For a family visit to the RHS Back to Nature garden at Chelsea Flower Show in May 2019, Kate wore a floaty floral print dress complete with mandarin collar and balloon sleeves, which rang in at a positively purse-friendly £79.
Much to the delight of fashion fans, the last few years have seen the duchess introduce a handful of on-the-pulse designers into her wardrobe, one of which is Emilia Wickstead. A mainstay at London Fashion Week, the Newzealand-born designer is known for her ladylike silhouettes, romantic prints and feminine colour palette. Though Kate has reached for Wickstead’s dresses on numerous occasions, it’s the powder blue and pink floral Aurora dress that proves the most stylish.
First worn at last year’s Chelsea flower show, the duchess re-wore the piece in August during a trip to Wales with husband William. She teamed the midi dress with her favourite Castana wedge espadrilles and floral face mask. The Aurora is available in a green version in limited sizes for £568. Alternatively try the equally lovely Helen dress, £1000.
A go-to brand during her university days, Kate has maintained her love for Topshop even throughout her royal transition, proving that the teen-focused brand can work for grown-ups too. In 2013, she wore a £38 cream and black polka-dot dress while visiting Warner Bros film studio and six-months pregnant with Prince George. The spotty dress sold out within hours.
Three years later, the duchess showcased the brand again, this time during the 2016 India Royal Tour, when she sported a £75 pink smock dress with black embroidery, which she teamed with Pied-A-Terre wedges and Accessorize earrings. For a similar look, try the Ella embroidered cotton dress by Devotion, £210 (harveynichols.com), or Selected Femme’s pink lace midi, £120 (asos.com).
It would seem that almost no one is immune to the allure of Zara, even the Duchess of Cambridge. Throughout her tenure, she has been spotted several times in clothes from the high street brand, from the blue pleated dress she wore on her honeymoon, to the red cropped coat she donned to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, and the myriad skinny jeans she favours for less formal events. Most recently she opted for a green floral midi dress with lace-trimmed neckline for a video call for the Hold Still portrait project with the National Gallery.
The dress was part of the spanish brand’s Join Life collection, which means at least 50% of the materials used to make the piece were from sustainable sources. At just £49.99, this was one of Kate’s thrifties dresses yet, and swiftly sold out. However, you can get the look with the deep green lace midi, £49.99 or the green floral print dress, £49.99.
Reiterating her ethos of sustainable fashion, Kate recently wore a dress by Gabriela Hearst during a screening of David Attenborough: A life on our planet in the gardens of Kensington Palace. A denim shirt style, it chimed in perfectly with the evening’s sartorial blue theme, which was adopted by her family and Sir Attenboroigh himself who was in attendance.
Having just been awarded American Womenswear Designer of the Year by the CDFA, Hearst is currently the toast of the fashion town. The Uruguay-born designer is known for her sustainable credentials – in fact Kate’s dress, the Marley (which retails for £1,295) is made entirely from recycled denim. Sister-in-law Megan is also a fan; she owns the Demi top handle leather bag which, thanks to her endorsement, now comes with a substantial waiting list.
While the Marley dress has now sold out, Oliver Bonas is currently selling a similar style for a far more pocket-friendly £79.50. Make like Kate and team with a pair of classic black courts.