Kate’s 3 style commandments: Accessible, sustainable, elegant

Poised, polished and perennially fashionable, the Duchess of Cambridge never puts a foot wrong. So what’s her secret? Royal expert Claudia Joseph explains how it’s all down to three simple rules. 

Amid the recent chaos weathered by the Royal Family, there is one member of the Firm who outshines the rest: Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge. Throughout it all, Kate has remained poised and professional while inspiring millions with her enviable sense of style. So much so that she has just been voted Britain’s most fashionable Royal by the Fashion Retail Academy. Some fashionistas have suggested that a rivalry between Kate and her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex, had sparked her new look, but I believe that she has finally found the confidence to be herself. As I discovered when I wrote my book How to Dress Like a Princess, Kate has become a modern icon. 

Kate at this year’s baftas
Sensational and sustainable: Kate at this year’s Baftas in an Alexander McQueen gown first worn on a tour of Malaysia. Image: Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Her carefully honed style can be explained by the three Cambridge commandments…

Accesible

Perhaps Kate has taken notes from her grandmother-in-law for her first commandment. The Queen is known for her thrift, and the Duchess echoes this with her penchant for affordable labels. The 2019 Cambridge Christmas card featured her wearing a teal dress by Boden. In the sale for £60, it promptly sold out. Last month, the black and white check Zara dress she wore on a visit to Bradford, reduced to £15.99, sold out in three hours, with some shoppers posting it on Ebay for £125. And recently she’s set social media alight by rewearing a pair of £1.50 Accessorize earrings. 

Wild In Woking last month for part of her landmark survey tour, Kate sported a Zara bargain – an on-trend animal-print skirt.

Kate Middleton leopard print skirt
This £29.99 skirt from Zara was in the sale for a bargain £5.99! Image: Alpha Press

Standout Kate dazzled in a gown by British label Needle & Thread at the recent UK-Africa Investment Summit at Buckingham Palace.

Kate Needle & Thread dress
It’s unusual to see Kate in such an affordable evening gown. This Needle & Thread one costs £410. Image: AFP/Yui Mok

Bargain Kate was ahead of the curve when she picked this Zara hound’s-tooth dress. It originally cost £89.99; when she wore it last month it had been reduced to £15.99. Needless to say there was a stampede, and it sold out in hours. 

Kate Zara dress
This dress is being resold on eBay for more than £100 by some savvy shoppers. Image: REX/Shutterstock

Casual At Peterley Manor Farm last year, to mark her patronage of Family Action, Kate wore an enduring classic crewneck by Really Wild. 

Kate Perfect Moment jacket
Kate has worn this Perfect Moment ski jacket many times. It was reduced to £112 but is now sold out. Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage

The dazzling details

The Duchess demonstrates how to add dash with less cash

Kate trotters shoes
REX/Shutterstock

Clever Kate’s £38 pumps are from children’s store Trotters – George and Charlotte have the same ones!

Kate Earrings
Max Mumby/Indigo

Thrifty Kate wore these £1.50 earrings from the Accessorize sale for a visit to Stockwell Gardens Nursery last month.

Kate sleeves
ROWAN GRIFFITHS/AFP

Knit at a snip Zara strikes again: Kate chose this £39.99 red knitted dress with statement sleeves for a visit to Port Talbot.

kate zara headband
REX/Shutterstock

Cheap chic At the Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance, Kate sported a £17.99 sparkly Zara headband.

Kate zeen earrings
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Price drop Kate offsets her bespoke Catherine Walker tunic with a pair of Zeen ceramic drop earrings, which cost just £6.

kate shoes
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

High-street hit The Duchess paired a blue traditional kurta tunic and trousers with a pair of £23.99 New Look courts. 

Sustainable

The Duchess wears her clothes again and again, and the second of her commandments was on show during October’s tour of Pakistan. Repeats included an Emmy London clutch and pumps, plus a leather vest from British label Really Wild, last worn in 2016. But it was her star turn at the Baftas, where she wore a gown recycled from 2012, that exemplified how Kate refreshes a piece: the sleeves were tweaked for a more structured shape. Reworking is a typical Kate tactic: for example, taking up necklines, and on the Pakistan tour she even turned a dress into a top.

JAN 2019

kate beulah dress
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Va-va-versatile When Kate first wore this £550 Beulah London dress she amped it up with a glossy belt and pointed pumps from Gianvito Rossi, one of her go-to brands. Later that year, she toned it down with a fabric belt.

MARCH 2019

Kate Catherine Walker
WireImage/Karwai Tang

JAN 2020

Kate Catherine Walker
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Sleek Kate first wore this Catherine Walker dress with a black hat. When she wore it again for Holocaust Memorial Day, she tied back her hair for a more modern look.

SEPT 2012

REX/Shutterstock
REX/Shutterstock
James Whatling / MEGA
James Whatling / MEGA

Stunning Kate first dazzled in this Alexander McQueen dress at a state dinner in Malaysia. She made headlines again this year when she wore a tweaked version with more fitted sleeves and shoulder pads to the Baftas.

The finishing flourishes

Kate’s déjà vu hats, bags and shoes 

Kate chanel bag
REX/Shutterstock

Chanel hopping Already seen in France and Sweden, this classic also joined Kate at a Natural History Museum do last year.

Kate green heels
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Perennial pumps The Duchess recycled her favourite Emmy London shoes in the Pakistani national colour on the Royal tour.

Kate Daniella Draper necklace
CAMERA PRESS/ROTA

Shining example Kate is championing eco-friendly brands by wearing this recycled-gold Daniella Draper necklace.

Elegant

The Pakistan trip was the perfect showcase for Kate’s third commandment. With help from her stylist Natasha Archer, the Duchess’s wardrobe championed British designers and respected the host country in modest but stylish outfits. She wore dresses by Jenny Packham and Catherine Walker in varying shades of green and white, the Pakistani national colours, as well as a dazzling array of traditional costumes. 

Kate green dress
These gold-plated crystal earrings from Chelsea boutique O’Nitaa were specially made for the Duchess. Image: WireImage/Karwai Tang

Shimmering For a reception at the Pakistani National Monument, the Duchess chose a bottle-green gown by one of her favourite eveningwear designers, Jenny Packham.

Kate Hicks & Brown
The Countess of Wessex has long been a fan of this hat brand and may have introduced it to Kate. Image: Max Mumby/Indigo

Sleek chic In a Hicks & Brown fedora and Roksanda coat for a Sunday church service on the Sandringham estate in January.

Kate Alexander McQueen
Kate was paying homage to Alexander McQueen on the tenth anniversary of the designer’s death. Image: Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Tribute In a navy Alexander McQueen suit for her trip to Loughborough’s Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre this month. 

Kate Catherine Walker
Kate nodded to Princess Diana’s favourite designer by wearing this Catherine Walker dress. Image: Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Diplomatic Kate wore a printed dupatta shawl by Pakistani high-street store Bonanza Satrangi to meet the country’s prime minister Imran Khan. 

Kate lace dress
Kate often chooses lace for her formal wear. This gown is by her favourite designer Alexander McQueen. Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Sensational At December’s Royal Variety Performance, Kate teamed her black lace gown with £340 earrings by Erdem.

Kate purple suit
The Duchess carries a clutch by one of her favourite brands, Aspinal of London. It costs £275, with 25 per cent of profits donated to charity. Image: REX/Shutterstock

Vibrant Kate has worn this magenta Oscar de la Renta suit three times, most recently to the Nook Children’s Hospice last November.

Fabulous and formal

Vintage tiaras and in-vogue handbags add polish

Kate Philip Treacy hat
James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock

Dignified Last Remembrance Day, the Duchess teamed her black Philip Treacy hat with the Queen’s pearl drop earrings.

Kate Aspinal bag
Max Mumby/Indigo

Modern For a recent trip to Bradford, Kate swapped her usual clutch for an on-trend top-handle bag by Aspinal of London.

kate crown
Rex Features

Stately Wearing the Royal Victorian Order over a McQueen gown with the Queen’s tiara at a Buckingham Palace reception. 

How would these fashion insiders style Kate?

Kate Illustrations
Jacqueline Bissett/Illustration X

Trinny Woodall 

YOU columnist 

The Duchess has a classic way of dressing. Her clothes are very fitted, and while I think it’s nice to see her lovely figure, I’d love to play with the proportions of what she wears. For a dress-down day I’d like to put her in wide-leg pants, cool trainers, a white shirt and a fitted jacket. 

Alexandra Shulman

 Former editor of Vogue and Mail on Sunday columnist 

Catherine looks good in anything. I’d like to see her experiment with some of the younger British designers who could make her some terrific formal clothes. Michael Halpern’s sequined styles would adapt brilliantly to the red carpet, and Richard Quinn, who won the Queen Elizabeth ll Award for British Design, has beautiful florals. 

Dylan Jones

Editor of GQ

The Duchess is so chic that it feels unnecessary to try to recommend what else she might wear. Although, having said that, I think she would look terrific in Vivienne Westwood. She has such a strong sense of personal style that I’m sure she could carry it off with conviction. 

Sophie Dearden

YOU senior stylist 

Kate is a huge fan of prints, embroidery and flowing dresses, so I’d love to see her try a few classic, minimalist looks. It would be great to see her channelling Princess Diana in shapes that are feminine yet strong. I’d like to dress her in this Jil Sander-inspired suit – a structural shape in a pared-down palette, with sleek accessories. 

What’s your favourite colour, Duchess?

Kate Middleton wearing blue

From her engagement announcement to the birth of Prince George, Kate likes to celebrate her milestones in blue. And this might not be a coincidence. According to colour analyst Melissa Nicholson, who advises her clients on what shades to wear based on their complexion, hair and eye shades, Kate best suits a ‘summer’ palette, which means she looks better in clothes that have a cool blue tint rather than a warm yellow one. ‘I would say her best shades are French blue and bright navy,’ Melissa says.

Claudia Joseph is author of How to Dress Like a Princess: The Secrets of Kate’s Wardrobe (Splendid Publications, £12.99)

Additional reporting: Charlotte Vossen