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Wearing the Trousers: How Kate Middleton Evolved Her Style as the Princess of Wales

If you had to pick one word to sum up Kate Middleton’s style since she and Prince William became the Prince and Princess of Wales, the answer would be pretty obvious: trousers. It started in the months following the pandemic-era lockdowns in 2021, when the royal slowly started a transition to a more professional look by embracing flattering suiting. By the time she took on the title most associated with Princess Diana in September 2022, she had amassed a collection of smart blazers, tailored trousers, and subtle silk blouses. In some ways, her looks referenced the bold executive chic that marked Diana’s style in her final years, but when Diana had embraced stylish shoulder pads, she was already separated from King Charles III. Those eye-catching Escada numbers were intended to be worn by a solo woman. Kate, on the other hand, is walking a line between standing out and coordinating with her more low-key husband—and it means that sometimes they even match, at least when it comes to their blue overcoats.

It might not be a surprise for an accomplished woman to wear pants in the 21st century, but it is a far cry from Kate’s approach to public dressing over her first decade as a working royal. For years, she was the princess of solid color A-line dresses that nipped in at the waist, both fashion-forward at the time and eternally timeless. But as the trends shifted, the princess’s wardrobe moved alongside them, and now we’re more likely to see Kate mix and match, like when she paired a houndstooth Zara skirt with a demure turtleneck and cream-colored coat. Sometimes she seems to be experimenting, choosing funky pieces like a mint green Balmain blazer and making them more princess-like by adding a pleated maxi skirt.

Kate has also incorporated influences from Queen Elizabeth II into her approach to dressing, most obviously by wearing colors so bright she can be hard to miss in the crowd, like her striking mustard yellow LK Bennett blazer or the screaming red Alexander McQueen suit she wore while giving a speech for her Shaping Us campaign last January. She brought it back for the Coronation Concert in May, which ensured that she was easily visible among a sea of Union Jacks in the royal box.

Still, for all the change in Kate’s wardrobe over the last 18 months—and there has been plenty—she was still loyal to the brands that have always helped her look her best. Sarah Burton, Kate’s wedding dress designer, has displayed her talents at Alexander McQueen for 26 years, and though she announced her exit from the brand last September, her designs are still the centerpieces of Kate’s closet. One of her most notable fashion moments of 2023 took place at a charity polo match where she wore a cornflower blue floral dress by Beulah London, a brand she has been wearing for more than a decade. One of her most surprising looks, a skirt suit with eclectic accents and a ditzy floral pattern, was made by Erdem Moralıoğlu, a designer who dressed her for some of her earliest high profile events as a royal.

And of course, taking after her father-in-law King Charles and his late mother, there were plenty of pieces that she has been wearing for years, and she has clearly been taking care to extend their usable life. Some pieces are her old standards for certain events, like a Barbour coat she has worn for multiple outdoor days, or the See by Chloé suede boots she has long worn for semi-formal events on uneven terrain. Some are delightful surprises from a past life, like the Philip Treacy top hat she first wore at a 2006 Sandhurst ceremony, before William was her husband. When she brought it back for her balcony appearance alongside Queen Camilla on Remembrance Sunday in November 2023, it was an understated reminder of how much she has grown since she appeared on the world stage as a potential future queen—and how many years she still has ahead of her.

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