The Duchess of Cambridge is famous for many things – but taking fashion risks isn’t one of them.
In her seven years as a Duchess, Kate’s faithful nude LK Bennett heels and prim pastel dresses have become as familiar a feature of royal outings as the Queen’s Launer handbags – until now, that is.
Since returning from maternity leave, a noticeably confident Kate has worn what’s been widely dubbed the most fashion-forward dress of her career – a clinging off-the-shoulder Erdem midi from the SS19 collection – and been seen for the first time ever sporting the Royal Family Order of Elizabeth II, pinned carefully to a showstopping fishtail gown at a state dinner.
And while the Alexander McQueen frock and matching heels she wore to Princess Eugenie’s wedding on October 12 were classic Kate, the head-turning shade of hot pink was a far cry from the low-key palette she’s previously stuck to.
Royal-watchers claim it’s merely the first sign of a sea change for William’s wife, 36, who they say is declaring herself ‘back with a bang’ after her time off as she settles comfortably into the role of future Queen consort – while her new sister-in-law Meghan takes over as ‘princess in training’.
‘After that long break, she has certainly come back with a bang,’ Kaitlin Menza, co-host of the Royally Obsessed podcast, told Vanity Fair.
‘She seems like she’s in a more take-charge position. I’m beginning to see the person who’s going to be the queen emerging.’
According to royal watchers, the Duchess of Cambridge’s uncharacteristic fashion risks of late are signs of a sea change for the mother-of-three, who is said to be asserting herself in the role of future Queen consort, while her brother-in-law Prince Harry’s wife Meghan takes over as ‘princess in training’. She is seen in a dazzling off-the-shoulder Erdem number with deep berry heels at the V&A photography centre opening on October 10th
Kate also wowed at a state dinner held in honour of the Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima last week, wearing custom Alexander McQueen, the Cambridge Lover’s Knot tiara, and – for the first time in her seven years as a Duchess – the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II
Susan E. Kelley, editor of the What Kate Wore website, agreed it marks a ‘huge turning point’. ‘I think this is where Kate gets to make her mark,’ she told the magazine.
Celebrity stylist Rochelle White told FEMAIL Kate’s changing wardrobe is a sign she’s more ‘relaxed and confident’ than ever following years in the spotlight – in particular the ‘regal’ Alexander McQueen fishtail gown she wore to a state banquet at Buckingham Palace last week in honour of the Dutch royals, Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander.
‘I can’t say that this was one of my favourite looks,’ Rochelle said, ‘however she carries it off well.
‘She has been “princess in training” for a while now, and now that Meghan has taken over the role, she is really starting to embrace her changing position. She looks relaxed and confident rocking this style of dress, which is very princess-esque, and shows of her silhouette post-baby.’
Rochelle said Kate is taking risks with colours and cuts – as with the relatively daring tweed Erdem dress and deep plum heels she wore to open a photography exhibit at the V&A on October 10th – that are a clear sign of her ‘stepping up her fashion game’.
Following her six month maternity leave after having her third child, Prince Louis, in April, the Duchess of Cambridge made a relaxed return to royal duties with a visit to Sayers Croft Forest School in Paddington, London, where she joked and laughed with little ones
At Princess Eugenie’s wedding on October 12th at Windsor Castle, Kate opted for a dress by her go-to fashion house Alexander McQueen, but in an unusually bold shade of deep pink
The role of royal newcomer has been firmly passed to the Duchess of Sussex, who has spent the past 16 days touring the Commonwealth with Harry, as they prepare to welcome their first child next spring
‘She’s known for wearing nudes and natural tones,’ the stylist said, ‘so it’s nice to see her experimenting with shades we aren’t used to seeing her in.’
But for Rochelle, the look that revealed most about Kate’s new confidence was the one chosen for her first post-maternity leave appearance on October 2nd, a visit to Sayers Croft Forest School in Paddington.
A glowing Kate swapped her once-signature voluminous blow-dry for more relaxed waves, teamed with a pair of £30 Zara jeans and a £175 khaki jacket from trendy Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven.
‘I feel that is true style and more about her and her personality,’ Rochelle said.
‘Kate is settled in her role and feels confident enough wearing the styles and looks that suit her. After years of properly trying to find her feet, and post three babies, she’s in a place where she knows what works.’
Conservative Kate of old: Just last year, the Duchess was still rarely separated from her trusty nude heels – seen here touching down at Berlin’s Tegel Airport during the Cambridge family’s official visit to Poland and Germany last summer
Earlier on the trip she was seen in another formal coat dress, in a pale taupe shade, teamed once again with nude heels
Royal correspondent Katie Nicholl also told Vanity Fair how mother-of-three Kate is now ready to focus on what she’s truly passionate about – helping children – having worked hard at carving out her area of interest over her years as a Duchess.
While her own children will be her priority, Katie said, the Duchess has already been ‘very instrumental’ in putting early intervention with young children in primary schools on the royals’ agenda.
ABC News royal commentator Omid Scobie predicted we will now see the Duchess ‘really focusing… on working to help support disadvantaged children in the UK.’