From the moment the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stood on the steps of their RAF Voyager at an airbase in Rawalpindi, they didn’t put a foot wrong. Last week’s tour of Pakistan, a country with which Prince William’s mother Diana forged such a strong relationship, has been widely acknowledged as a triumph for the couple. It’s the tour where they came of age. Became truly regal. Where they perfected the mix of diplomacy, friendship, style, grandeur and local knowledge that is the unique strength of these tours, when they go to plan.
Nobody could underestimate the challenges of a country with the political, logistical and security complexities of Pakistan, but the couple appeared to be thoroughly relaxed throughout – even when their plane had to abort several landings in severe turbulence on Thursday.
In this, their ninth tour as a couple, the Duchess’s style also came of age. Sometimes the nods to national costume and motifs can scream ‘Disneyworld cliché’, but she wore the modest dress of the region as if it came naturally to her, rather than as a costume cooked up by an over-researched Kensington Palace stylist.
Her first appearance in Catherine Walker’s long-sleeved cowl-backed gown and slim trousers set the tone. Graded shades of turquoise glimmering brilliantly against the dark night sky, the dress was gently shaped to her body, allowing her more of a defined Western waist than is totally traditional, yet was clearly inspired by local culture.
The traditionally modest clothing of Pakistan might have been tricky to navigate for a woman used to making the most of her long limbs and slim body. But the loose shapes, that could have come across as a touch frumpy, instead looked gracious and elegant.
So elegant: The Duchess of Cambridge wears an aqua-coloured shalwar kameez, a traditional local outfit, made by Royal favourite Catherine Walker, teamed with earrings and clutch bag from Pakistani brand Zeen
First steps: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge emerge from a RAF Voyager after touching down at the Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi at the start of a five-day tour of Pakistan, their first official visit to the country
Girl power: Kate cannot contain her excitement as she meets youngsters at the SOS Children’s Village in Lahore. She also delighted them by speaking a few words of Urdu.
Such a natural: Dressed in a stunning blue tunic, called a kurta, by top Pakistani designer Maheen Khan, Kate meets a pupil at the Islamabad Model College for Girls
Making a statement: The Duchess is known for her love of high street accessories and here she wears a pair of beaded chandelier earrings by Zeen which cost just £8
Kate hedged her bets when meeting Imran Khan, the Pakistani Prime Minister and former cricket hero. She wore a green Nehru coat (left), designed by one of her late mother-in-law’s favourite designers, Catherine Walker, and slim white trousers by Pakistani designer Maheen Khan. She completed the outfit with a £350 Emmy clutch, £425 Emmy heels, an £8 Bonanza Satrangi dupatta, and £6 Zeen earrings. On a visit to the Islamabad Model College of Girls (right), Kate showcased a blue kurta, matching trousers and dupatta, designed by the doyenne of the Pakistani fashion industry, Maheen Khan. She also wore £8 Zeen earrings. But it was her New Look nude shoes, which cost £23.99, that drew the most attention due to the price. Not surprisingly, the shoes, featuring a small block heel and ankle strap, immediately sold out
At a special reception at the Pakistan National Monument in Islamabad (left), hosted by the British High Commissioner Thomas Drew, Kate chose to wear a beautiful Jenny Packham sequinned gown in bottle green, the national colour of Pakistan. It is estimated to have cost her around £3,640. Teamed with £575 Jimmy Choo shoes and bespoke O’nitaa earrings, she looked divine. Barefoot, wearing a teal shalwar kameez and matching headdress, Kate followed in illustrious footsteps when she walked into Lahore’s iconic Badshahi Mosque (right). The Queen visited the same mosque in 1961, William’s late mother Diana was there in 1991, and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall paid a visit in 2006. During her trip, Kate also wore her £150 Catherine Zoraida gold fern hooped earrings
Kate may also have discovered that there is something both protective and reassuring in wearing more covered-up dress, which would have been cool and unrestrictive in the still warm daytime temperatures.
Royal tours are an opportunity to show off the brilliance of British designers, and high street favourites such as Mint Velvet and New Look were squeezed in among high-end star pieces.
Jenny Packham is one of Kate’s favourites for a big-ticket occasion. And the bottle green sequinned gown she chose for a reception at the Pakistan National Monument was sophisticated and darkly glamorous, and made me think she should wear more of those deep jewel colours.
The Catherine Walker Nehru-collared coat will no doubt be recycled for any number of engagements at home, though probably not paired with white trousers.
Ultimately real style is staying true to yourself while paying attention to the company you are going to keep. Kate achieved that brilliantly, with a simple palette of blue, white and green, teamed with her trusty nude shoes and clutch bags. And, of course, the ministrations of her faithful hairdresser, Amanda Cook Tucker, who along with wielding the blowdryer to battle the humidity on those honey-toned locks, will have kept up a stream of jolly down-time chatter.
But our Duchess of Cambridge’s greatest accessory, and the one that made all the difference, was her smile. What a smile. Joyful and genuine.
The Duchess looked effortlessly elegant when she donned a cream silk kurta with black embroidery by Pakistani designer Elan for her flight from Lahore to Islamabad (left). The top is not yet on sale but it is expected to be priced at between £75 and £100. She teamed the outfit with her trusty £695 tote from Bond Street favourite Smythson and £246 J Crew Lucie pumps. In an aqua-coloured shalwar kameez (right), created by Catherine Walker and estimated to have cost £1,800, Kate echoed her late mother-in-law, who wore a paler shade of blue during her trip to the country in 1996. To finish the look, the Duchess of Cambridge carried a £22.50 Zeen clutch, £475 Rupert Sanderson heels and £8 Zeen earrings
Thanks for the ride: William and Kate may be used to Royal carriages and limos but they arrived for a glittering reception at the Pakistan National Monument in Islamabad in a colourfully decorated tuk-tuk. Kate wore a bottle green Jenny Packham gown, while her husband sported a traditional sherwani by Karachi-based designer Naushemian
So in love: As these series of pictures show, the Duke and Duchess have eyes only for each other. Above: The couple during their visit to Islamabad Model College for Girls
Traditional: Kate in a Maheen Khan outfit and headscarf as the couple arrive at a Lahore mosque
Dazzling: The couple opt for green at the Pakistan National Monument reception
Hat tricks: They sported traditional headwear to visit the Kalash people in the mountainous Chitral region, with Kate adding a waistcoat and boots from UK brand Really Wild
A stylish twist on her royal blow-dry
Her signature bouncy blow-dry has become one of Kate’s most iconic accessories. But this autumn, she has undergone a hair makeover – just in time for the Royal tour.
Her usual chestnut-brown hue has been softened with some sun-kissed, multi-tonal blonde highlights and a shorter cut.
Celebrity hairdresser Lee Stafford says: ‘The new auburn and honey tones suit Kate’s skintone to perfection. Her highlights have been cleverly interspersed with a few dark chocolate sections, giving a multi-dimensional result.
‘The cut and style is also not the Royal look we are used to seeing. Kate’s structured curls have been replaced with a more laid-back, bouncy blowout. The ends are no longer tapered and perfectly rolled with tongs – instead they are cut straight and blunt.
‘Kate’s face-framing layers, combined with a modern centre parting, is incredibly flattering. It shows Kate’s style evolution as she continues to experiment with subtle twists for a current and youthful look.’
Having a laugh: A radiant Duchess looks as fashionable as ever in a black coat from ethical British brand Beulah London on a tour of Islamabad Army Canine Centre
Four-legged friends: Kate struck up an instant bond with a number of the residents at the Islamabad dogs facility – offering treats, playing fetch and giving calming strokes
Blending in perfectly: Surrounded by children and local villagers, the Royal couple perch happily on a wall during their visit to Chitral, where they learned more about the Kalash people’s unique culture and heritage. During the visit, Kate teamed a pair of £115 chandelier earrings from London-based jewellers Missoma with her traditional headgear
Radiant smile: The Duchess of Cambridge is resplendent in a shalwar kameez by Maheen Khan – a designer dubbed the Coco Chanel of the East – for a visit to a Lahore mosque