Elegant, demure and yet utterly dazzling, the Duchess of Cambridge certainly knows what styles work for her.
Whether it be a pair of Penelope Chilvers boots or a Jenny Packham gown, Kate has mastered the wardrobe staples that accentuate her frame.
So when she slipped into a navy and white polka dot shirt dress by Alessandra Rich for a visit to Bletchley Park this week, she wasn’t testing the water with a new addition to her wardrobe.
Polka dots have served Kate well, including on the steps of the Lindo Wing after the birth of Prince George. She is pictured in a navy and white polka dot shirt dress by Alessandra Rich for a visit to Bletchley Park this week. Ivanka Trump (left) uses a white belt to accentuate her trim waist
Instead she was turning to a trusted favourite that has earned its place in her professional armoury, having worn it for Prince Charles’s 70th birthday photos last year.
But what those family shots didn’t reveal was the fashionable split showing off Kate’s perfectly toned legs and providing an effortlessly elegant silhouette.
So chic is this £1,750 silk shirt dress, from Rich’s Spring 2018 collection, it has graced scores of celebrities.
This week, Kate styled the silk dress with blue suede heels by Emmy London, a small navy clutch and her favourite baroque pearl drop earrings by Annoushka.
Christie Brinkley, left, was first to be seen in the dress, while Sarah Jessica Parker loosens the top buttons. Sarah Jessica Parker put her own spin on the style, cinching the waist with a crystal-encrusted belt, layering it with a floral print navy edge-to-edge coat and white stiletto heels
Yet others have put their own spin on the versatile gown — which manages to be both demure and sexy — by incorporating belts, or leaving a few flirty buttons open…
Polka dots have served Kate well, including on the steps of the Lindo Wing after the birth of Prince George. And she’s following another polka dot fan, Princess Diana.
But is everyone going dotty for this dress? Can women of any figure wear it and who is fashion favourite Rich?
Top celebrity spotters
One of the first to be seen in the dress, model Christie Brinkley, 64, stepped out in it in April last year, wearing the shirt-style collar open-necked and teaming it with a trench coat.
In May last year, it appeared at one of the top events of 2018, when Suits actress Abigail Spencer wore the polka dot dress to the wedding of her co-star Meghan Markle.
At the time, Rich commented: ‘We were thrilled to see Abigail wearing our dress to the wedding, she looked stunning [and] the dress has sold out!’.
Sarah Jessica Parker put her own spin on the style, cinching the waist with a crystal-encrusted belt, layering it with a floral print navy edge-to-edge coat and white stiletto heels.
Suits you: Meghan’s co-star Abigail Spencer at the royal wedding (right) Pitch Perfect actress Anna Kendrick, right, chooses a higher hemline as she is only 5ft 2in tall
Ivanka Trump accompanied her father on a visit to Iowa last July, choosing to woo Mid-West voters with the modest number, accessorising it with a knotted white patent belt.
Later that month, Kate’s sister Pippa wore a shorter, plain duck egg blue version to Prince Louis’s christening.
And in September, Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley donned the polka-dot dress for a U.S. TV chat show. The host, Kelly Ripa, loved it so much she went on to order the dress herself.
While all these women are known for their willowy silhouettes (the dress favours the tall and slim of leg), more petite stars have got in on the act, too.
Actress Anna Kendrick — who is just 5ft 2in compared to Kate’s 5ft 9in — recently wore a modified version of the style, choosing a shorter hemline and flared skirt.
The Diana effect
Like Kate, Diana also chose to wear polka dots after giving birth to her first son, William
Over the years, Kate has repeatedly paid homage, whether consciously or not, to her late mother-in-law’s style.
The Alessandra Rich dress is another example of the enduring appeal of Princess Diana’s wardrobe.
In 1981, soon after her marriage, she posed for some informal photos in her drawing room at Kensington Palace wearing a similar style with a lower neckline.
Like Kate, she also chose to wear polka dots after giving birth to her first son, William, and other examples include a classic black and white number by Victor Edelstein she wore at a polo match in 1987 (Kate dazzled in a similar print by Dolce & Gabbana at Wimbledon in 2017).
Few other patterns scream Middle England more than navy and white polka dots. Innocent and unthreatening, it’s no wonder women adopt them for both weddings and the workplace.
The button-through silk crepe de chine style is a timeless classic that never dates, but has a Forties retro feel with the bust ruching into a seamed bodice-style waist and knife-pleated skirt.
When creating her collection, Rich, 43, is said to have been inspired by Alfred Eisenstaedt’s 1945 photograph of a sailor kissing a stranger in New York’s Times Square, where the woman is wearing a long-sleeve white dress with a flared skirt.
Finished with contrasting white pointed collar, buttons and cuffs, the dotty dress is given a contemporary twist that makes it the perfect piece for modern royalty — and a host of celebrities and other stylish women — as well as providing a much-copied template for High-Street versions.
On the red carpet
Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna and Beyoncé are all fans of Rich’s designs, with the latter opting for a lavish tiered dress in white lace for her Formation music video.
In 2011, actress Diane Kruger wore a neon yellow and ivory jacquard lace gown, cinched with a tangerine belt, to a party at the Louvre, while Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet wore the same style to the Royal Academy summer party.
Meryl Streep wore a Rich design to the 2012 Golden Globes and that same year, Carol Vorderman, 51, wore a red Chantilly lace column dress with a black belt and nude Louboutin platform heels to an awards ceremony.
Also in 2012, Samantha Cameron wore a borrowed high-necked, navy and cornflower blue floor-length style to the White House for a meeting with Michelle Obama.
Featuring 1,300 Swarovski crystals handstitched in to the lace, Sam swapped a jewelled belt for her own leather one and requested an opaque lining be created for the translucent skirt.
Earlier this year, Alexa Chung wore a pale green taffeta Rich gown for the Vogue Fashion & Film BAFTA party in London.
A fan account spotted the similarities after Kate was seen wearing the dress this week, captioning the image: ‘Diana and Kate in almost the same dress. Good taste never goes out of style. I’m sure they would have been best friends’
Yes, it’s back
For summer 2019, Rich has produced a short-sleeved navy spotty dress reminiscent of Kate’s but with a flared, asymmetric skirt attached to an inverted v-shaped waist panel.
The bodice features three large crystal-encrusted buttons and Rich’s signature pointed collar in plain black silk.
Priced at £1,770, it has already been worn by actress Amber Heard and is sure to be a popular style for this season.
Rich has said: ‘I’ve got nothing against cleavage, I just thought it would be nice to offer an alternative. I’m just designing what I’d like to wear myself — in another life.’