Cast your mind back to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s royal tour of America in 2011. The image of a beaming Kate striding along the Calgary Airport runway in a primrose-yellow Jenny Packham shirt dress is etched in royal style watchers’ minds. It was the first time the Duchess had looked to the London designer for polished daywear suited to her diplomatic duties, and only the second turn she had taken in Packham’s feminine pieces (the first was a month prior, when Kate sparkled in an iridescent sequined gown at the ARK 10th Anniversary Gala at Kensington Palace).
Wearing Jenny Packham in Calgary in 2011.
© Samir Hussein
Several Jenny Packham gowns have come and gone since, but that flippy lemon shirt dress cemented the elegant, button-up style as a linchpin of the Duchess’s wardrobe (see also the pussy-bow dress and blouse). The elevated workaday staple has become a trusty fashion essential that instantly gives Kate the degree of polish expected of her as a globetrotting royal figurehead.
Wearing Jaeger in the Solomon Islands in 2012.
© Chris Jackson
A year after Kate and her Jenny Packham traversed the tarmac in Calgary – her signature blow-dry miraculously still in place despite gusty conditions on the airfield – the Duchess wore a yellow Jaeger shirt dress during the Diamond Jubilee tour of the Solomon Islands. The peppy buttercup button-up with pleated skirt, which she paired with the same LK Bennett nude courts, painted a picture of a confident Kate. One quietly navigating her sartorial path as the newest member of the royal family, while establishing her status as one of the British high street’s greatest ambassadors.
Wearing Jenny Packham in Kuala Lumpur in 2012.
On the Kuala Lumpur stretch of the same 2012 tour of the Far East, Kate wore a duck-egg blue Jenny Packham shirt dress with a delicate lace bodice – a more formal take on the classic shirt dress in a pale palette that she would go on to explore numerous times with Packham, one of a handful of her most trusted designers.
Wearing Suzannah London at Wimbledon in 2019.
© Karwai Tang
With the elegant midi dress firmly established as a key part of her public-facing wardrobe, the Duchess broadened her edit of brands to include Ralph Lauren (a houndstooth style worn during a visit to the Anna Freud Centre in 2015), Suzannah London (Kate’s take on Wimbledon whites at the 2019 tournament), Alessandra Rich (a polka dot look that drew comparisons to Diana, Princess of Wales at Bletchley the same year), and Emilia Wickstead (a floral iteration fitting for the 2019 Back to Nature festival).
Wearing Alessandra Rich at Bletchley in 2019.
© Karwai Tang
Kate has reworn Suzannah London’s Wiggle frock and Emilia Wickstead’s unapologetically feminine Aurora design recently during trips to Sheffield and South Wales. The conscious dresser plucked the failsafe pieces from her wardrobe because they suited the back-to-school nature of her engagements, as September loomed and some semblance of normality returned to the UK after lockdown. While the rest of us grapple with what the new season will bring – and, indeed, what we’ll wear now that our days don’t revolve around loungewear – the Duchess nailed her best all-business (but never corporate) look years ago.
Wearing Emilia Wickstead at the Back to Nature festival in 2019.
© Max Mumby/Indigo
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