Welcome to the Kate era! Princess’ style evolution explained – diplomatic dressing to symbolism of a future Queen

Back in the 90s it was all about the ‘Diana Effect’ – the late royal’s style choices making headlines across the globe. But now in 2023, the ‘Kate Era’ is with us, and it’s here to stay.

But gone are the floaty dresses that the Princess of Wales made her trademark. Instead, while adjusting to her new role as Queen-in-Waiting, Kate’s now providing regular masterclasses in the art of power dressing. And last week we saw just that as she paid a visit to the A W Hainsworth mill in Yorkshire in a tailored green two-piece by British brand Burberry.

Speaking to OK! about Kate’s growing preference for a tailored silhouette, Celebrity Stylist and Royal Fashion Expert Miranda Holder told us, “Kate’s grace and poise could make the most casual of outfits look refined. But as her role has grown within the Royal Family, so has her style repertoire.

“She’s wearing trouser suits as her outfit of choice, certainly for royal appointments. The overall transition has been from the pretty, floaty and playful to the more refined, regal and sophisticated – a wardrobe befitting our future Queen.”

Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond agrees, adding that Kate has been careful to ensure she doesn’t look out of touch with the public. “Kate has shown exactly how you can look elegant, smart – and royal – without appearing different from all the people you’re meeting.

"It’s an outward sign that she wants to be relatable and approachable – not some grand and remote figure. It helps her empathise with people from all walks of life, and must put them more at ease. That’s a valuable asset for a senior member of the royal family.”

Following the summer break in Balmoral, Kate debuted a new glossy hairstyle too, that while reminiscent of previous looks, appeared to have added volume. Leading celebrity hairdresser Richard Ward, who created her beautiful wedding hair look, tells us these style switch ups are classic Kate.

“Her Royal Highness has become one of the leading hair trendsetters of her generation, and subtly re-invents her look from time to time with small style tweaks that make a big impact,” he says. “Her signature glossy look is timeless, natural and sophisticated and always much in demand but her ability to occasionally change up her trademark style keeps her hair firmly in the spotlight.”

As Kate joked with staff and studied the expert craftsmanship during her visit to Yorkshire, her personal connection to the mill was uncovered. Her paternal great-grandfather, Noel Middleton, had sold the family’s 160-year old business, William Lupton & Co, to A W Hainsworth – proving that Kate has the textile industry in her blood in more ways than one!

A day later she travelled to Kent, this time to flex her muscles in the early childhood development sector. Arriving at the Orchards Centre in Sittingbourne wearing a vibrant bouclé Zara blazer and with her hair this time styled in a sleek up-do, Kate demonstrated her maternal side as she tickled the toddlers’ tummies and helped them decorate toys with foam. The purpose of the visit tied in with her Shaping Us campaign, highlighting the importance of supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Interestingly, details of Kate’s outfits aren’t released by Kensington Palace and Miranda says there’s a reason for this. “It reinforces her efforts to raise more awareness for the causes she supports rather than the brand she’s wearing. I’m not sure its dampened down loyal fans’ appetite for Kate’s fashion but the decision is understandable and admirable!”

It couldn’t be further removed from the way her late mother in law Princess Diana used her outfits to speak volumes – remember the ‘Revenge Dress’ that she wore out in 1994 on the same night that her husband admitted to his affair during his tell-all TV interview? “Diana learned to communicate through her style, using it to cleverly convey whatever she couldn’t verbally, and ultimately weaponising it.”

Even though Kate employs a stylist, Natasha Archer, to assist with her wardrobe choices, who does she turn to for style inspiration? “Kate’s surrounded by influential figures,” Miranda tells us. “Diana was the original royal fashion superstar, with a catalogue of iconic outfits to her name. But Her late Majesty the Queen was the ultimate diplomatic dresser, setting the bar for other Windsor wives to follow in terms of dressing to make others ‘feel seen’.”

Looking to the future, do the experts feel Kate will have further ‘reinventions’? They are unanimous – absolutely. Miranda says, “Kate’s wardrobe will continue to evolve to reflect her changing position within the Royal Family and her lifestyle. She’s already an accomplished diplomatic dresser, but I can see this being amplified when she becomes Queen Consort.

"Her outfit choices will become even more steeped in symbolism. Perhaps then we’ll see Kate return to a slightly softer silhouette and re-embrace the skirt in place of the more business-like trouser suit to reinforce William’s position as King and our country’s leader.”

With Kate being such a stylish dresser there’s no chance of her embarrassing her children, says Jennie: “I’d be surprised if Catherine was ever subjected to the usual teenage ‘hands over face look of horror’ from her daughter about something she is wearing. She has too much style!”

Charlotte looks as if she’ll have her mum’s slender frame and good looks so, before too long, she’ll probably be rifling through her extensive wardrobe to borrow her clothes. Kate is an expert at smart/casual, but of course she would look good in a bin bag, and Charlotte the teenager I’m sure will slip into some of her mum’s casual outfits.”

Miranda agrees, describing Charlotte as “the perfect ‘mini-me’ to Kate”. She adds: “Charlotte often sports a simplified version of what her mother’s wearing. I’m sure that when the time is right, she’ll branch out and consolidate her own style, which in turn will establish her personal brand.”

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