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FashionFeaturesPrince & Princess of Wales

Kate at 40: The style evolution of the future Queen Consort

In 2001, Kate Middleton was just a young woman from Reading who was studying the History of Art at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. It was here where she met her future husband, Prince William. Since her relationship with the future King first became public knowledge, we’ve seen the now Duchess of Cambridge’s style change drastically over the years. From a university student going to the pub, to a now one of the world’s most powerful women, Royal Central is looking at how the Duchess’s fashion has changed over the years.

Perhaps in one of the most famous photos of the Duchess in her university days, in 2002, Catherine strutted down the catwalk of a university fashion show in a see-through Charlotte Todd dress (can be seen below). Some have speculated that this was the moment when Prince William’s eye first caught the attention of his future wife. While the two didn’t become an official item until 2003, they shared a flat with two other friends during their second year.

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After graduating, Kate and her family faced intense media scrutiny with the public wanting to know more about the future king’s potential love interest. Catherine attended William’s Passing Out Parade at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on 15 December 2006, with the pictures making the front page of newspapers the following day. However, a few months later in April 2007, the couple broke up. Months later, it was reported the couple had reconciled as Kate attended the wedding of William’s cousin, Peter Phillips, as well as met Her Majesty The Queen for the first time.

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In November 2010, Clarence House announced the engagement of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Kate wore a now-famous navy dress to match the late Diana, Princess of Wales’ sapphire engagement ring, giving the world a glimpse of what her royal style would be moving forward. In the months before the wedding, we saw Kate attend weddings and other events, dressing in simple outfits with classic, low-key fascinators.

Defence Images/Crown Copyright/SAC Gareth Little

Of course, one of the most infamous style moments of the Duchess, and one of the most famous wedding dresses in the world, the Duchess wore an Alexander McQueen gown designed by English designer Sarah Burton on her April 2011 wedding day. An official statement noted the bride wished to combine tradition and modernity “with the artistic vision that characterises Alexander McQueen’s work.” The main body of the dress was made in ivory and white satin gazar, using fabrics sourced from the UK and was covered in lace influenced by the traditional Carrickmacross lace technique.

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As her role as Duchess progressed, Kate started to become more confident in embracing different bold style statements. Throughout her pregnancies with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, the world saw a variety of sundresses with gentle detailing and accessories, keeping things as simple and elegant as possible. In the years between Charlotte’s 2015 birth and the pregnancy announcement of Prince Louis in 2017, the Duchess became bolder with her outfits, introducing suits with patterns, dresses with intricate lacing, and sheer details.

Throughout the years, it was also noted multiple times how the Duchess wore fashion inspired by her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales. While it has not been confirmed one way or another, there have been many publications where the media puts the two side-by-side to compare the similar fashion. Around 2019, Kate began introducing more trouser suits into her wardrobe, and now, it is not uncommon to see her at an engagement in trousers rather than some sort of dress.

As the Duchess heads into her 40th year, no one could forget the gold-sequined cape down by Jenny Packham – a favourite designer of the Duchess – at the 2021 UK premiere of the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die. She has also been seen in her final engagements of 2021, rewearing what some may consider “fan favourites” at various engagements in an effort to be more sustainable.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.