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Down Under Tour Analysis: Were Local Labels Short-Changed

Friday, May 9, 2014

Well, the tour ended two weeks ago and it seems that is the time it takes for me to recover from three weeks of overdosing on caffeine and sleeping four hours a day. Because...I miss Kate! While we wait around for the Cambridges to indulge in some very royal R&R before re-emrging, let's look over the tour as a whole. 

As we suspected, many of the pre-tour rumors turned out to be false. Certainly, contrary to many excited reports, there was not a significant amount of bling on this tour. In fact, there was even less bling than we anticipated. Although Kate wore the Silver Fern brooch, she never did wear the Wattle brooch that many of us thought would certainly make a timely appearance. 

What I did not anticipate was how few local designers Kate would wear, and by that I mean, not wear. Certainly here on this blog, and I believe elsewhere as well, there was a sense of let-down and perhaps light disappointment that Kate did not showcase more local talent. At the same time, a lot of people were wondering if this tour would see a change in Kate's fashion, a "maturing" or some sort of significant shift. I did not expect this tour to debut any huge change in her sartorial preferences. Only one tour has massively shifted her look, and that was the 2011 tour of Canada. Was this tour very different from her other two? Did she short-change the local designers in contrast to other tours? Let's look oh so briefly at her two past tours to see how Down Under 2014 truly stacks up.

I love Kate's pre-wedding wardrobe, but she did need to spruce it up and find a more polished vibe. For Canada, she leapt across the spectrum, from the loose, flowing a-lines of her single days, to the structured sheaths. That was the major pop in the Canadian tour. Touchdown in Canada saw her introduce a silhouette that up to that point had been very limited in her wardrobe. It was sophisticated, sexy, and just what she needed to be the confident new Duchess of Cambridge on the world stage. This blue Erdem was a major hit:

Shortly after, another blue Erdem:

The grey Catherine Walker:

Hanging out in a taupe Malene Birger:

Canada did herald a significant change in Kate's clothes, but there were deeper reasons for this change. She had married William only a few short months before embarking on their "honeymoon" adventure in North America. So, the much greater and more substantial shift that had taken place was that Kate had married. Kate had gone from a private person--dare we say it, a commoner--to an M.R.S. with an HRH. Instead of the occasional pap shot, Kate was looking down the barrel at a lifetime of formal engagements at which she was expected to play the part of a princess. Obviously, her closet was due for an overhaul.

On the North American Tour (Canada & Los Angeles) Kate wore Erdem, Issa recycles, High Street pieces like Whistles and Reiss, Catherine Walker, Joseph, McQueen, Jenny Packham, Temperley, Roksanda Ilincic, and DVF. While not an exhaustive list, these were the primary labels, all of which remain in rotation, and even the small pieces, such as the Aquascutum scarf, we saw again. It was very much a wardrobe building tour. Kate had already been wearing many of these labels, but she added some royal oomph with sheath dresses from Erdem, Catherine Walker, and Malene Birger.

Kate Wearing Erdem at Trooping 2012

Because she was starting her wardrobe and just beginning to navigate the world of royal fashion, it also created a situation where many of those designers ended up being staples in her stable. This is contrasted to, say, South East Asia, where she wore a Prabal Gurung in a nod to the region, but we have not seen her in the label outside of the tour.

Kate in Prabal Gurung in South East Asia

When Kate went to South East Asia, it was almost the reverse of Canada. She almost ricocheted back in the opposite direction of the Canada tour. She stuffed her wardrobe full of a-lines and floaty pieces, with only a few notable structured sheaths. Again, though, she stuck to the labels that were solidified as royal favorites: McQueen, Jenny Packham, Temperley, Beulah, Mulberry with a few other random labels. The only two local designer she showcased were Prabal Gurung and Raoul. 

Kate Wearing Raoul in Singapore 

So, how do these two tours compare to Kate's three weeks Down Under? For the most part, I think it was very par for the course. I did notice that rather than favor one silhouette or the other, Kate blended more evenly, and perhaps added more variety than the previous two tours, which is clearly a product of the experience she has garnered dressing for many public engagements over the past three years.

So what about her hemline? She certainly had them consistently lower, although not what I would consider super long. Again, this seems to be the result of experience. Many of the lengths Kate wore on tour in Canada were perfectly fine when standing, but when engaging in the various activities called for, presented difficulties. Easily demonstrated: sitting. Below, Kate sits in 2011 with her clutch balanced along her legs, but that doesn't do much for the side view that is revealing a generous swath of her leg. I think she looks great, but she may have felt a little uncomfortable with hundreds of cameras trained on her. 

This tour, the Luisa Spagnoli was restructured for added length, and presto, no balancing act was needed. She was a comfy Kate. 

Planting tress, and bending down to meet small children can all present complications in a frock that is a little on the short side. It was clear that Kate was drawing on trial and error as she put together her tour wardrobe.

Lastly, what about designers? Why didn't she showcase the host country more. I think the fast answer is that Kate has never gone overboard in that department. She primarily wears her labels. It may have seemed that Kate cheated a little in New Zealand when she wore an Emilia Wickstead and a Rebecca Taylor, both designers born in New Zealand, but whose fashion labels are based in London.  But, this is very similar to Kate's behavior in Canada. Canada may have seemed like it was a national fashion show for the host country, but as noted, she was building a wardrobe, and Erdem really was the primary label showcased. Erdem, although of Canadian origin, is now based in London, and so widely considered a British label. I think we could say that wearing Emilia Wickstead and Rebecca Taylor was quite comparable to the Erdem. In Australia, Kate wore a brand new Zimmermann which could be compared to her fresh choices in South East Asia-- the Prabal Gurung and the Raoul. 

All in all, what I first felt was a tour with very surprising choices, turned out to be a tour that was fairly in line with her first two, just with the sophistication of a more experienced royal. You know who made out like bandits in this whole sartorial dust-up? The Americans! Kate wore three Yankee labels: Tory Burch, Lela Rose, and Michael Kors. Which makes for the final point, which is that Kate wears what she likes. Kate chooses her clothes like every other girl does. The core of her wardrobe is comprised of the same mainstays, and then she fills in with the occasional cute rando that she stumbles across and that catches her fancy. Isn't that why we love her, because way down deep, she reminds us of ourselves? 


  1. Dear Jane,
    Thank you for this wonderful post. I find your comments very balanced and well-informed. I also like the unexcited tone.

    1. Hello there! Three wonderful tours, eh? Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Ah, this post made me happy; you feature some outfits that I'd never seen before. A nice surprise for an unconditional admirer ! And by the way, thank you for having kept me on your blog list !!!! xx

    1. Ahh, so happy you enjoyed it! Bien sûr, you never know if the Silver Bunny might come back. ;) xoxo, Jane

  3. Jane great post. I do think Kate dresses with things she likes and does not like to show case designers. If she does not like a dress then she will not wear it. So maybe she did not like any of the designers dresses she was presented. But let's face it, she would look good in a paper bag. She is just so stunning & beautiful. A breath of fresh air to the royal family. William & George are very lucky guys.

  4. I think Kate is pretty and looks wonderful in what she wears - but I just don't find her choices inspiring. A lot of her clothing is one color homages to past styles, fitted to her figure. I think these are safe, boring choices. She dresses like former first lady Laura Bush. Kate just does not seem to dress like a woman in her early 30's with the ability to afford all the creative designers. Every one of her McQueen outfits are staid reworkings of the original version - it's like she takes something new and refreshing and has them rework it to be ordinary. It's really quite maddening.

    1. Hi Tempest,

      IMO I don't think Kate is the type to dress up in trendy or flashy styles but will stick with what she is comfortable in. I don't know if you remember Diana's Euro-fabulous stage in dressing or not, but she was really criticized for becoming a "clothes horse" and in this economic climate maybe Kate doesn't want a repeat of that. If Harry's relationship with Cressy had continued, I think she would have been the one to wear the more daring, creative styles.

  5. Hi Jane this was a great post! I Think kate has evolved so much over the past three years, but as you say she has grown older, become a married woman, a mother a representative of the UK, all incredibly important and life changing factors.
    I have to say I was surprised at her choices on this tour, I really did expect her to wear more Australian designers, but like you said I think kate knows what suits her and what she feels comfortable in and above all I think she dresses to please herself. We have seen this in the way she will recycle an outfit, she wears the same pairs of shoes, same makeup and same accessories. I think she is a strong woman who will not pander to the fashion press and their image of her, although she is aware of their presence. I think her fashion choices demonstrate her personality and show while she respects tradition and her position she is determined to be her own woman and I think William wants this for her too.

  6. Suzanne in ColoradoMay 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Thank you Jane! Always enjoy your spin on things. Please never stop revisiting old photos! I love the blasts from the past!

  7. I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I found it during the NZ/Australia tour while searching for more Kate style info and I have been a fan since. You're now on my favorites list just "above" (I might add) WKW. I do appreciate your very personal touch/interpretation of Kate's choices for style/life and otherwise. I have been a fan of Kate since the royal wedding when she was thrust into our family rooms by the televised event (surprising because we don't get a lot of Kate news here in the US). Studying her fashion choices as she stepped into her new royal role has helped me to find my way in my professional life and be more confident in my choices. Keep up the wonderful work Jane.

  8. Nicely written post, Jane. I really liked your last paragraph. I would imagine all of this wardrobe "madness" takes a considerable amount of time. Perhaps it is not all that important to Kate. Sure she wants to look nice and has to look nice, but does not want to put a considerable amount of time and thought into it...just go with what she knows she likes and what looks good. Maybe it is her way of trying to stay "even keeled" so people will not make so much fuss over what designers she uses and what she wears and instead focus on the message she and William are trying to convey. Now after three tours, it appears that she is going to wear what looks and feels good. Maybe she wants to spend more time with her family than with figuring out all of this wardrobe hub bub??? Just my thoughts. Thanks again. Joan M.

  9. Also do you think they will go on another tour in the next couple of years? What about to the Caribbean? It would really make me so excited if they went to where my family is from. Apparently princess Diana loved st kitts! :)

  10. Hi Jane,

    Great post!!! You really cleared some things up for me. I was disappointed that more local designers weren't featured but since you reminded me that the Canada/US tour was her first tour and during a time when she was just starting to dress more "royal", it makes sense that that was the tour where we would see all new styles and looks for her. Also, the second tour differed from the first primarily due to the climate, much hotter and humid, hence the looser fitting and more flowing dresses. This tour was much more coat heavy, not as many dresses at least not until Australia, which really how creative and different can you make a coat?

    To me, Kate looks great in both the sheath dress or the fit/flare style. I think the sheath style dress is a bit more professional looking and can she wear this style when she wants to project that image. While the fit/flare style is much more feminine and will serve her well when that is the look she is trying to project, maybe just not when she's deplaning due to wind.

    I look forward to her next engagement in London and dream of the day when we might see her in the pale green/blue McQueen and tiara she wore to the Diplomat's reception.

  11. CJ from MinnesotaMay 10, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Four Americans - DVF...

  12. Check your phone! CAll ME!!!!

  13. Check your phone

  14. Jane, really enjoyed this trip down fashion memory lane. When I see the photo of Kate in the black floral, with her red polish pedicure, it reminds me of how very young she was when she came on the scene.

    I often read remarks about her "safe" fashion choices, but I think playing it safe is a better direction instead of making an intenational fashion error. When you see the long black floral skirt, her fashion has evolved more than I remember from this period of time.


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