This is my favorite, favorite post of the year. Tour excepted, it takes longer than any other post, but it is such a pleasure to sit down and take the time to review a year of fashion and fun with Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge. 2014 was certainly packed with many worthy highlights, and we will briefly review the past 12 months and award accolades to the special ensembles of each.
As always, the year started softly in the royal world. Still cocooned by the warmth and joy of Christmas, most of the BRF stay out of the limelight in January. The Cambridges toasted the dawn of 2014 in Bucklebury with the Middletons. Kate's calendar was already dotted with several impending milestones, including an almost month-long tour Down Under, and the completion of her Norfolk mansion. She was spotted shopping for antique rugs in Henley-on-Thames for the latter project, and celebrated her January 9th birthday with a low-key dinner at Kensington Palace surrounded by family and close friends. Sadly, the public didn't get a glimpse of the Duchess and so January is without a single sartorial highlight. George expresses our emotions very aptly here:
Leaving William in Cambridge where he had just started a 10-week course in agriculture, Kate started February on the front-page as she was pictured toting her infant son off a British Airways flight in the Caribbean. The Duchess was making her way to the annual Middleton holiday on the exclusive island of Mustique, which also afforded baby George a dry-run for his upcoming trip to Australia. Any exclusive shot of Kate on holiday in the tropics makes my "Best of" list:
Glowing from her sand & sun break, Kate dazzled fans at her first public appearance of the year when she showed up at the National Portrait Gallery in a priceless necklace on loan from the Queen. The necklace alone--the single largest piece of jewelry Kate has ever worn--easily makes the grade for this wrap-up:
Valentine's Day, the Duchess promoted creativity as she opened a new studio for The Art Room at Northolt in London. Just a few nights later, she co-hosted a reception for the dramatic arts with Queen Elizabeth II. The other "Queen" was on hand, and pictures of Kate chatting with Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren remain a media highlight of 2014:
In March, the last month before what would be the most grueling tour to-date, the royals first made headlines by hiring Spanish nanny Maria Borrallo to care for George. The little prince's walks were tabloid fodder as William and Kate jetted to the Maldives for a private week away before the tour. It was their first solo trip since becoming parents in July of the previous year.
On their return, the two made their annual public appearance at Aldershot together as they toasted the Irish Guards and St. Patrick's Day. Kate's Hobbs coat in a rich green and her recycled Gina Foster topper make the list for their polished perfection.
The Royal Trio slipped in the wedding of good friends as the month wound down. March closed with excitement high as Kate celebrated her first Mother's Day by releasing the official family portrait commemorating the upcoming tour. The literally picture-perfect family, including Lupo, makes the "Best of" 2014:
The Down Under tour of April 2014 will forever be a wonderful haze of coffee, sleep-deprivation and non-stop sartorial delight. We held weekly round-ups highlighting the bests of the tour, and honestly narrowing that many outfits to just one is really impossible. Nevertheless, I have spent some time trying to decide which single ensemble would represent a month of non-stop fashion, and it was hard. In the end, I had to go back to the beginning. It wouldn't be entirely fair to say that the adrenaline and fresh excitement of the first appearance prejudiced me, although that may play a role. I think the Catherine Walker ensemble, with its different layers, feminine lines, and bold military details, not to mention the striking and sophisticated Gina Foster pill box hat, make this a standout appearance. It wins April's Down Under slot for its iconic clout:
Making the highlight's of '14 list for "most heartwarming" moment was Kate's triumph on the waves of Auckland Harbour. The Prince and Princess's flirtatious meeting afterward had more than one heart melting:
After the rigors of April, the Cambridges were almost entirely absent the month of May as they recovered from their trip and focused on family matters. There was speculation they would both attend Guy Pelly's Memphis, TN wedding, but a media circus was averted when only Harry and William crossed the pond. Despite Kate's absence, fans were delighted when pictures surfaced from Easter Sunday in Australia, in which William and Kate tried to hunt Easter Eggs with Prince George. These easily make any "Best of" list for the delightful juxtaposition of formal, public attire and relaxed, private family life.
While quiet, Kate was reported to be putting energy into Anmer Hall as the Georgian mansion crept closer and closer to completion. The Cambridges just barely squeaked in a public engagement before the month was out, by traveling to Scotland for a day of appearances on the 31st. This ensemble had not a shred of competition for May, and so makes the list by default. Not the way most of us would like to win, but a win is a win...
In June, the Duke and Duchess made their first official visit to France as they travelled to Normandy (pardon, Normandie) to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Not long after, Kate had hearts racing in a white and navy Jaeger dress when she attended a Greenwich brunch in aid of Ben Ainslie's push to win back the coveted America's Cup trophy. The white and navy trimmed dress against the lush green lawns of the National Maritime Museum's lawn scored the morning a win on my list:
The princess made an unexpected appearance the same afternoon at one of the Queen's Buckingham Palace garden parties. June was a busy month, and there were many worthy contenders, but the finest formal appearance was easily at Trooping. The suit, in a McQueen pattern of the palest of icy blues and taupe champagne, was figure flattering, unusual, and striking. She paired it with a bespoke Jane Taylor percher. It easily scores a spot on the "Best of" list...
Also making a splash in June was the family's charming afternoon at polo on Father's Day. It had been a while since we had snaps of Kate at polo and her little prince made a rare appearance, too, taking his first tottering steps in public:
July saw a mix of public and private events. Winning a coveted spot on this "Best of" list was the geranium-hued Goat dress that Kate wore on a visit to Blessed Sacrament School in London:
Sporty Kate was in the Royal Box at Wimbledon more than once in July. Despite her pleas to heaven, Federer lost, but she rocketed a recycle onto the 2014 list in her Jonathan Saunders from the South East Asia Tour:
The family was spotted at the Natural History Museum's butterfly exhibit with a photographer, and royal watchers correctly hypothesized that the couple were getting official snaps of George in the run-up to his birthday. These photos of the tiny prince interacting with the natural world won "Best of" before they were even released:
The birthday bash at Kensington Palace boasted guest of honor Great-Grandmother Elizabeth II, making the afternoon tea extra special. Around the same time it emerged that Kate took George for a weekly swim at the private pool in Buckingham Palace--a unique detail of her royal lifestyle that made up for the sparse calendar. Kate closed the month with two days of appearances at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. This makes the list both for the impeccable Stella McCartney dress and Smythe blazer, and for the Duchess's joyful participation:
In the first half of August, the Cambridges focused on World War I, representing the Queen in Belgium for the official commemoration of the start of World War I. Kate's custom Alexander McQueen effortlessly scores as a highlight of 2014. It was busy, yes, but it was also perfection. The pinky neutrals alone, complementing Kate's brunette locks and even tan, warrant a mention.
Breaking with precedent, an "event/venue" rather than Kate's ensemble makes the list in August. The stunning poppy display at the Tower of London (Blood Swept Lands & Seas of Red) was a highlight of 2014 and provided the most powerful visual of all the World War I centenary tributes.
And then they disappeared...just in time for us all to take uninterrupted holidays. There is a method to the madness... We did get a brief glimpse of the two right at the close of the month, though. Having left George in London, William and Kate absconded to Norfolk to give their Anmer Hall mansion the final touches and indulge in what appeared to be a very romantic date. Perhaps, they were sharing a special secret...
September began almost as quietly as January. William and Kate had a joint engagement to open the Dickson Poon China Centre at Oxford on the 8th, but on the morning of the event, it was announced that only William would make the appearance. Kate had been desperately sick for more than a week, and the palace officially confirmed she was pregnant with the couple's second child...The royal reporters around the globe fainted while fans went wild. (You guys are going to be ok, April will be so much gentler than July.) Unfortunately, as we are all aware, Kate was down for the count thanks to hyperemesis gravidarum. She spent all of September in her bed and we experienced our second month of 2014 without a single sighting. George, get out here buddy:
As we rolled into October, we began to hope that Kate would be on the mend soon. Her second tangle with HG was a little tougher than the first and she did not recover as quickly as had been hoped. Several engagements were cancelled, including an event with Ben Ainslie at which it was announced Kate had accepted the role of Royal Patron of The 1851 Trust. To our delight, however, she was snapped on October 15th looking blooming at an evening visit to Dr. Farthing for her 12 week scan.
On October 21st, the Duchess made her comeback and her ensemble was well worthy of this list. Alexander McQueen got the nod as she stepped out of the car to welcome the President and First Lady of Singapore:
Kate quickly followed up the State visit appearance with two more public engagements: an evening at the Natural History Museum and a night out for Action on Addiction. After her universally applauded return, the family slipped away for a much needed holiday in Scotland at the Queen's Balmoral Estate.
The Princess was still getting her feet in early November when she spent a day in Wales with William, but she seemed back in the swing of things by the time she made a visit to a SportsAid facility in a plum Goat dress. The month's highlight, however, was easily her stunning, stunning appearance at the Royal Variety Performance in a black, lace DVF gown. She set heads spinning, and "broke the internet" in this sensational get-up.
While not a mile-marker for everyone, From Berkshire to Buckingham experienced the greatest blogger vs. reader schism ever when the Duchess mixed Hobbs and Jenny P for an event at Kensington Palace. This was such a rift, it makes the list entirely for the dramathon is created. To remind you...you hated it. ;)
Far from winding down the year, December brought with it an abundance of holiday excitement as the Cambridges crossed the Atlantic for their first dedicated trip to The United States of America. It was only a two day appearance, and several of her ensembles will be highlighted very shortly, so those two pieces excepted, I give the highlight to the cerise Mulberry. Kate wore muted colors the majority of her visit to the Big Apple, but this bright and flattering coat brought a welcome pop of color to the tour. Because of its unusual hue, it stood out from the sartorial crowd, and symbolically clashed with the weather's rain and the gloom of our hearts as she visited the 9/11 National Memorial. This moving and gracious appearance was easily a highlight of the whirlwind trip:
The Royal-Watching year closed with a special Sandringham Christmas that saw Kate's family join the Royals in Norfolk. Pictures of James and Prince Harry playing soccer warmed hearts before both families were pictured attending the morning service at St. Mary Magdalene. It was a perfect end to an exceptional year.
Now we get to the really important stuff. Designer of the Year and Ensemble of 2014. Obviously, with the Down Under Tour, Jenny Packham and Sarah Burton put in some significant work, but I am giving Designer of the Year to Séraphine. Her flawless first appearance in New York was made perfect by a custom maternity coat in which she simply stunned the city and the country. I hope we see more Séraphine in 2015 as Kate completes this pregnancy, but in any event, this is certainly a well-deserved win for the luxury brand. Séraphine has never let Kate down:
Ensemble of the Year was a no-brainer. Kate looked like she had stepped directly from the pages of a lavishly illustrated fairy-tale when she ascended the steps of the Met in her three-peat Jenny Packham. With her hair in a chignon and dripping with priceless jewels, she left no room for argument on who rules the royal world. Well done Jenny Packham and well done Kate:
I am instigating a new honorable mention, and that is for Jewelry of the Year. It would be reasonable to assume New York would sweep the awards with those emerald earrings, but Kate's Annoushka Eternity ring wins. Kate debuted it in February and it has been a snuggled next to her wedding band ever since. I suspect it will be a staple for years to come:
It was the year of the Royal Recycle. From our star, ink-blue evening gown that had already been worn twice, to the Stella McCartney first debuted in 2012, to Rebecca Taylor in New Zealand, to the Jonathan Saunders and more, Kate dug into her closet to remind us she is the element that really wows.
As always, a big thank-you goes out across the world on this New Year's Eve. To each one of you checking in to follow Kate at From Berkshire to Buckingham, it has been a pleasure to share this year with you. 2014 was an exciting and productive one, and I am more than thrilled to announce that on Kate's birthday, January 9th, I will unveil a project I have been working on for some time. Although it will not launch until the New Year, it is fully the fruit of 2014's labor and belongs to this wrap up. Check in on the 9th, I hope you will enjoy the surprise!
That, kids, wraps up 2014!
Happy New Year!