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Kate's 2015: The "Best Of" List

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Good evening friends and fans. As hard as it is to believe, we have circled back around to New Year's Eve. As we do every year, before we bid farewell, we take one final glance back at the past year. The highs, the lows, the best, and sometimes the worst.  As usual, I try to narrow the list to the two best ensembles of the month in addition to events that were real fan highlights. At the end of the post, per usual, there will be individual awards. It was quite a royal year, let's go get rolling...

Usually the royal year starts quietly. After the hubbub of the holiday season, the BRF seems to hibernate from January's chill and only slowly ease into the New Year... but in January of 2015 Kate had a bit of a conundrum. In the fall of 2014, the Duchess had fallen ill with hyperemesis gravidarum in the midst of a busy schedule. She had to cancel a slew of events, including a two-day trip to Malta, and only began to feel better just as the royal family began to slip into their holiday lull. As the calendar flipped to 2015 Kate was facing her family's annual holiday in Mustique at the end of the month. She chose to book a group of public events to make up for her missed engagements and to make a few headlines before slipping away for a much needed getaway. For her first ensemble of 2015 Kate debuted a Madderson London shift dress that easily makes the "Best Of" list. This was a simple, streamlined silhouette, with just the right pop of colorful tweed:

Just a few days later, the Duchess was the guest of honor at a Fostering Network event in a brown, animal print dress. It was on the 19th, however, that Kate wore the second ensemble to make the list for January. This baby blue maternity coat with complementing dress from Séraphine is hard to beat. Specifically tailored for her pregnant figure, it was endlessly flattering. I think this was one of Kate's best maternity looks from either pregnancy.

Everything was perfect from her bouncing locks to the deeper blue accessories. If there was a hierarchy within the "Best Of" list, this would be right up there by the top.

As we suspected, Kate, William, and George joined the Middletons in Mustique for their annual get-away.  Kate was snapped with George and Nanny Maria making their way to the beach. The party was again photographed boarding a flight for home at the conclusion of their holiday which extended into early  February.

Kate only had two official appearances in February, which makes these next two ensembles members of this list by default. The MaxMara the Duchess debuted in Portsmouth was a win at the time, although it hasn't gown on me over the intervening months. It wasn't a maternity piece and when compared to a later white coat, lacked the tailoring to make it a real win for maternity wear.

Still, it was hard to beat Kate's radiant glow that shone through the fog and chill of the February day:

Kate recycled her popular Séraphine dress at the Emma Bridgewater factory. That dress legitimately makes the list, but the SportMax coat didn't win quite as many points. The coat was in a gorgeous color and generated buzz because it was a designer debut, but to me the very wide lapels overwhelmed Kate's petite frame:

Kate threw her weight behind mental health awareness by appearing in a video for Mental Health Week. It was a theme we would see her really focus later in the year.

Anticipation was mounting in March as Kate presented a packed schedule of final public engagements. The pregnant princess was due in late April and would soon be disappearing from the public eye. Despite her announced events, she made a "private" appearance at the Goring's rehab relaunch. The excitement of this unexpected appearance gives it a place on this list:

Shortly after, Kate recycled a maternity ensemble from her first pregnancy. It was the first time we had gotten an unobstructed look at the coat, and with the new hat and accessories with which she paired it, the ensemble was a win worthy of our round-up:

Kate was on a roll with her recycles, and her next ensemble was another big, big hit. The Dalmatian print she wore to her final event when pregnant with George was recycled on a visit to a Kent art museum. Kate ditched the hat and wore her hair in a pony. The more streamlined presentation transformed this coat into a major win and scored it a spot on the Best of 2015:

Although ITV had not confirmed the whispers that season six would be the last, Kate's visit to Downton Abbey lent significant weight to the rumor. Her visit was a huge highlight of the year, but also would have been a contender on the fashion front if it were  not being included for the fan factor. This JoJo Maman Bebe was a designer debut and the victor in a face-off against the Portsmouth MaxMara. If you haven't seen the pictures from the Downton set, pop to this post to enjoy them.

March was a stellar month for Kate's fashion and it is hard to hold to only two ensembles. Nevertheless, her all blue ensemble for the Afghanistan service easily makes the list. The chic saucer hat and blue, Beulah dress and coat set the perfect tone for the event that paid tribute to the veterans and casualties in the Middle East. Kate also introduced new gems to her jewelry box with these matching tanzanite and diamond earrings and necklace.

The Afghanistan ensemble edged out the brown outfit she wore for St. Patrick's Day, although that look was a worthy contender. Kate's appearance at Home Start was low-key. The Duchess wore a polka-printed Asos dress and a coat that has been in her closet for some years. The event was memorable from a fashion perspective because we finally learned that the coat, long a UFO, was made by Kate's private dressmaker.

As the busy month drew to a close, Kate was spotted shopping for little shoes for George. She undertook her final public appearance on March 27th. With William by her side, the smiling Duchess recycled the striking pink Mulberry coat she had first worn in New York just a few months before.

In April, Kate disappeared entirely. She did not have a single public appearance. We did get to see her driving George around London in her Range Rover:

The photos of the Duchess playing with Prince George at Snettisham playpark were hugely popular. We still hadn't seen many photos of George at all, so this was an exciting photoset. Although we didn't see Kate officially in April, it was a big month for From Berkshire to Buckingham as I launched the Online Encyclopedia of Kate's Clothes.

Meanwhile, we waited, and waited, and waited for the new royal baby. After the seemingly interminable wait for George in 2013, media and fans were smarter about the start-clock. The Royals tried to keep the hysteria at bay by banning photographers from setting up outside the Lindo Wing, but that didn't stop multiple daily reports from journos encamped in the neighboring hotels, ready to set up at a minute's notice. When the Palace extended the parking restriction into May there was almost a gasp of incredulity, but Princess Charlotte was just waiting to make her arrival in the delicate month of May. Charlotte Elizabeth Diana's birth on May 2, 2015 was certainly the highlight of the year. Her sweet little face was beamed around the world as most fans rejoiced that we finally had a little Cambridge princess!

I have to say that the most exciting moment in the whole hoopla of Charlotte's birth was not actually her presentation, but seeing George again in high-resolution. We hadn't seen him officially in over a year, and it was like being reintroduced to the little man. William's comforting kiss was a highlight of the year:

The problem with a royal baby is that it really does gut the schedule. After her impressive appearance on the steps of the Lindo Wing less than 12 hours after the birth of her daughter, Kate gave one final wave from the Range Rover as William drove his family from Kensington Palace toward Norfolk and a summer at Anmer Hall bonding with their new baby.

June got off on a good foot as the Palace released images of George and Charlotte taken by their mother at Anmer Hall. Fans were delighted by the pictures of the little prince cradling his sister in his arms and even leaning down for a gentle kiss in one shot:

Trooping the Colour was Kate's first foray back into public events since she waved goodbye to us all in May. I still love the Catherine Walker coat she wore and I suspect that if she recycles it, and we get a better peek, it will be a major hit. Since we couldn't see it to its full advantage and the hat didn't exactly hit it out of the ballpark, this event makes the list for the fan, not fashion, factor:

Before his debut on the balcony, George watched the festivities from an upstairs window. His enthusiastic faces strengthened the sense we were getting--and that was have seen blossom since--that George is bursting with personality:

Easily making the list for the fan factor is Kate's Father's Day polo appearance. The Duchess brought George to watch William play ball and the hundreds of photos of England's heir playing in the grass, interacting with cousins, and even getting a royal reprimand from mummy still put a smile on our faces today.  I think these will be history book favorites:

As June faded to July Kate stayed true to her warning that she'd take the summer off to focus on her family. Pictures of the princess helping George push a play tractor around a park in Norfolk kept fans from going entirely crazy as we waited for the inevitable, if delayed, return of the Duchess.

Each month of Kate's hiatus had a big event. Charlotte was born in May, June saw Trooping and the polo appearance, and July really upped the ante as the month Charlotte was christened and the official christening photos were released. On July 5th at St. Mary Magdalene church, Charlotte's baptism was witnessed by a close group of family and friends. The royals generously allowed fans to gather outside the church to watch the comings and goings and to offer good wishes. Kate's breathtakingly elegant ensemble from Sarah Burton and Alexander McQueen, and her matching topper by Jane Taylor, quickly take one of the two slots for the month of July:

We saw an uptick in royal engagements in July. William and Kate made an appearance at Wimbledon  where HRH wore a midi-length L.K. Bennett dress. I admit that given the scarcity of engagements in this month, it might seem that the "Cayla" makes the cut by default, but I genuinely liked this dress. I think the length is unusual and elegant and the simple cut keeps the piece from feeling fussy or overwhelming.

As they celebrated George's 2nd birthday, the Cambridge's released an unseen Daddy/Son shot from Charlotte's christening. The photo by Mario Testino again highlighted the boisterous and joyous personality of the young prince.

Although much of the day;s activities were cancelled due to bad weather, it was still fun to see Kate introduce William to one of her patronages. The pair attended the Americas Cup World Series in Portsmouth. This was one of the only times we have seen Kate take William to an event at which she was the "lead royal" i.e. the primary patron.  This makes the list because of how unusual it was, and because of how cute these two were in matching hoodies.

August is always slow, and this August wasn't going to fall short of precedent. We didn't see Kate at all. Still, royal news was peppy as the Cambridges chose this month to take a stab at paparazzi pictures of their children. They released an appeal to the public detailing the security concerns connected with unauthorized photos and asking the public to reject the photos. The letter was received with mixed reviews and split opinion. I support pap shots of adult royals, and I objected to the way in which the Cambridges presented their concerns. But as we toast 2015 and move into 2016, the issue is still one on which I have not firmly made up my mind.

With the start of September came a crisp hint to the air and the return of the royals! The Cambridge family travelled to Scotland for a visit to Balmoral. Kate recycled a favorite Hobbs coat and debuted bangs that have been the center of constant debate since that day. If this list is supposed to round up the best of fashion and fan interest, the bangs make the list--for better or worse:

On a visit to the Anna Freud Centre, Kate's Ralph Lauren houndstooth dress had the excitement of a designer debut simply because she so rarely wears the American on an official engagement. The dress received mixed reviews, and although I thought it was nice, it is edged out by a few of the other stellar ensembles she debuted in September. This was a tough month. Kate wore an electric blue coat from Reiss to the Rugby World Cup, and it almost won a place on this list, but as I say, September was a highly competitive month. Kate wore an oatmeal dress from The Fold to HMP Send. The dress marked another designer debut and was an easy winner for the "Best of" list.  I love everything about this. The textured fabric, the asymmetrical peplum, Kate's bangs, and the dove grey accessories. It is just gorgeous.

The second winner for September is easily the floral trousers and UFO jacket Kate wore to a second visit to the Rugby World Cup. This was a fresh and new casual look for Kate, one for which many have been hoping, and was so, so cute on her.

A better view of her crops:

October was the busiest month of the year for Kate. She took a central role in the China State Visit and made a number of appearances for her charities. Due to the many incredible ensembles, I am going to choose two working ensembles and break out the floor length gowns. Kate had six "daytime" ensemble and there wasn't a shabby showing in the mix. On the 10th Kate and William made an appearance for World Mental Health Day and the Duchess recycled her Tory Burch from the tour Down Under. I was tempted to tap this dress, because I loved getting a better look this wonderful frock that flattered her slim build perfectly, was a competitive month.

I have included this picture since I couldn't resist, but we charge on... Kate bundled up in the Reiss Delaney for a visit to a Rugby game, it was a cute look, but I didn't swoon. Kate's appearance at Buckingham Palace, dripping in diamonds and wearing a custom Jenny P makes this list simply for the historical oomph. It was Kate's first State Dinner in Britain and might have been one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year:

I know this was a dress that divided, but the plum Dolce & Gabbana Kate wore to Lancaster House the day after the State Banquet wins a slot on the list. It was a designer debut and it was a bold choice. I loved the shake-up even if the dress has not entirely grown on me. I agree that it was a little heavy for the day, but I still loved it.

Not long after, Kate debuted an ensemble with "Best of" written all over it. This stunning Christopher Kane ensemble for an Away Day in Dundee, Scotland was a real stunner and an easy pick for this list:

Kate's space-themed Tabitha Webb dress for a "Shaun the Sheep" day in aid of the Charities Forum was both a designer debut and continued Kate's fall penchant for the midi-length. It doesn't make the list, but it (say it with me) was a competitive month. The Royal Trio's appearance at the Spectre premiere was a huge hit and makes the "Best of" list with ease. This diaphanous evening gown by Jenny Packham was exotic and ingenious. I loved it.

Kate recycled an Orly K dress from 2012 and it might have been her best recycle of the year. It doesn't make the list because we have run out of slots, but relive the perfection here.  Kate's floral Erdem makes the list for a number of reasons. Most interestingly, it was a debut for evening wear, since the Duchess has never worn an Erdem evening gown. It wins because of how incredibly unusual a choice it was for Kate, and it wins for sheer style audacity.

October was a tough month to follow, but November still held its own. For Kate, the month always begins with Remembrance Sunday, but this year, Kate also attended the Festival of Remembrance the night before the Sunday event. Kate wore another lace D&G that afforded fashionistas a chance to see what the Lancaster Lace dress would have looked like without the high collar. Kate's bespoke "Patchwork" coat from McQueen wins a place on the "Best of" 2015. I love the blocks of velvet and hope we see this recycled in 2016.

In the wake of the traumatic attacks in Paris by the Islamic State, Kate and William paid a visit to the French embassy in Paris where they signed a book of condolence. Kate continued her pattern of wearing a subdued swiss dot suit she has had in her closet for many years. While that suit didn't quite have the pizazz to make the list, a designer debut did.  This blue dress from British/Indian label Saloni might have been a preview of the Duchess's upcoming tour of India in 2016, but in any event, it was a solid win. I loved the texture, the vintage silhouette, and the trendy diamond back:

Kate continued her trend of recycling ensembles circa 2011/12 with her Matthew Williamson shift dress:

This fantastic recycle was neck and neck with the next engagement's recycle, the olive Reiss "Angel" coat on a day in North Wales. It was a hard choice, but the coat pulled a little because Kate was all bundled up underneath for her next event. The Matthew Williamson wins this one.

Making the "Best Of" list of 2015 for fan factor, not fashion, is Kate's stint abseiling in Wales. These athletic and hands on activities always allow Kate's warm and charming personality to shine. Her enthusiastic participation wins a place among the highlights of our royal year.

The month ended on a high as Kate and William released pictures of Princess Charlotte. This is the first photo of Charlotte we have gotten where her features were really distinguishable. It was such a treat in 2015:

December dawned with the requisite holiday cheer. Kate joined her mother and sister for an intimate dinner at Clos Maggiore in London. We don't know what she was wearing, but the evening looked lovely. Easily stealing the star for December was Kate's appearance at the Diplomats' Reception. The Duchess wore the Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara made iconic by Princess Diana.

Kate got a new December-do, the second hair change of the year, when she cut her locks to shoulder length. The hairstyle was debuted on her appearance at the ICAP Charity Day where she recycled the wildly popular LK Bennett teal suit. This was a great recycle, but it doesn't get onto the list because Kate really finished the month with some significant stars that edged out the LK Bennett.

Kate's visit to Action on Addiction's study centre should have made the list. She debuted a houndstooth coat from Reiss that I absolutely love. She paired it, however, with another favorite, the teal Emilia Wickstead. I love each separately, but I am not in love with them together. The slight discrepancy in style was just enough to disqualify this very worthy ensemble from the list. (photo via Kate's Clothes)

Kate's final official appearance was a visit to the Anna Freud Centre's Christmas party. This doesn't make the list for sartorial strength--although this was a gorgeous ensemble--but for the fan factor. Kate's approachable and warm personality continues to make her a star:

Kate attended the Queen's Christmas luncheon for family without William, who was otherwise engaged. Prince Harry escorted his sister-in-law and her two children, but Nanny Maria took the little ones home afterward as Kate stayed behind to accept a brand new role as Honorary Air Commandant of the RAF Air Cadets. This makes the list for its importance in Kate's royal professional life. It is the first military role she has taken on, and bodes well for future fashion appearances. :)

The Cambridges made everyone's holiday by releasing a Christmas photo of their family. A bit of a hubbub ensued after a magazine suggested that Princess Charlotte had been photoshopped. Although the area surrounding her face is oddly blurry, it is clear this is only due to her cashmere sweater and the photo is entirely genuine.

Kate's Christmas ensemble wins a place on the "Best Of" list. I love the green and the black, I love the  streamlined silhouette, and I love the stylish new hat. Anytime Kate wears her Aquatalia Rumbas is a win. This was also the first Christmas Kate wore her hair up and it was a fresh twist.

Finally, her last ensemble of the year also earns a place on the list. These Michael Kors separates are classic Kate Middleton and classic country chic. Kate's hair wasn't professionally styled and her hat should have been at just a bit more of an angle, but it was exactly what I want when Kate escapes London for some time in Norfolk. It was gorgeous.

Overall, 2015 was the year we got to know George better. In January of 2015 he was almost an anonymous infant. In the second half of the year we were finally introduced to a boisterous, self-confident, handsome little man. Kate tapped into her 2011/12 closet and we saw more of a trend back toward her classic looks, particularly in September through December. Although Kate had a lot of slow months due to Charlotte's arrival, she closed the year strong with new events and causes. We have a few special awards before we close this evening and this year.

The Best Ensemble of the Year (formal attire excepted):

Christopher Kane's Mini-Houndstooth paired with the Aquatalia Rhumba boots blew me away. This was the absolute biggest win of the year. Amusing given his past track record, but let us not digress. This was perfectly tailored to Kate's figure, in her favorite color scheme, and perfectly embodies Kate's long-time style. Win, win, win.

Best Debut Designer:

Kate debuted more new labels this year than she has since she became a royal. As exciting as it was to see D&G join the closet, The Fold wins 2015's "Debut Designer." In a middle price point, this dress was streamlined and simple, but contemporary and chic. It was right in step with Kate's style from the early days of her marriage, which was a very successful "era" for the Duchess. I hope we see more of The Fold in 2016.

Designer of the Year

Last year Jenny Packham won hands down. This year, Erdem is the dark horse taking the crown. Kate surprised us with the floral "Darla" for her private engagement at the Goring and really shook things up when she wore Erdem's Alouette dress to the 100 Women in Hedge Funds event. Erdem stole the show with this gown:

Cutest Moment of the Year

This easily goes to Kate whispering to her little man in a candid shot of the two at the Natural History Museum. George couldn't be more precious here, and I love that Kate--who is the royal patron of this museum--is bringing her son to learn and enjoy everything this incredible establishment has to offer.

I think this year flew by faster than any year I can remember. For me it has been a year full of huge changes.  As much as I would have liked to insulate the blog from these ups and downs, I could not. I appreciate the patience and good humor you have all displayed as I navigated a myriad of schedule challenges, and the impact those had on the blog. Shortly, I will be heading back to law school to finish my 1L year and I know this will be a final rocky semester to get through together before we hit calmer waters.  When I started law school I didn't want to give up the blog, and I am determined to hold on through this final, tough semester. There may be a few times when a post is late, but it will come. 2016 is going to be a fantastic year of royal watching and I am excited to do it with you and the many who will join our ranks in the next 12 months.

As always on New Year's Eve, my thoughts drift from St. Louis across the metro area, across the fifty States, to Europe, to Asia, Africa, South America, to Australia and beyond. My imagination conjures up phantasms of Paris and Rome of Sydney and Tokyo, as well as the small towns that dot every nation and timezone. Each one of you, although I do not know you personally, is in my thoughts tonight. I hope 2015 was a year of growth, and I pray this new year will bring you peace and joy.