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Kate's Clothes in Canada: How Did 2016 Measure Up?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

It's been just over a month since Kate and the Cambridges waved goodbye to British Columbia at the close of their successful tour. Canada 2016 didn't match Down Under 2014 in length, nor did it have the crackling excitement of that first overseas trip five years ago, but it was nevertheless a landmark tour for the Cambridges as a family and for Kate's style evolution.  The duchess presented a carefully curated and lavish display of clothes for her second tour of Canada. The two big questions that hovered in the air in the run up to the tour were, (1) would we see a shift in Kate's style and, (2) how would this tour measure up to Canada 2011?


Canada 2016 was a turning point for tours, certainly, as Kate presented the boldest and most diverse selection of ensembles we have ever seen from her when traveling. Canada 2011 was her first step into royal dressing and she carried over a lot of her own style, choosing many High Street labels and demure designer selections. But even debuting a whole new wardrobe in 2011 didn't pack the same punch as Kate's array of ensembles this time around.



Someone asked me during the tour if I was surprised by Kate's fashion choices, but I wasn't, because this display of dollars and designers was not unheralded. Kate signaled this shift months ago. In May of this year I explained that Kate had entered a new fashion phase:
When Kate returned to the scene in September of 2015 we saw what was perhaps the most important shift to-date. It was not so much a style shift as a change in her approach. Kate's (real) first week back saw her debut a succession of new pieces in very short order...Kate was looking beyond her usual go-to labels, in greater quantity...[She] continued to debut, rather than recycle, throughout the fall. It wasn't simply that she was wearing new pieces, she was branching out to expensive labels. The Duchess startled the fashion world by choosing to wear Italian label Dolce & Gabbana for China's State Visit, and she has worn the label several times since... I think the moment I knew for certain this was a new era was when Kate wore the floral Erdem to the Hundred Women in Hedge Funds gala. It was designer, it was loud and bold, it was a risk. As she descended the steps of the Victoria & Albert, I couldn't help but think of Princess Diana.
That is what we just saw in this tour. Kate splashed out on new and pricey labels, such as Carolina Herrera and Preen. These two ensembles in Canada's national red, were real show stoppers, and I think the Preen cocktail dress already ranks as an all-time fan favorite. With its asymmetric neckline, fitted bodice, and 1950's silhouette, the dress was far sexier than most cocktail dresses Kate has worn in the past. Certainly, it was a stark contrast to its New Zealand counterpart, the lovely, but far more demure black Jenny P:


The flair, the color, the sass is what set this tour apart. Kate didn't just debut designers, but even when she turned to her tried true labels, like Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana, she was clearly still operating on the go-bright-or-go-home theory. I haven't done an exhaustive memory search, but this McQueen, which I affectionally refer to as the Flamenco dress, is certainly of the most sartorially zany dresses Kate has worn. Had the duchess not removed the eccentric (can I say that?) clock appliqué that originally was on her whimsical green Dolce, though, that would have given the McQueen a run for its money. 


Even Kate's casual ensembles were expansive in terms of labels and new styles. After five years of a veritable uniform for dress-down occasions, Kate has been developing a more varied and polished business casual look, which hit a particular high point with her closing ensemble that included her second pair of "chunky" heels on the tour.  This was one of my favorite looks of the tour and might have even converted me to a fan of those chunky heels. 


Kate kept recycles to a bare minimum, rewearing shoes on a few occasions, or these Penelope Chilvers boots she has begun to wear on tours. She recycled a favorite Hobbs for her arrival in Whitehorse, a strategy we saw a lot of during her tour of India and Bhutan. 


Kate made sure that the bookends of the tour, her arrival and departure ensembles, both carried lots of royal fashion clout. The tour opened with a sophisticated and figure-hugging sheath dress from Jenny Packham, a reigning queen in Kate's closet. 


I don't know if you all saw, but thanks to this dress, we finally discovered the identity of the Somme-lace-dress designer! That dress was thought at first to be a McQueen, but the details on these two dresses are very similar and confirmed that the mystery designer of the Somme was not McQueen, but Jenny P.


Kate closed the tour with a coat from Catherine Walker in striking winter white. It is impossible to talk about Catherine Walker without thinking of Diana. Walker was Diana's Sarah Burton or Jenny Packham. The French native worked closely with the late Princess on many, many of her iconic ensembles. Kate closed her first tour of Canada in Catherine Walker, too. At the time I thought the Catherine Walker pieces she had worn would remain isolated one-offs, but Kate has made the label a staple of her second tier wardrobe.  I like that the Duchess began this tour and ended it by blending the old and the new. 


Although clothes play a huge part in making a tour, other factors impact the excitement and the star power, too. Canada 2011 was the first overseas tour for the Cambridges, Australia introduced Prince George to the world, and Canada 2016, albeit shorter than Down Under 2014, brought the very special and long-awaited debut of Princess Charlotte. The photos of the little princess swatting at balloons and sitting on a fluffy dog are already being formatted for the history books. 


So, how does Canada 2011 measure up to Canada 2011, Down Under 2014? Pretty well, I'd say. The couple covered a lot of ground in their one week, exposing fans to a remarkable and breathtaking variety of Canadian scenery, charities, customs, and culture. Kate embraced a robust assortment of ensembles that delighted fashion fans and style editors daily, and the pictures of the little Cambridges were a little overdue, but warmly welcomed. It was a very special nod to Canada for the Cambridges to give Charlotte her first significant public exposure in Canada, just as it was a tribute to Australia and New Zealand when George got his first time in the limelight Down Under. It was a great tour for Canada and for us! 



46 comments:

  1. Love these posts! Thank you for the discussion and insight.

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  2. Great post. Sometimes when I look at Kate, particularly in casual designer dresses I think she goes about half a size too small. The green D&G dress is a good example of something that is so tailored it's overly tight across the rib-cage (the blue Jenny P is the same). I don't think she needs to have everything tailored so tight to her shape.

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  3. I adore the red Preen cocktail dress. Can't say enough about it. Kate looked spectacular that evening. The Jenny Packham arrival was my second favorite. She looked stunning, what an entrance.
    It was lovely seeing the Cambridges as a family. I thoroughly enjoyed following the tour.

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  4. Sorry if this posts twice. Blogspot is giving me a wee bit of trouble.

    For me the red Preen and the blue Jenny Packham are tied for first place on this tour. The cut of the Preen was stunning on Kate and I love that she broke out the red shoes to go with it! The blue Jenny P was picture perfect and the hat she paired with it couldn't have been better. She made a brilliant first impression by stepping off the plane in that ensemble. Of course, I didn't care for the shoes with it but the rest was such a win I overlooked them this time. Isn't there a fashion rule about shoes not being lighter than your hemline? And though not everyone agrees with me on this one, I thought she looked wonderful in the cream Chloe she wore to the children's party. Adding the belt was just the right touch and the texture of the crocheting on the dress was lovely.

    Anyway, this tour was a hit for me and, sartorially, edges out 2011. I feel the same way about Catherine Walker as you do, Jane, and I'm happy to see Kate wear the label. I was thrilled to see Carole wear CW for the wedding. It made me wonder if she would have been wearing matching labels with Diana had she been around.

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    1. Robin, the arrival outfit remains my firm favorite. Stunning from head to toe IMO.

      Regarding Carole wearing CW for the wedding...I believe it was a nod towards Diana intended as a gesture towards WILLIAM. SOMEONE was recognizing his mother on such a special day in his life. I could even see Diana wearing the outfit, couldn't you? :)

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    2. I thought the same thing on the day of the wedding, royalfan! What a lovely nod to Diana and I think she would definitely have worn something like that at the wedding. I remember how anxious she was not to steal focus from the bride at Andrew and Sarah's wedding. "And Princess Diana wore a dress with spots." The press was so disappointed which means she got it right! She would certainly have taken so many more pains to do the same thing at William's wedding.

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    3. Robin, oh yes, I do remember the comments about the spots. It was a familiar choice by then and the reporters were not impressed. :)

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  5. I couldn't agree more. I loved her fashion choices, I loved her casual choices, I loved seeing the kids. It was great.

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  6. What a wonderful post, Jane! You continue to outdo yourself! Bravo

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  7. I agree with Robin; this was a far better tour, sartorially, than the 2011 tour.

    But, otherwise, the two tours in Canada are difficult to compare. W&K visited very different regions--Canada is a vast country, one of the worlds largest, and different issues affect different provinces and territories. Further, many of the locations on this second tour weren't heavily populated, were often, in fact, in a virtual wilderness. Finally, there is a different P.M., and a different political climate.

    But, if forced to pick a suitable comparison between 2011 and 2016, it would boil down to Ottawa and Victoria. Thousands gathered to greet them in Ottawa in 2011, and thousands gathered to wave them off in Victoria. It would seem, based upon local interest, that W&Ks appeal in Canada is still strong.

    One other difference between the two tours was that the second was a political minefield and the first, a walk in the park. For example, some First Nations welcomed--or, at least accepted--W&K, but these same First Nations would NOT have welcomed Justin Trudeau. The natives are restless and very angry, nor do I blame them.

    JC

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  8. I loved the Preen so much but the green D&G is my least favourite thing ever. It's an awful colour, doesn't hang properly and is such a dated design. It has no retro chic. Just horrible. Conversely, I in the minority who loved the Chloe dress Kate wore for the garden party.I thought it was very Kate, really suited her and was perfect for the occasion. The red and white McQueen is not my personal taste but it was interesting and enabled Kate to stand out in the crowd.

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    1. agreed! loved the garden party dress particularly.

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  9. Thanks, I love the many unique insights in your posts! Looking back, the D&G hit it out of the park! So perfect for her figure, and an amazing retro 30s style. Of course the Preen, and chunky heels ruled - think of her poor claw toes - she needs chic comfort sometimes! Love your holistic/realistic take on the royals...never stop, please.

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  10. Mega Excellent post! Looooooooove your points of view! :)

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  11. Where has Kate gone?? This autumn has been so disappointing - it's like the lady vanishes :(

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    1. Aha! An Agatha Christie fan, 11:46

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    2. Prince of wales on tour with duchess of Cornwall. William in Vietnam. Harry about to go on tour. Reporters keep saying Kate still attracts the most attention, so when theses things are happening she won't be out and about.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. I meant to agree with Anon 1:35. Not sure it posts that way! LOL.

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    5. She was out last weekend and the week before that and has an engagement next week.
      Prince William has had a lot of engagements and she won't clash with those.

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    6. Is that an Agatha Christie reference? I should have recognized it. Title of a Hitchcock film as well :-)

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    7. A very famous Hitchcock film, filmed at studios in Islington. (?) I got it confused with Murder on the Orient Express. I think the Lady Vanishes took place on a train, as well.There is his 1938 original and a 2013 version.

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    8. Yes! and now we have Girl on the Train. I guess train mysteries have never gone out of style. I haven't seen the remake but I just googled it and an actress by the name of Tuppence Middleton (!) plays Iris.

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    9. No doubt of the longlost Middleton "cousin" clan. :+) The remake is very Hollywood to me, but enjoyable.I like the black and white Hitchcock version. The starkness lends to the mystery.Margaret Rutherford is classic.
      Surely, it hasn't been "colorized."

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    10. For me an original is always better. Hitchcock was such a master of his art.

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    11. I hope it escaped being colorized. Robin is right. The remakes never come close.

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  12. I loved the first tour better probably because that was their first as well. Her fashion choices were solid and elegant for me the best so far.

    The second tour was special because of Princess Charlotte, I think she stole the show many times. Kate wore too many miss matched casual outfits for my taste and bespoke pieces with outrageous price tags with bad designs.


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  13. While I enjoyed following both Canadian tours, as well as Australia/NZ, the clothing worn was too familiar consistent with what is worn at home. Every item can fit right in, and in fact with the penchant for recycles, we have seen a number of outfits on more than one occasion. Far more exciting to me were the clothes worn for the India/NZ and Asian trips. Far more interesting is to meet the challenges of being Royal and wearing clothes that pay homage to the local culture and climate while not inadvertantly insulting or becoming costumey. From the 2016 Canadian tour, the outfits I appreciated the most were the red and white McQueen and the wearing of the Raven's tail scarf for those reasons.

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  14. I thought this was a slightly biased review. The duchess wore a number of ensembles that were simply perplexing on this tour, which didn't get any mention in the comparison.

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    1. I agree. While she had some real wins, other outfits were odd choices imo. I felt the clothing on this tour was all over the place without a cohesive thread. Definitely, she has embraced couture over high street but not without some stumbles.

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    2. Could be because the types and sites of her engagements were all over the place?

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    3. Definitely, I think that was a factor. For me, the tour lacked the rhythm and momentum that their other tours had.

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  15. The blue JP Canadian arrival dress and hat is probably my favorite dressy day outfit Kate has ever worn. Just gorgeous. I also loved the dress Kate wore at the Taj Mahal. But otherwise I think some Canadian choices this time were just odd and think some of the Indian choices came awfully close to looking costume-y..maybe not when looked at one at a time but when taken together as a group. So my favorite tour wardrobe is still Australia despite a unfortunate malfunction or two.

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  16. I love the JP Canadian arrival dress also. The hat and dress and whole look were wonderful. I also agree that many of the Indian choices did look a bit like she was wearing a costume. All her tours have had some real hits and misses. ali

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  17. I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I like the green Dolce & Gabbana as it was originally designed. The pocket watch appliqué was a reference to Alice in Wonderland, and the original had an unfinished hem which completed the story of the White Rabbit, always running out of time, as in no time left to finish the dress. The dress is a story in itself.

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    1. I like it too. :) A vintage look with an out of the box twist to it.

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    2. I thought the vintage 30s look was really fun on the D&G. I don't think I would have liked seeing Kate with the giant pocket watch though. Also, as a recycle, which she loves to do, that big appliqué would not allow for any type of different look for the dress. The way it is she could change it up. I would love to see it with some 30s style peep toe, chunky heeled shoes and a great retro hat!

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    3. A fedora or a tam. Both 30's. Think Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard.

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  18. I think Kate is hitting just the right notes in her position as Duchess of Cambridge, sartorially speaking. She is no longer a royal newbie or newlywed; she is a yummy mummy with a senior role in the family to play. She can't be a fashion plate without the public grumbling about the cost of her clothes, nor can she be too experimental because of the conservative nature of her role. She has to dress diplomatically, paying homage to her host country without going too costumey. She has to support British Fashion but has the money and status to buy clothes from the best fashion houses and new cutting edge designers. She feels most at home in her casual clothes (just like us!) but has to have appropriate tiara worthy gowns. She has to shine, but not enough to overshadow HM or her charitable cause. She's a beautiful woman with a model worthy figure but can't wear anything too revealing. And like all women, she probably worries over some aspect of her looks as not good enough and when she's not feeling it, opts for a safe uniform. It's not easy being dissected in magazines and blogs like these. I think she does an outstanding job- ever mindful of not disappointing her public and being frugal enough to repeat items. You can see her growth over the years, but she hasn't lost her authentic style self. As my mother would say, "You can't buy good taste."-- and the Duchess has good taste innately. If we were to fast forward a few decades, I am sure that the Duchess' wardrobe would still be an amazing closet with very few misses.

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    1. HoosierLori
      Well said but really I am not sure how good Kate's taste (on her own) really is, at least from the views of those truly immersed in the Fashion World or in the World of dressing high status clients. I think she exhibits a very typical sense of style similar to most of us who are not madly in love with fashion. Most of us often reach for our comfort clothes, often are slow to adjust our fashion to our change in age or shape:). I do not find many of her choices particularly outstanding which is why she can be fun to watch. But is why I think she might do well to hire a really good stylist who can incorporate her taste into a sophisticated consistent look at least for her very public job as a Royal. Ali

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    2. Having followed Kate from the time she started dating William, it is clear that she has good taste. Her appeal is that she does not strive to impress those in the fashion world and that is not really her job as a royal.

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    3. Putting Kate in context with other royal ladies makes her look like a superstar in my book. There are very few cringeworthy moments- sometimes she is boring, but she is never over the top or vulgar. The same could not be said for Diana (sometimes her clothes cried for attention) or Fergie (just a hot mess- then and now). Even Bea and Eugenie have some questionable choices. Sophie Wessex has only recently found her inner fashionista and early in her marriage, her clothes were very frumpy. Princess Anne doesn't really give a damn and wears her wardrobe over and over (but they are expensive, beautifully made clothes). The Queen wore and continues to wear clothes that speak to trends and the decade she happens to be in. Camilla has a uniform of sorts too- big hat and soft suiting. I think Kate stacks up very well next to these ladies.

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  19. ...in a nutshell. A delicate balance that requires a unique individual to carry it off.
    Great synopsis, Lori.

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  20. You don't have to approve this post but I wanted to point out a small typo that confused me for a few moments.

    "So, how does Canada 2011 measure up to Canada 2011, Down Under 2014?"

    Could you just change that first 2011 to 2016? I am assuming that is what you meant.

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