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.
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!