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Hats Off To Jane Corbett & Her Designs for Kate

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Yesterday morning I was surprised and saddened to see one of my favorite milliners announce she is hanging up her hat after 21 years in the business. Kate has a number of milliners to whom she turns for her many beautiful toppers, but Jane Corbett has always been one of my absolute favorites. The Princess has been wearing her hats since before her marriage, and as we say goodbye to Jane Corbett, let's look back at Kate's best hats from this remarkably talented artist.


We all know the pressure we feel dressing to meet the family for the first time, and I can only imagine how Kate felt as, in 2008, she chose her ensemble for Peter and Autumn's wedding. Although Kate had been dating William for some years, it was at that wedding that the royal girlfriend was finally introduced to Her Majesty. Kate picked a tasteful, dark hat from Jane Corbett featuring a birdcage veil. The style is a little unusual for Kate, but was the perfect blend of glamor and demure for a pretty red letter day for Kate Middleton.  


In August of 2009, Kate wore one of her most famous ensembles to the wedding of Nicholas van Cutsem. I think most everyone knows the Troughton coat, but it isn't as widely known that the hat was a Jane Corbett piece. You can see the foreshadowing of several of Kate's subsequent hats in this design.


Shortly after her marriage, the Duchess attended a service at St. Georges Chapel, Windsor, to celebrate Prince Philip's 90th birthday. She recycled her Zara pleated dress and the gorgeous Jane  Troughton paisley coat, and added a new percher from Corbett. This is not my favorite Jane Corbett hat. She created a number of hats in this general style (we will be seeing them shortly) and I feel the flat and simple style sell her creativity short.  Nevertheless, it was fun to see Kate turn to Jane Corbett to find a second hat for this coat. 


In September of 2011, Kate attended the wedding of friends wearing a red ensemble and a red hat by Jane Corbett that looked like it was a variation on the topper she wore to Peter and Autumn's big day. She ditched the birdcage on this one, which was a good choice given how busy the lace dress was, but the structure is still the same. 


Two months later, Kate debuted three absolute smash hits. In my opinion, these three hats are among her absolute best and they eptomize Jane Corbett's incredible eye for detail and her ability to create fresh and bold designs. The first of this smash hit trio made its debut on Remembrance Sunday in 2011.  This dressed up trilby was unexpected and a smash hit. 


The next month, Kate joined the Royal Family at Sandringham for her first public walk to St. Mary Magdalene on Christmas morning. I am sure that the excitement of seeing Kate on her first Christmas morning as a royal contributed to the memorability of the hat, but this aubergine topper (in a similar vein to the Remembrance Sunday hat) was another unusual piece and an almost equally huge success.


Like the Remembrance Sunday hat, it had a panache and a vintage quality that we have since observed Kate develop quite a bit throughout the rest of her fashion. To me, both these hats have an 18th century vibe, almost like a toned down version of some of the hats that the Duchess of Devonshire wears in the Keira Knightley historical drama "The Duchess." 


The third and final hat in this iconic trio debuted the next summer, May of 2012. Kate ricocheted from the embellished trilby to a classically feminine style, that nevertheless incorporated unusual and striking style elements. It was the lacey pink piece Kate wore to her first summer garden party at Buckingham Palace.


I loved every element from the barely-there pink to the unusual structure and busy lace overlay--this was a hat fit for a princess, and a design that showcased Jane Corbett's beautiful scope of talent. 


Kate's next three Jane Corbett's worked off of that flatter design first worn at Philip's birthday service. Kate wore an ice-blue disc percher with looping embellishments to Trooping in 2012. This hat really balanced the disc style well by adding the bows both to the top that tilted down Kate's forehead, but also an the back. It was well balanced and flattering on Kate.


Jane Corbett actually created two hats for this beautiful embroidered Erdem dress. Kate wore the first (above) to Trooping, but she wore a second hat, also by Corbett, to a September wedding the same year. 

NirajTanna/IconPictures

Jane Corbett shared a picture of both the hats "under construction" sitting by a sample of the fabric.


At the time, she shared that the hat Kate wore to the wedding is one of her favorites! She wrote on her blog: 
So lovely to see HRH The Duchess of Cambridge wearing on of my creations at a wedding on Saturday. A soft grey straw trimmed with organdie that I embroidered to match the embroidery on the dress……I so enjoyed creating this piece, one of my favourite hats!
Kate must have liked the Trooping hat quite a bit, because she followed it up with an almost identical creation at her 2013 garden party appearance while pregnant with George. 


Although these hats are almost the same, I didn't love it the way I loved the icy blue at Trooping in 2012. I think these heavily angled hats are very sensitive. You really have to get the tilt just right, and I am not sure she did on this outing. 


Kate's final Jane Corbett hat debuted in 2014. It was a bespoke piece that blended the disc hats and her wildly popular pink lace hat. Life just isn't always fair, and although the marriage of these two designs should have resulted in something wonderful, it left me feeling a little flat. 


I never thought this would be the last Jane Corbett Kate debuted, and for myself, I don't feel it did her justice, but I guess those are the breaks. It wasn't a terrible hat, but Jane Corbett's talents should never have been spent on these very simple disc hats. I guess no one asked me. ;)


I do not flatter or overstate how exceptional those earlier three hats were and remain in Kate's closet. Although she currently favors the straight-forward Jane Taylor percher (no detriment to this style, or JT, it's beautiful and flattering)...

Jane Taylor

...my fashion heart does beat a little faster when she switches it up, whether it is with a John Boyd picture hat (a milliner I consider Jane Corbett's style counterpart)...

John Boyd

...or a Philip Treacy (that was a big and welcome surprise!) angled disc hat...


...or a Jane Taylor piece that steps out of the usual mold:


Jane Corbett was genius at breaking the mold. Hats shouldn't be crazy, but they should make enough of a statement to warrant their presence. In that department, Jane Corbett at her best just couldn't be beat. When I think of the many happy years royal watching and blogging about Kate, Jane Corbett stands out as one of the designers that made those early times so special. I will truly miss her one of kind influence on Kate's closet. I know so many of my readers join me in wishing Ms. Corbett the very best as she ends such a hugely successful run. From one Jane to another, God bless you on your way.





27 comments:

  1. Sonja from BavariaAugust 17, 2017 at 1:36 AM

    So sad to hear this news :( the suede aubergine hat from Christmas still reigns surpreme... Hopefully, Kate still bought some of Miss Corbett's creations!

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    Replies
    1. I love that hat, too!

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    2. Yes! I hadn't seen a photo of the hat from the back and I like it even better now.

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    3. I have to agree Sonja! The whole outfit is still my favorite Christmas outfit she has worn to date.. Maybe we'll get a surprise soon and Kate will have her make a hat or two before she's totally retired...

      @ Jay I'm not aware of seeing the back of the hat myself and felt the exact same as you!! It's gorgeous all the way around!!

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  2. What an interesting post, thank you Jane. So many gorgeous hats! I love the ice blue for Trooping in 2012.

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  3. Jennifer from CanadaAugust 17, 2017 at 5:34 AM

    A lovely, lovely post!

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  4. A wonderful look back at these beautiful hats and a nice tribute to Jane Corbet. Thank you.

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  5. So many beautiful hats but I have to admit what struck me about all these old photos is how harsh Kate's makeup was in those days! She has really toned it down (thank God!) in this past year and the result makes her look younger, softer and really showcases her beauty SO much better.

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    Replies
    1. I noticed that as well! Her makeup game has improved...not that she didn't look beautiful before, but she looks so much fresher & glows now. She used to be a bit heavy-handed with the blush & eyeliner, IMO.

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    2. Right @Kiwi Gal?! The blush borders clown-like in these oldies! I never liked the thick black eyeliner, she is lucky to have large eyes and the liner just seemed to swallow them! Now they pop in such a natural, soft and pretty way:) Do you think a professional convinced her to ditch the heavy hand?

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    3. Yes, her eyes really 'pop' now, as you say :) I do think a professional may have had a hand in steering her towards a 'less is more' approach...I very much approve!

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  6. What a wonderful post Jane - I agree with you - some of these toppers are so iconic that they merit their own story in Kate's style evolution! I've always been curious about the etiquette surrounding these dress hats, and fascinators. Have you written about this post or know where I can find that information?

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  7. I was sad to hear about Jane Corbett retiring as well. I assumed she had a good many years ahead of her in the business. Some of her creations for the DoC I like better than others but quite a few are beautiful works of art. The Christmas morning hat and ice blue percher remain my top favorites. I think Corbett's absence will create a void in the DoC's wardrobe as her hats have a distictive look that eludes the other milliners Kate works with. Sometimes, I feel the DoC is in danger of many of her hats looking too similar but with Corbett that was never a problem.

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  8. Diana in her on words

    https://youtu.be/Vw35NpTU7nI

    For those who could not watch it yet.

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    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrLT-iP12Gw

      If the link doesn't work, Google Youtube and "The Unseen Diana - Documentary 1998"

      An amazing lady.

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  9. Well, it appears that I am in the minority here, but I am not upset by the news. IMO, some of the smaller hats featured here are better suited to a future royal bride than an HRH. My fingers are crossed that she reaches out to Philip Treacy more often. I also like the John Boyd hat (above). I appreciate the sophistication factor that I do not see in some of the smaller hats/fascinators.

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    Replies
    1. From your mouth to God's ears, royalfan...and to Kate's.

      JC

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    2. I agree. I enjoyed some of Jane Corbett's hats but perchers are not favorites. John Boyd, Philip Treacy, and Lock & Co. have made some of her best hats.

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  10. What a great idea for a post! I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    My favorites-if I pick two, the aubergine and the pink garden party
    one. If I go beyond two, I can't make up my mind. Although the John Boyd intrigued me because it was different and I wish she would wear more broad-brimmed hats. anon1

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    1. Anon1, likewise on the wider brimmed hats!! :-)

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  11. How fun to read about hats after such a horrid week! Thank you, Jane! I'd like to see more broad-brimmed hats, but with that downward turn a la Audrey Hepburn...hair up, neck bare. Funny what a difference the angle makes on the perchers.

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  12. I'm gonna be honest re this whole hat business (Jane, you might want to cover your eyes).

    Needing a preface, something to set the tone, I am not in favour of hats--ever. However, it would seem that if you are British Royalty, you don't have a choice in any engagement involving the Queen. Examples: Xmas at Sandringham, Easter at Windsor, Trooping the Colour, Garden Parties, etc. So, if you should be unfortunate enuf to be Kate/Beatrice/Eugenie you blow a LOIT of $$$ on utterly ridiculous headgear (hats), which means, less $$$ to spend on anything else. Yes, I HATE HATS.

    Preamble over.

    I don't much care for Jane Corbett or Jane Taylor, when it comes to hats; don't much like perchers or fascinators or the overpriced crap they produce, altho I did like the very simple, clean lines of the"Betty Boop" hat Kate wore, not to mention the Jackie-like pillbox. Who made those?

    It was a comment by royalfan, who suggested that wide-brimmed hats would look awfully good on Kate, which alerted me to this possibility, and sure enuf, Kate wore a pink hat with a relatively broad brim, % Philip Treacy,, to Trooping the Colour, 2016...I think. I was sold.

    I nevertheless remain convinced that hats are a waste of money, strictly a frivolity the BRF can no longer afford.

    JC


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    1. JC, I'm glad I'm not alone in not caring for the smaller hats. And we do agree on the Betty Book and Jackie-like hats. They are exceptions to my comment above, and I have stated this before.

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  13. What a fun post, but sorry to see Ms. Corbett is leaving designing hats. I love hats and many of these are wonderful. The birdcage veil hat is gorgeous and very classic while the aubergine topper is equally rich and gorgeous while being very sculptural, love it. I think Kate looks great in a wide size and style but as is typical for hat wearing the proportions have to be correct for the individuals face and body build. She is lucky in that if the hat proportions are good she can wear a range of styles.

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    1. Sculptural. That's the perfect word for that hat, ali.

      I agree that Kate can wear a wide range of styles and I enjoy seeing her in experiment. Considering the number of events she will need to wear a hat during her royal career, all sorts of chapeaus in a variety of sizes and shapes will keep it interesting.

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  14. The Cambridges are at Balmoral;attended church this morning.

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  15. Beautiful post. These hat makers are indeed artists.

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