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Away Day in Sunderland in D&G

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

William and Kate spent Wednesday in the northeast of the country on an Away Day in Sunderland. The couple were booked to see an historic firehouse that has been converted into a new cultural center, and to visit a new bridge that is under construction in the area--the Northern Spire. The Duchess arrived with a big smile on her face and wearing a bespoke Dolce & Gabbana coat.

The couple undertook a walkabout to greet the fans who had gathered.

The firehouse has languished for many years in disrepair, but is now a hive of activity for the local community and serves as a location for a number of community programs. 

Among the programs for children is this aerial dancing, which appears to be a real blast. And probably great exercise! 

Kate took her D&G coat off inside the firehouse, which gave us a peek at her new Phaedra dress by Séraphine maternity. Is reminds me a lot of the Tabitha Webb space dress Kate wore a year or so ago. 

The big news of the day was that Kate got a small henna tattoo (which washes off within a week or so, I think) and even asked fro a package of bindis to give to Charlotte. 

I am sure Kate has albums of mommy and daddy's trips, and given how much children love color, Charlotte probably is drawn to the pictures from India. 

After their time at the firehouse, it was off to the Northern Spire bridge. According to KP's tweets, the "1,550-tonne pylon structure is twice as high as Nelson’s Column and taller than Big Ben's clock tower and has provided new jobs and investment for the city."

After the initial greeting, Kate changed from her Tod's heels to Stuart Weitzman Half n Half boots and donned a hard hat. 

Obviously, the couple was shown around the construction site, and each took a hand tightening a bolt on the bridge. 

Kate's coat was bespoke Dolce & Gabbana, and I very frankly was not a fan. The large front panel with the oversized buttons was, to my mind, about as unflattering to her expanding bump as could have been designed. The very prominent stitching was also jarring to me. Overall, I felt this coat made Kate look bulky and ponderous, which, as we have seen (thanks to more flattering designs), she certainly is not. 

I was disappointed that we didn't get a lot of great photos of the Phaedra by Séraphine inside the firehouse. Again, though, it wasn't a smash hit for me. The pattern is a little busy, and I feel we've exhausted these prints with the slew of L.K. Bennett midis Kate has worn in the past few years. The cut was flattering, though, and I loved it with the black stockings and heels. 

I feel like I am a Negative Nancy in this post, but this ensemble didn't set my fashion pulse racing.  On the bright side, it is always so fun to see William and Kate on any joint engagement, and I particularly enjoy those events that see them wearing hard hats or any specialized gear. That's always a fashion change of pace. Despite the ensemble, Kate was glowing, and the many images of her from the bridge are absolutely lovely. Better luck next time on the clothes front, I am sure! 

Kate Wears Erdem Again at Commonwealth Fashion Exchange

Monday, February 19, 2018

It is London Fashion Week, and tonight the Duchess was back with an appropriately timed event. Joining her aunt-in-law the Countess of Wessex, Kate co-hosted a reception celebrating the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange at Buckingham Palace on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen.

This initiative is a very cool idea. It pairs successful and recognizable fashion power houses (like Stella McCartney or Burberry) with local talent to help feature and further the artisanal work of the smaller producers. Livia Firth, Colin Firth's wife, manages it via her organization Eco Age. Little Pride & Prejudice connection there. ;) 
Kate and Sophie got to view early designs produced by the initiative. These two have never co-hosted an event before, and it was a lot of fun to see Kate join another senior royal woman like this. I imagine their relationship is closer to that of sisters-in-law... 
I am going to jump right into fashion here, because I am a little low on time this fine February night--quelle surprise, right?  Last night Kate wore JP, but tonight it was back to another favorite...Erdem. This is the label's Suzi dress in floral guipure lace, which Kate has had customized in a longer length. Dare I say, it features a ruffle?

It's like Erdem said (to quote Captain Renault from Casablanca), "round up the usual suspects" when they hit the design floor. Despite some recent, completely cringe-worthy disasters, I have to admit, I really, really like this dress! I do. I am a sucker for the guipure lace, and I think this two-tone floral design is just the right amount of busy without going overboard. Also, that v-neckline is so Kate Middleton. Every time the Duchess trots that kind of a neckline out, I am on board. Again, I know several will question my fashion credentials, but I am such a fan!

Kate was wearing the Prada cut-out shoes she has had for a while now (and wore last night!), and added a touch of sparkle with these Anita Dongre earrings she first debuted last year at another BP event celebrating the UK and India. They aren't my favorite earrings, but they are certainly in keeping with the evening's theme of highlighting talent from the Commonwealth--although Anita Dongre is certainly not an obscure label. ;)

Kate briefly carried a clutch, although it does not appear in the majority of the pictures. It is visible in the photo-set where she is standing and chatting with Anna Wintour. Based on the little I can see, I would have guessed her Prada, but the edges are too sharp and this clutch has gold detailing. Maybe it is her Alexander McQueen? But it still looks a little boxy. If you know or have a guess, drop a line in the comments! 

I think my favorite picture of the night was this snap of Kate clearly explaining something about her pregnancy to Stella McCartney. Generally so reserved on formal duties, it is fun to see Kate's cocktail hour personality come out a little bit as she mixes and mingles. 

It is a win, all y'all. And with that, I'm off to bed! 

Kate Is Magnificent in Dark Green at the BAFTAs!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Tonight the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the BAFTA awards at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Obviously, it is a star-studded event and is one of the most glamorous (if not the most glamorous) events the couple attends. With only a little over two months to her due-date, Kate had to wear something new, and she didn't disappoint as she arrived to the red carpet wearing a breathtaking Jenny Packham! 

William is the President of BAFTA and in the early years of their marriage, Kate didn't always attend with him, so it has been lovely to see her at his side these past two years. 

William and Kate always enter the auditorium last while the guests stand, and are always seated in the front. I think this is probably one of the more surreal/bizarre entrances this couple probably experiences. It's not like walking into the royal box and giving a wave, it is a legitimate walk down that long aisle while everyone stares. 

Prince William penned a forward for the program in which he made a short mention of the sexual harassment scandal that is plaguing Hollywood and the film industry...more on that at the end of the post.  

Kate's ink-blue Jenny Packham remains her most successful maternity red-carpet appearance, but I think we forget how much more advanced she is at this stage than she was in New York. There was no way this dress was going to fit her tonight, but it is entirely clear that Kate took inspiration from it when sitting down with Jenny P to map out tonight's creation.

Drawing on the ink-blue original was definitely a smart move. Tonight's flowing gown was slimming while also highlighting all the best about her pregnant figure. Kate was absolutely radiant with life and striking beauty...and those smokey eyes! Wow. When I saw the pictures I was absolutely star struck. 

Kate and JP shortened the sleeves and added a hint of train that ballooned behind the princess as she made her way up the stairs. 

For her accessories, Kate turned again to the same stunning suite of emeralds she wore in New York. It turns out those earrings are convertible! I liked the dramatic drops at the Met, but I think I prefer tonight's iteration.  Kate also wore the bracelet, and added a breathtaking necklace. These sparklers were a wedding gift to Kate from an undisclosed admirer. ;) I love how lavish they are, and was absolutely delighted to see them again tonight.

This was a magnificent win for me. I loved the dress and the va va voom Kate brought to the red carpet. She is certainly blooming, as they say, and pregnancy never looked so darn sexy. The only drawback to this dress is the terribly placed seam right down the front. I am sure it blends in just fine in the studio when the dress is at rest, but under the flash and in motion, it sadly shows in almost every photo. Oh well, I am not letting that get in the way of what will be one of Kate's SuperStar looks! 

Ok, I wrote the post so you can skip all the drama is it is not your cup of tea. Heaven knows this place is supposed to be an escape, right? But, I am going to add some brief commentary, because it is impossible to escape it tonight. I knew Kate wouldn't wear black, and I think it was very appropriate of her to avoid what can be, for some, a divisive movement. As a royal, she made a very remarkably strong statement regardless, by including the black velvet ribbon (which trailed down the back of the dress--very unusual and a deliberate tool to highlight the ribbon, I think) and by wearing emeralds, which have been associated with the Suffragettes and, apparently, is a symbol of feminine strength. As one of the most senior women, in the most prestigious, surviving monarchy today, Kate has to be seen as above the drama of the day. I've seen some people try to argue Times Up is not political, but just the fact we are all up in arms over the color of Kate's dress, proves that it is a divisive issue. It isn't that anyone (publicly) supports sexual harassment or abuse, but there is sharp disagreement on why this environment came to be, who truly fosters it, and how it should be addressed. The pressure put upon Kate certainly created a conundrum, but by nodding to the spirit of the movement, while maintaining some royal distance, she held the line on the role that a modern royal must play today. Royals have to represent everyone or no one. Many people support the Times Up movement. Many who abhor sexual harassment and abuse do not support the Times Up movement. I am very proud of Kate for working this compromise, because it is crucial for her family's institution that she remain neutral when society fractures. 

I have no problem if you support Times Up. Please feel free to high in, but as always, let's keep teh debate pleasant. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day! I love this holiday. The pinks and red and whites, the romance and whimsy that just bursts from the woodwork on social media... In what would otherwise be a dreary month between the holiday season and spring, this is such a lovely moment to pause and celebrate love. I am posting pictures of Kate in pink on Instagram, so it might seem strange that I chose a blue ensemble for my Valentine to you all today. But, this picture of William and Kate is so perfect! The laughter  has been a hallmark of their marriage and a trait that speaks much louder than words to the depth of their love and the strength of their bond. 

That being said, a little shoulder never hurt anyone. Bonus points, this is pink and red. ;) 

Whatever you are up to today, whether you have a Valentine sending you flowers or you are treating yourself to a cozy tea and an iced sugar cookie (my favorite!), I hope your day is filled with beauty and peace, and lots of laughter! 

Sending warm wishes!!


Kate Debuts Another GOAT Coat in Essex

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Since her trip to Sweden and Norway wrapped up Friday, the Duchess of Cambridge has a had a few days to let her hair down, relax in privacy, and soak up time with her two little ones. Today, though, she was back in action as she arrived in Wickford, Essex, this afternoon to launch one of Action on Addiction's new treatment centers. 
Her arrival made headlines (literally) when she stepped in a grate and was briefly stuck. Kate, who has been favoring her Tod's block heels a lot of late, was wearing her Stuart Weitzman "Power" pumps, and the thinner heels slipped right into the crevice. And all the boys were like, uuuuuhhhhh...

The even better part of this tale is the man who greeted her is Vice Lord Lieutenant of Essex Jonathon Douglas-Hughes. You know him from Kate and William's visit to Stewards Academy last year, where he fell and got a helping hand from the Duke. 

Apparently, his wife told him not to have a repeat, and here was Kate almost in need of a return favor! :) [Purse alert: that's her Aspinal London clutch created in collaboration with Beulah London.]

Kate has been patron of Action on Addiction for years now. It was one of her earliest charities, and some of her biggest fan-favorite appearances have been at their events. Today, Kate was in Essex both to open the new centre, but also celebrate the charity's new program "Clouds in the Community," which attempts to help people recover without recourse to a center, i.e. by staying at home, with their families and in their communities.
Kate gave some lovely comments, mentioning how long she has been working with Action on Addiction, and saying twice how special the charity is to her. 
Water glass in hand, with her hair tucked behind her ears, Kate socialized with gathered guests, and we got a peek at her beautiful tanzanite earrings from G. Collins & Sons. These are so beautiful, and they work so well with all the blue in her closet. I love that of late, she has been wearing them more and more.

Speaking of all the blue in her closet... Aaahhh! Who thought Kate would debut another GOAT coat?!   I wish I worked at GOAT just for these nine months. Do you think they have an office party each time Kate wears another one of their pieces? Send the intern down the hall announcing, "Kate will be out today, cake in the conference room at noon!" Congrats, GOAT, really. All y'all have a come a long way from that first Goat Coat. I say that with affection.

Kate can continue to debut blue coats for the next fifty years (and absolutely will), and I will be happy as a clam. I love this color on her, and I love the bow at he neckline. This is a super classic GOAT style. I thought the color was a smash hit on Kate, but from a design perspective it was a little too minimalist for my taste.

Overall, it is a win, it just isn't a smash hit. Although I have acclimated to it, this silhouette has never been my preferred one on her, and this particular coat is almost devoid of embellishment, save the bow at the neckline. The color, though, speaks for itself. This cobalt just leaps off the screen, and I am sure it was electric in person, too.  Kate looked magnificent, so let's give a hand to the GOAT team...and I'll just assume they are reading this cake in hand. To Kate, great return performance post tour!

Tina Wing

Kate Hits the Slopes for Final Day in Norway

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

William and Kate closed out their almost week-long trip to Sweden and Norway last Friday (I am back-dating this post) with a day of final engagements. Accompanied by their hosts Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit, the two spent time Oslo and in the mountains outside the city.

First off, the four continued their focus on mental health with a visit to Hartvig Nissen School in Oslo. The school is the location for a hit tv-show that shines light on the pressures and challenges young people face today. The royals met students and fans who had gathered outside the school in anticipation of their visit.

And posed with the cast:

Kensington Palace
Afterward, Wills and Kate lunched at Prince Haakon and Mette-Marit's home, where they met the couple's labradoodles. This is a busier decor than the Swedish royals, or Kate and William's KP apartment, but I like it! It's been fun to see the different interiors on this trip. 

Kate chose a Dolce & Gabbana coat for her final formal look of the trip. It is a beautiful design--fitted, with Kate's favorite double-breasted style, which actually works well here! That's quite a feat on a maternity coat, in my humble opinion. I particularly like the slanted pocket flaps, which work really well with her bump. 

The color of the coat was less of a hit for me. It photographed differently in various light (and I chose my preferred shade above), but it reminded me of Kate's rusty red Hobbs, which she loves and has pulled off successfully on more than one occasion (five times?!). I don't dislike the color, but if I had my druthers, it would either go brown or purple, rather than straddling the fence. 

Underneath, Kate was wearing this dress from Norwegian TiMo. Apparently, this is a favorite label of Mette-Marit, and if you recall, on Wednesday, Kate wore a coat by a label championed by the Swedish royal ladies. I love that Kate not only highlighted a national designer from each country, but that she chose designers that her hostesses prefer. A real solidarity move, if you ask me.

Also, note that Kate never publicly took her coat off, so she clearly was counting on all the "Kate ladies" to ID her dress and spread the word that she had given this nod to TiMo. People think the royals don't pay attention to the outside chatter...but they do. :) 

In the afternoon, the four royals headed to one of Kate's favorite sport locales other than a tennis court--the ski slopes! 

The Cambridges got to visit the Holmenkollen where they saw the massive ski jump and the breathtaking mountains around Oslo.


This area has been hosting winter competition since 1882, and boasts a ski museum, too, where the royals viewed all manner of ski paraphernalia, and learned more about the sport in which they love to indulge! 

Kate mentioned how George had given skiing a go on their holiday, despite the fact he was only 2 1/2 at the time. My favorite part of this final stop was the ski-jumping presentation the royals watched. Talk about a breathtaking feat! 
Sabina M messaged me on Instagram to ID this coat as Kjus, a Norwegian sport label. Kate's coat features white and (label-described) spicy orange. Spicy orange...Sounds a little like a sushi wrap, and kind of looks like one, too. 

I don't love orange in general, as I think you all know, and the stripes looked a little dated to me. So, it wasn't my favorite ski-ensemble from the Duchess. But, it was certainly fun to see her out and about in an environment she hasn't spent much time in since her marriage, but certainly an environment in which we were used to seeing her...once upon a time. As we roll into February and approach Valentine's Day, I am willing to take any opportunity to recall where this fairytale got its start. ;) 

Thanks for the messages on IG and email. I didn't mean to raise alarms with my silence. I am well, but I did hit some rocky road on this end that really took it out of me these past few days. It turns out you really do need a minimum number of hours of sleep a week to function properly...who knew!! I'm getting more sleep, and will be back on track. I apologize for the delay in this post!! xoxo, JCB

The Royals Arrive in Oslo for Day 1 of Royal Visit Norway

Thursday, February 1, 2018

William and Kate left Sweden early this morning and flew to a veritable winter wonderland. The royal couple's jet touched down on a snowy tarmac this a.m. where Prince Haakon and his wife Princess Mette-Marit waited to greet their British guests on the first day of Royal Visit Norway. 

I have no idea how this plane landed on all that snow, but it shows northerners are hardier folk than Americans... Kate emerged from the plane wearing another Catherine Walker coat! Talk about a fashion streak. Someone on Twitter pointed out that this label uniformity is not entirely unlike Pippa's honeymoon of all Kate Spade. Anyone remember that? Pips took something of a 'round the world tour for her honeymoon and she wore Kate Spade after Kate Spade ensemble. It was great--no complaints--but you do notice that sort of thing.  

This coat is in that military blue we love so much and looks so good on Kate. I particularly like the high, notched collar. I will say I found it just a hint on the shapeless side, but she has worn a number of more fitted coats, so it provided variety.

The couple were taken to the palace in Oslo where they were scheduled for lunch with the King and Queen and other members of the Norwegian royal family. My heart went pitter-patter when this picture came across the wire. Underneath the Catherine Walker coat, Kate was wearing a new Séraphine maternity dress that has me swooning. Today was such a fashion fiesta.

The dress has all the little embellishments I love, from the ruffled collar and cuffs, to the lace bodice, Empire waist, and swinging skirt. 

This is the label's Marlene dress and is currently listed as out-of-stock, but my understanding is it either hasn't been released or will be re-released. Your blogger has not been as checked-in today as she should have been... In any event, past, present, or future, this dress did or will retail at about $250. I think it is picture perfect. 

After lunch, the royals toured a nearby sculpture park named after Princess Ingrid Alexandra, the second-in-line to the throne. Who thinks George will be opening sculpture parks at 14? It's interesting to see how differently the European royals conduct their business. 

Just as she did in Sweden, Kate swapped her Tod's heels for cozy boots and fur accessories for a walkabout. Today she was in a brown fur stole and Cornelia James fur-trimmed gloves. She also let her hair down from its earlier chignon, to frame her face. This is such a brilliant tour strategy and she looked marvelous. 

I applaud William for his pop of color, but that scarf looks oddly tied. It kind of looks like it's staging an uprising up there or something. 

Below might be the best video of Kate in a crowd that I have ever seen. First of all, the resolution is quite clear, but more substantively, she is so warm and charming. She is well-spoken and has thoughtful comments to make, and she really gave this fan some real time. Obviously Kate can't do that with everyone, and William comes along right at the end and hurries her up, reminding her she needs to keep moving, but it was sweet on all counts.

The royals then made their way to MESH, a working-hub for entrepreneurs and start-ups. They got to try out the fun gadgets, including this reMARKable tablet that Prince William seemed quite taken with. 

Who doesn't love the occasional virtual doodle?

Among other things, Prince William also got to take a virtual bike-ride through St, Andrews, the town where he met and fell in love with Kate (good start to the Valentine's Day month, eh? ;)):

The final event of the night was a formal dinner in honor of the Cambridges' visit, and if your heart has cried these past few nights as Erdem crucified more than a few fashionistas sensibilities, tonight the Princess was back. This pale pink gown is by the reigning royal of Kate's closet, Alexander McQueen.

This dress is just what we all needed to soothe our sartorial souls. It features a fitted bodice and flowing skirt with a diaphanous cape covering the shoulders and blending in with the back of the dress. The cape element might not have been my first choice, but it adds a pep to the dress. It is something we haven't seen on Kate before, and tours are a good place to step out of usual groove, so I liked this a lot.

Perhaps the best element of gown, the embellishment that pulled it all together, was the crystal and pearl beading that added sparkle (without going overboard) and gave structure, if you will, to the bodice. I thought this was a very well thought-out and well-designed maternity gown. Well done Sarah Burton. Erdem, pour yourself a stiff drink and don't get too down in the dumps...time heals all wounds.

The Duchess accessorized with a Jimmy Choo clutch and diamond earrings (loaned from the Queen) we've seen a number of times. She paired them with another familiar loaner, a bracelet from the Queen, and wore her Cabrina scallop pumps by Oscar de la Renta. This whole ensemble was a big hit in my book. It does not surpass the Jenny P at the Met, but it's pretty close.

Finally, as is relatively customary, William and Kate gifted a portrait to their hosts in Oslo. This is a picture we haven't seen before, but it is clearly from the same set from which the Christmas picture was chosen.

Simon Perry
This is an unusually intimate pose for a formal picture from William and Kate and I absolutely love it. Obviously. ;)

Until tomorrow!