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Kate's Back to Nature Garden at Wisley

Friday, September 13, 2019

On Tuesday, Kate was out and about debuting her final "Back to Nature" design. The Duchess gathered people associated with the charities she has worked with in her Early Years initiative at RHS Garden Wisley to launch her third garden. According to royal reporter Emily Andrews, Kate has incorporated elements from both her Chelsea garden and her Hampton Court garden at Wisley.  Kate arrived by tractor with Mary Berry, which made for fabulous photos.

I just recently started watching the Great British Bake Off, and I love it. I love Prue and the new team (probably the most), but I have enjoyed going back to some of the earlier seasons when Mary was still on the show. She is delightful. Kate is known to be a huge Mary Berry fan and has been one for many years. There are times when I think that Kate must really love the perks royalty has brought her--Wimbledon is close to the top of that list, but these kinds of collabs are also doubtless pretty high up there, too.

Kate wore the "Aurora" dress from Emilia Wickstead, which is a debut to her closet. It exclusive to Net-a-Porter, but you will note the pattern is quite similar to one of Sophie's Ascot Aurora dresses:

Kate's dress made me chuckle a little when I saw it, because it has little flaps on the bust, just like the ones on Kate's white Wickstead she wore in India. You will notice they are placed higher than the flaps on the India dress. It's like Emilia read your feedback and thought, no more nipple flaps in future. Better placement, EW--keep it up. ;)

I really like this new dress. I love the busy floral print, and if she is going to go with a midi, I like that this one has a super fitted bust and belt. It looks feminine and fun, but it is also interesting. There is a  elasticity in the fabric which gives the top an almost smocked look, and the print not only is floral, but also incorporates a swiss dot. It's a busy, busy dress, and gets two thumbs up from me.

First Day of School: Shy Charlotte & Kate's New Cut

Sunday, September 8, 2019

You never know what will strike people on Kate's public engagements. At Charlotte's first day of school at Thomas's Battersea, the Duchess new "do" stole the show. I received a deluge of comments on the cut, color, and possible message of a change up in her style! So, we'll chat about that this morning, among other things.

As you all know, when George began school two years ago Kate was still sick with hyperemesis gravidarum. She was gutted to miss out on the milestone, and of course, fans were pretty disappointed, too. That made Charlotte's big day even more exciting. The Cambridge family--sans Louis--made quite a pretty picture arriving in the morning sunshine at Thomas's Battersea.

I was struck by how obviously shy Charlotte was feeling. Certainly she knew the day was about her and that she was starting a new school, etc. I am also sure that William and Kate would have discussed with her the media presence and attention. Hiding behind Kate and then twisting her ponytail at a furious speed are both signs of nervousness we haven't seen from the usually spunky Charlotte, but she still stared down the photographers as she entered the building. It was interesting to see her channel her nervous energy outward and into action, while George seems to choose the more introverted path.

Kate appears to have gotten a trim since we saw her last, although this honey-colored brown is a color she has had for a while now. She may have lightened it up just a tad, but she was pretty honey-brown at the King's Cup, it just wasn't as obvious because her hair was curlier and up in a pony. Straightening her hair, as she did for this morning, can also make the light color stand out more. It also gives hair the beautiful movement so many noted as she walked and the wind played with it. I definitely don't want Kate to slide into blond, but I don't mind when she lightens her color up on occasion. I think it worked beautiful with her still dark summer tan and she looked absolutely glowing. 

Some people wonder if this change signals another little Cambridge will soon be on the way. I believe this thinking stems from the general agreement that women change hairstyles around the time they make big changes in their personal lives, and more particularly because Kate made her first major hairstyle move in 2012 right before she announced she was pregnant with George (see below). Kate has switched up her hair a number of times since, and with increasing regularity, but in 2012 making a move from her signature style was very unexpected, so I think the memory stuck for royal-watchers.  For myself, I don't think Kate's cut is linked to an impending announcement, or if there is a forthcoming announcement, it is pure coincidence. Of course, I'd be thrilled to be wrong, and I do think that I have more hope/expectation for a fourth Cambridge than many. We shall see. 

Kate's dress, as you know, is Michael Kors. We first got a little peak at in in 2018 when Kate was pictured in a car on her way to Windsor Castle for Harry and Meghan's wedding reception. We never got a full length shot of her in the dress, and based just on the shot of her in the car, I wasn't enthusiastic about how I'd like it on her if I ever saw the "full picture." So, I was very surprised on Thursday to find that I absolutely loved it. The small print, which was one of the drawbacks for me, is so small that it almost blends, and the feminine sleeves with the slight balloon are one of my favorite current trends, and one that is also a favorite of many of Kate's favorite labels, like Beulah London and L.K. Bennett. 

Kate accessorized with her Asprey London oak leaf earrings and wore her blue suede Prada heels. The belt she is wearing has still not been IDed, it may be custom, as some have speculated. It was such fun to see Kate's first "first day of school" photo. Can you imagine the fun when Louis is up to bat and all five of them troop in? 

I am hoping to get a post up with thoughts on Meghan soon. I am traveling this coming week and will probably write it on the plane, so look for it Friday or over the weekend. 

The Cambridges' Scottish Holiday

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Last weekend, the Cambridges traveled to Scotland for their annual visit with the Queen. They flew on a budget airline from Norwich to Aberdeen and were photographed deplaning and walking across the tarmac by a fellow passenger from the plane. The picture and video made headlines...

The timing of the Cambridges' trip was a little unfortunate for Harry and Meghan, because the two were being excoriated by the press and public alike for having just jetted to and from Ibiza for holiday, and then just days later flying south again to Nice, France--all by private jet.  That topic is probably better left to a different post, but the key for our chat about the Balmoral trip is that this was not a change of plans on the part of the Cambridges to deliberately cast the Sussexes in a bad light. 

William and Kate have occasionally flown to Scotland by private jet, most notably when George was a relative newborn. The couple took him by private plan to Scotland that year, probably to avoid the intense media interest and the germs of a commercial flight. When he was alive, the Duke of Westminster would loan the Cambridges his private plane and they seemed to use that most to travel to France. The Luberon, Biarritz, etc. I think they do like private when they are headed out of the country to a vacation in a nation where they have less control over the security. When traveling outside the U.K., it is more important to keep their whereabouts under wraps for as long as possible to achieve a modicum of privacy at their destination, and it probably simplifies customs, too. But, the Cambridges otherwise generally fly commercial to Scotland. This was not a deviation. 

The Queen holidays at Balmoral throughout August, September, and into October! It is a long stretch of time, during which various family members trickle up to see her. It is not an annual gathering at which all members visit at the same time. Andrew and Fergie were up very early on in the Queen's stay. When William and Kate were up last week, Anne and her husband were there along with Autumn and Peter Philips and their family. We expect the Sussexes will visit, as well. It is not unusual for them to come at separate times. 

It was reported that Kate, William, and their little ones stayed at a separate cottage on the estate. Before the trip, Vanity Fair reported that the family was planning to stay at Tam-na-Ghar. If you are a long-time follower, you might remember that this three-bedroom cottage on the estate was reportedly given to William by the late Queen Mother. When William and Kate were dating, we'd hear reports that he'd taken her there for various weekend getaways when the two needed privacy. Now, with three children of their own, it wouldn't be surprising if they did indeed stay at the little house rather than at the castle, but it certainly was not because of a feud with the Sussexes, as was the story on some outlets. 

Whenever the Cambridges visit the Queen, we are sure to get photos of them going to Crathie Kirk on Sunday morning, but we only occasionally get snaps of the royals in their down-time on the estate. This year was a real treat, because we did get a few pictures of the family dressed down. William and Kate joined other family members at a lodge on the estate near Loch Muick. Kate was wearing jeans and blouse with her Fjallraven sweater she wears so often.

Right on schedule Sunday, William and Kate were pictured accompanying the Queen to church. Kate debuted a new label to her closet. She was wearing a navy, Herringbone trench from Guinea London. I already was familiar with Guinea London and have browsed their stunning selection of coats in the past and thought it was a great label for Kate. It's very exciting to see her add a new label. A number of you remarked on the weather, but I checked the weather for Balmoral on Sunday morning, and although it was undoubtedly unseasonably warm, it was still in the vey low fifties overnight, which means when they went to church in the morning, it was still crisp enough for a coat.

Kate was wearing her peacock printed dress from Michael Kors (which she also wore to fly home a few days later), and a Lock & Co. percher. I think she was wearing her Asprey oak leaf earrings she loves so much.

On Tuesday, the family flew back to the U.K. They took the budget flight to Norwich, which strongly suggests they were headed to Anmer Hall, which is less than an hour from the Norwich airport, to eek out the last bits of summer.

George and Charlotte head back to school on Thursday. Charlotte will be starting at Thomas's Battersea, and William and Kate will drop both children off. You likely remember that Kate missed George's first day due to HG with Louis, so this will count for both for us. 

Kate's Mojo is Marriage & Motherhood

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

I have been thinking about this post for a long time. Last week, the Telegraph ran an article about Kate with the headline Princess of Wales-in-Waiting: How Kate Got Her Groove Back which proved to be the nudge I needed to finally sit down and pen these thoughts.  The Telegraph article itself is an excellent piece that highlights the remarkable successful royal Kate has become, and I highly recommend you give it a read. The headline (likely not written by the author) bugged me, and it reminded me of the theme of a number of other articles we have seen in the past year and a half.  Many articles where the substance, not just the headline, suggested that Kate has only recently started to get it right, to get her "mojo" on as she begins to unveil more of her charitable initiatives. These other articles, and the headline of the Telegraph's otherwise great article, all push the same theme--Kate is only a successful royal to the extent she is ramping up her public engagements and exposure. I think that is all wrong. 

While all of these articles are right to laud Kate’s initiatives, and many make valid points about how successfully she has grown into her role within the royal family, the idea that Kate has turned a corner, or righted her ship, or gotten back on track is completely wrong. Kate hasn’t “gotten her groove back,” she never got out of her groove. Her life is unfolding just as she hope and worked for  all those years ago, and just as she has continued to craft it. Her grace and gravitas are not the result of a change in course, but the natural result of her own, long-standing strategy for royal life. 

Many of the articles we have seen refer back to the Duchess’s “Waity Katie” days, which if you are new to the block (or not even that new, because at this point a reference to “Waity Katie” is a serious throw-back), refer to the fact that Kate dated William for many years before they married. Some sniping socialites, and a number of tabloids and papers, too, dubbed her “Waity Katie.” All number of people were intent on shaming Kate for putting her relationship first. Kate received harsh criticism for not more aggressively pursuing a “real” career and, instead, working jobs that allowed her flexibility to adapt her schedule to accommodate William’s military commitments. To be blunt, people criticized her for obviously wanting to marry William and arranging her affairs to maximize the chances of success in that respect. 

To which I reply, so what if she did? So what if Kate fell in love with William and decided to clear the decks and make the success of that relationship her top priority? Does anyone want to raise their hand and say it didn’t work out well for her? She is happily married to her handsome prince, she has beautiful homes, darling children, and the option to pursue activities outside her home when those projects fit her family’s schedule. She has complete flexibility to pursue charitable work, aka her career, and also raise her children herself. Sounds like the dream to me. What’s wrong with setting your sights on your preferred life and pursuing it single-mindedly? 

Since their marriage, Kate has been vilified for not throwing herself into a frenzy of royal activity. Instead, in the first few years, she retreated to the relative seclusion of Anglesey to start her family. Even as the couple eased more and more into their increasingly active royal duties, Kate has been continually criticized for not working enough. Ludicrously, there are some who even cite her three children, not as the blessings she clearly cherishes, but as excuses that permit her to skirt her work commitments! (You can’t make this stuff up, I’m telling you!) 

What so many of these critics won’t accept is that Kate and William have made a conscious choice. They laid a careful plan. They have a strategy to achieve both happy personal lives for themselves and their children, and successful tenures as senior royals, and ultimately a successful reign as king and queen. We are not seeing Kate get her mojo back (which is code for finally conforming to societal standards for women working), rather we are seeing yet another stage of her strategy unfolding. This is just the next scene, with several already played, and a number of acts to follow. 

The Duke and Duchess were crystal clear that they would slowly ease into their roles, that their family would always be their first priority, and that intense, full-time work would only come in time—they have, after all, quite a bit of time—a lifetime, in fact. The Telegraph article makes this point when it notes that: 
William and Kate both insist that they drive their children to school and nursery themselves; drop-offs and pick-ups are "sacred" time, and staff know it would have to be "a very high bar" to disturb it. "She's a very hands-on mother," said one insider.
Kate has always prioritized being a wife and mother, and it is part of what has made her the smashing success she has been in the Royal Family. To repeat. We aren’t seeing Kate getting her mojo back; we aren’t seeing Kate finally figuring out her priorities; we are seeing the fruit of her strategy, the results of her game plan, the wisdom of her choices. Kate always knew what she wanted, and understood the best order in which to pursue her life plans. From her first focus on marrying William, to their decision to kick off their first few years of marriage in relatively privacy, to her slow transition to working royal, to her current emphasis on her children, Kate has always been clear on what she wanted. She has been very happy to support William and raise her family and play her part within the family. It's this sense of purpose and personal identity that has endeared her to the British people and to her husband's family. 

Today, society lauds as a chief virtue the ability to “be your own person” and “think for yourself” and “stand out from the crowd.” I have found this societal mission statement is little more than a farce. The truth is that society does not welcome those who really chart their own course and the overwhelming majority of people swim with the stream. Most who are hailed as bold and forward leaning, are only bold in the direction in which they know the majority will agree and applaud them. One of the reasons I have always admired Kate is that she truly is her own women. She really does live the life she chooses, and often she must swim upstream to do it. Since she started dating William she has made the decisions that suited her goals, and pursued the future of her own dreams, regardless of the naysayers, or the abuse from the public or media. She wanted to get married, she wanted to have children, she wanted and wants to focus more on her family than her "career." So she does. 

Today, women don’t like to openly admit they want to marry, and we are, truthfully, expected to pursue a career first, and balance family second. Obviously I have no problem with women pursuing careers, but I do have a problem with being told that we must. The reality is that it is quite counter-cultural for Kate to have made the choices she has. She has actually stood out from the crowd, bucked the system, and danced to the tune of her own tango—with her handsome prince. And society has not applauded her for it. She has been cast as lazy, vapid, a social climber, and a trophy wife. Society seems to only truly celebrate Kate when she pushes back into the spotlight, back into “career-centered” activities. But, we shouldn’t steal from Kate her sweet victory. The victory of a woman who knew what she wanted and pursued it first, despite the pressure to conform. Someone who wanted  motherhood more than "mojo," and who put that before everything else. Kate's beautiful persona today (a blend of beauty, maturity, circumspection, empathy and authenticity) are the result of her grounding in who she is and who she has always been. It's the source of her success.  Now, having achieved the life she wanted for her heart, she can--in the right season for her life plan--continue to develop her professional track. But, always on her own terms. That is what we should celebrate.