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Kate's "Best of" 2017

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The sleepy Januarys of years gone by are officially a thing of the past, as the Cambridges have begun to schedule events in the first month of the year more and more. 2017 kicked off with the release of  a relatively busy schedule. After spending Christmas in Bucklebury with the Middletons, Kate and her family returned to Anmer Hall with a group of close friends to celebrate her birthday, and we had our first sighting of the year when the duchess attended a Sunday service at St. Mary Magdalene.

Kate had three public engagements in January, which means each ensemble makes the list by default. That's just as well, though, because to my mind Kate began 2017 with a series of huge fashion wins. Her first event back was a solo visit for the Anna Freud Centre, before she met up with William for a stop to promote Child Bereavement UK. Seeing these two out together was the perfect start to 2017. This cobalt Eponine London coat-dress is the first ensemble of January, and the year, to make the list. The striking royal hue looks incredible with Kate's hair, and the swinging, pleated skirt flattered Kate's beautiful legs. 

A week later, Kate joined Harry and William for a Heads Together campaign event, and the Duchess absolutely wowed in Erdem's Evita dress. This fitted sheath style is one Kate wore often in 2011 and 2012, and requires a particular figure to pull off to perfection. Kate does it flawlessly, and this dress easily won gold for January. It helped that she styled her hair in the massive, bouncing waves of her early marriage, and matched her eye shadow to the plum hues of the dress.  

The final outing of the month, an event for EACH in Quidenham, easily places on the "Best of" 2017 list. This green Hobbs suit with a ruffled Josephine blouse mixed so many of Kate's favorite elements, and the fitted silhouette injected the youthful vibe fans have been craving. It was a smash-success end to January and an easy win for our list.

February was absolutely packed with events that ranged from the sporty to glitz and glam. The Cambridges and Harry were in full promotion mode for the London Marathon and their Heads Together initiative, and the Trio made a Super Bowl Sunday visit to a training session where they were happy to wade into the fray. Their charming race, showcasing Harry and William's healthy sibling rivalry, wins a place on this "Best of" list.

On the 6th, Kate wore her Luisa Spagnoli for the 4th time when she visited the Mitchell Brook Primary School with William on behalf of Place2Be. It is a beautiful suit and looked lovely on this occasion, but in a month this busy, the competition was too fierce for this one to score a slot. Later that same day, Kate debuted her first full Oscar de la Renta ensemble. The purple suit separates would have easily placed, but for Kate's styling (black stockings and black heels).  I had to decide between this look and her recycle of the Paule Ka later in the month...The de la Renta narrowly prevails:

Just the next week, Kate was out again in an ensemble that wowed us all and easily scored a place on our "Best of" 2017. Kate pulled out all the stops for her appearance at the BAFTAs in this fitted Alexander McQueen. Her gown was a deviation from her usual chiffon and sparkles style, and not only makes one of the best looks of the year, but one of my favorite formal ensembles in Kate's impressive collection.

Just a few days later, Kate was out again on behalf of the Air Cadets. Her casual, but appropriately colored, Valentine's Day ensemble was a liner at the time, but it can't compete against the many options we have in February, and does not make the list. Not all the activity in February was public, but behind the scenes William, Kate, and Harry were churning out material for their mental health campaign. This cute shot of the Trio filming a BBC special makes our "Best of" list, and the cute interaction between Wills and Kate gets bonus points for its proximity to Valentine's Day. ;) 

On the 22nd, Kate and William were out again, and the Duchess was recycling her Paule Ka suit separates from 2012.  I love this suit and it was hard for me to decide whether it would place, but the clunky heels on the boots permitted the aforementioned Oscar de la Renta to edge it out.  With that we tear another page from the calendar! 

March began brimming with excitement as William and Kate prepped for their trip to Paris, and released plans to tour Germany and Poland in the summer. Little did we know, there were some spring showers on the horizon. The two joined members of the royal family at St. Paul's for the Afghanistan memorial service, and then quietly slipped away for separate ski weekends. Pippa had planned an  exclusive hen party at Meribel, and while the girls vacationed in France, William, and some of his guy pals hit the Verbier slopes. Pictures of the tipsy prince lunching with a blond ski bunny electrified the press, before even more titillating images of the prince's drunk dancing moves surfaced later the same day. Ultimately, the incident was embarrassing, but relatively harmless, but the awkwardness still hung in the air when the couple attended the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade at Aldershot on the 17th. Kate was glowing, despite the press scrutiny, and soldiered through with a smile on her face (perhaps even enjoying the awkwardness of the moment?) in an ensemble that easily makes the "Best of" 2017.

Kate always looks beautiful on St. Patrick's Day, but this elegant Catherine Walker ensemble with coordinating topper, might be one of her best. It is possible Kate gave even more careful attention than usual to this look, because after the ceremony, the couple boarded a flight to Paris, where Kate arrived in the same coat, simple discarding the hat and restyling her hair. It was a stunning start to a fabulous trip.

The Cambridges trip to Paris is itself a highlight of 2017, and possibly the highlight of 2017 (for me;)). Is there anything better than the Duchess of Cambridge paired with the most beautiful city in the world? Hard to beat, kids. The  trip was brief, and Kate wore only three ensembles. Her lacy knit cocktail dress at the evening reception on their first night makes the list for its unusual style and throw-back vibes that brought out the best of the Kate Middleton single days:

Kate wore her first full Chanel ensemble (the pink tweed jacket from Canada is thought to be Chanel, too) on the couple's second day to visit a host of iconic Parisian landmarks, but this tweed dress would make the list no matter the locale. Fitted and flared, it draws on Kate's favorite (and best) elements, but she took it over the finish line with a trendy Chanel handbag and her chic Tod's block heels.

But, the Eiffel Tower doesn't hurt. Paris...I love you.

It's hard to come down from a trip like that, but Kate closed the month strong in successive ensembles that made the list. First, on March 23rd, the Duchess made an inspiring speech on motherhood and mental health at the Royal College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians wearing a repeat. This gingham Eponine London ensemble made the "Best of" list in 2016, but it is back to score again this year, particularly in this shot, which is one of my snaps of the year. It's young and fun, effortlessly flattering, and Kate looked like she'd just stepped out of a high-dollar ad campaign. Beautiful!

The Princess's final appearance of the month, on March 28th, takes the prize for the ensemble of the month. This green and gold evening look for the National Portrait Gallery's Portrait Gala was a showstopper.

Paired with Kiki McDonough earrings and shiny chestnuts locks, Kate was absolutely breathtaking.

After a successful March, William's Verbier notwithstanding, April marked one month to Pippa's May wedding, and the Middleton women were busy with planning! Our first glimpse of Kate in April came when she was pictured with William leaving Pip's flat after a family dinner with the in-laws-to-be. Her casual and cute Somerset by Alice Temperley dress probably wouldn't make the list on its own steam, but you all know how much I love a candid of Kate. Bonus points when she has her prince by her side:

Kate's maintained her fashion winning streak as she made her first official engagement of April on the 6th at Drury Lane to see the revival of 42nd Street. This Marchesa Notte dress certainly makes the list for its eye-popping hue and sexy silhouette.

While we are focused on the clothes and shoes and the fun, it was a crushing year for the West in terms of security, and Britain in particular was devastated by a succession of terrorists attacks that rocked the capital and shocked the world. In the midst of a month largely devoted to wedding planning and promotion of the London Marathon, the royals paused for a solemn memorial service at Westminster Abbey that focused on hope for the future. Kate's recycled Salsa hat from Sylvia Fletcher wasn't a win for me, and excludes this ensemble from the list from a fashion perspective, but it certainly scores for gravitas and the beauty of the sentiment - 2017 needed encouragement to hope.

As Easter approached, designers and other party planners were seen coming and going from Pippa's London flat. Carole and Kate were pictured one sunny spring day gathering at the bride's home, possibly for fittings or final consultations. We see so few candids these days, that any that do surface have a shoe-in, but these images were particularly fun because they were imbued with the excitement and anticipation of Pippa's pending nuptials.

2017 was the first year the Cambridges joined the Queen at Windsor for Easter, and so that morning easily takes a place among our highlights. The Duchess's creamy ensemble was a liner thanks to her square pillbox hat, and therefore it's another look that likely wouldn't have made the list but for the notable occasion.

With Easter in the rear view, the Cambridges and Harry threw their efforts on Heads Together into high gear. A slew of promotional events occupied the remainder of the month. On the 19th, Kate met with Heads Together runners at Kensington Palace. Keeping it casual in signature blue skinnies and a luxe Luisa Spagnoli striped sweater top, Kate mingled with the competitors as a camera crew filmed. This was an unusual event, because Kate wore a mic and we got lots of crystal clear audio of Kate.

On the 20th, Kate upped the glam factor a notch in a red Armini suit that clung to all the right curves. This was another Heads Together event, but this sexy suit takes a place on the "Best of" list all on its own:

On the 21st, William, Kate, and Harry released a series of videos on mental health that revealed the idea for Heads Together came first from Kate, and also included an interesting discussion between the Cambridges about the early struggles of parenthood. It makes the list for its unprecedented glimpse into the personal lives of these simultaneously public yet private celebrities.
The 22nd saw William and Kate make an unexpected appearance on BBC Radio 1 program where the couple undertook an extensive interview that was full of laughter, personal anecdotes, and personality. Kate's ensemble--an edgy Temperley blouse and black trousers--makes the list for its fashion interest, and this photo makes the list for the couple's chemistry. Still going strong... :)

The morning of the 23rd dawned early with the Cambridges and Harry giving a final pep talk to their team before they pressed the buzzer that began the 2017 London Marathon.

The Trio won universal acclaim for this campaign, and they certainly had much to celebrate that picture perfect day.

After a manic April, May began more bucolically as the Cambridges released a sweet photo of Princess Charlotte taken by Kate at the family's Norfolk home to mark the little princess's 2nd birthday. I loved this photo with Charlotte in a cute little sweater and hay bales providing a calm and country background.

Kate kept with the country theme for her first event back, and this stop at Farms for City Children makes the "Best of" list both for the "casual Kate" ensemble I love, and for the awesome work this charity does--getting kids out into nature and interacting with animals. 

Meanwhile, Kate's circle looked to be expanding as Harry's American girlfriend made waves with a trip across the pond to cheer her prince on at a summer polo game. Her public appearance set tongues wagging that an engagement was on the horizon.

On May 11th, the Duchess flew to Luxembourg for an afternoon of engagements. Her sweet Emilia Wickstead makes the list with relative ease. Closely patterned off of her green Wickstead from the first year of her marriage, this light dress was elegant and flattering, young and fun, and the perfect choice to mingle with fellow European royals. 

On the 13th Kate repeated another win at a Buckingham Palace garden party for children who have lost a parent in the armed forces.  The Trio put on an afternoon full of games and fun, and Kate recycled the Chloe she first wore in Canada in 2016. It was a win then, and it was a win here in 2017:

Kate's next event was one of the Queen's more formal garden parties for which she wore another recycle, but it misses the list. You all know how I feel about the shiny Christopher Kane... May 20th was perhaps the most anticipated day of the royal watching year. Pippa Middleton's wedding to James Matthews in her home village of Bucklebury was the perfect blend of country wedding and lavish society affair, and it is difficult to envision a more breathtaking bride than Pippa. It was truly a Middleton triumph. 

Kate's McQueen wasn't a home run for me, but it worked beautifully with Pippa's overall color palette, and with the mossy stone surroundings of the country wedding. 

Just days later, Kate closed the month with a visit to the Royal Chelsea Flower Show in a new French label. I loved this Rochas midi with Kate's hair in a cute pony. May wasn't super full (and so not overly competitive), but this would have made the list regardless.  

The month closed out with GQ's interview of Prince William that included several black and white images of the Cambridge family. Although this picture got a variety of responses, I really loved it, because it conveyed an easy and happy portrait of the family's private life. It was certainly a highlight of my royal watching year. 

Kate started her June with a visit to victims of the London Bridge and Borough Market victims, followed closely by a visit to the 1851 Roadshow in J.Crew crops. Her first ensemble to make the list in June came when the Duchess appeared at Trooping the Colour in bubblegum pink. Great color, and even better design!

Kate's next smash success of the month, and the year, was her lace McQueen at Ascot. I am still swooning over this dress...

...and the absolutely stunning hat with which she paired it. If anything was going to knock out our ultimate winner of Best Ensemble of the Year, this was it. 

Kate's penchant for midi dresses extended from 2016 into 2017, so fans who have been pining for shorter hemlines were thrilled when Kate wore this super cute sixties style Gucci frock to the Victoria & Albert to visit the newly created Exhibition Road expansion. It easily scores a slot on the "Best of" 2017 and closes out a relatively light month. 

And with that, kids, we are halfway through 2017! Take breather and give yourself a pat on the back as we jump back in at July. This month featured two trips to Europe, and a generous selection of UK engagements. As the Cambridges worked to prep for their trip to Germany and Poland, Kate started her month with some world class sport as she appeared at Wimbledon. The polka dot Dolce was cute, but in a month with more than a few adorable dresses, this event makes the list thanks to the added oomph of the engagement itself. It was Kate's first time at the All England Club officially as patron, which makes it a personal and professional highlight for Kate. 

The Spanish State Visit took place shortly after, and presented Kate with a bit of a fashion challenge. Queen Letizia of Spain is one of Europe's most glamorous royals, so Kate brought her A-Game when she arrived at Buckingham Palace in a bespoke Marchesa evening gown that featured a full skirt, trendy bell sleeves, and a daring, plunging neckline. 

Although it divided fans, this dress makes the list for its  royal pizazz and that plunge...

The Duchess had two more events before she jetted to the mainland. Her Preen day dress at the Natural History Museum on the 13th is narrowly edged out, however, by the Catherine Walker floral she wore to Wimbledon on July 16th. The origin of this pretty summer dress had royal watchers stumped until someone remembered Catherine Walker's Chelsea Flower Show shoot! This wins for its fresh vibe and for the best styling of Kate's sometimes contentious shorter hair.

The Cambridges week-long trip to Poland and Germany was stellar, and Kate's tour wardrobe was absolutely top-notch, but the Best Day Dress goes to the purple Emilia Wickstead she wore for the final few events and the airport farewell. This was a perfect purple with Kate's coloring, and the tailoring was oh-so flattering. Plus, her hair was still on point!

The Best Evening Ensemble goes to the Markus Lupfer. It was another dress that was out of Kate's general royal style, and boasted a touch of va va voom. Her heels added the final fun punch of style.

As gorgeous as the clothes were, Kate's little ones really stole the show. I think the two kiddie highlights both belonged to Princess Charlotte, and presented two different moods. The little princess's carefully practiced curtsy was the first moment that melted fans' hearts:

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But, so did her stubborn little temper tantrum before the family made their final farewell. These pictures will have us smiling for years to come:

The Cambridges closed the month with a two day commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. Both Kate's creamy coats were gorgeous, but those chapeaus put them out of the running for the "Best of" list.

After a busy summer schedule, the royals retreated for their August holiday and royal-watching slowed to almost a standstill, as it does almost every year. 2017 was unusual, however, because it marked twenty years since the death of Diana. William and Harry had been releasing various specials and tributes throughout the summer, all of which would culminate in a final event the day before the anniversary of her death.

It is still not clear to me how successfully the two balanced the tributes. Certainly the stories and the memories of the tragedy stirred up warm memories of the princess, but some of the angry resentment toward Charles was dredged up, too. William and Harry were in a nearly impossible position of praising their mother while tiptoeing around the drama connected with their father, but all in all, I suspect the Crown is happy to have this summer of tribute in the behind it. We saw Kate just once before the KP event as she was pictured on holiday at Balmoral. This didn't win in the style stakes, but we love our annual Balmoral snaps. 

On August 30th, William, Kate, and Harry visited with representatives of charities Princess Diana supported during her life. The Kensington Palace Sunken Garden had been transformed in her honor, and the event itself would merit a mention here. Kate's floral Prada makes the list for its sartorial strength, too, though. She hit just the right note in a frock that was true to her own style, and paid tribute to her late mother-in-law. 

As September brought balmy weather and the promise of a beautiful fall, we all thought our royal watching was about to get back into gear, but Kate and William had a very special surprise. On September 4th Kate was scheduled to visit the Hornsey Road Children's Center, but instead announced she was expecting her third child! And that made the "Best of" list pretty easy to write for September. ;)

Even without Kate, though, we had some highlights that cannot be ignored, chief among them was Prince George's bashful beginning at school. The sweet little prince looked none too pleased to be starting the long journey of formal education, but a later picture released from KP showed a much more upbeat little man. I am sure he settled in quickly. 

Kate was featured in a promotional video for the Anna Freud Centre which was released September 18th. The Duchess was wearing the same Eponine London dress we swooned over back in January. This makes the list for the shear dearth of Kate sightings in September, but she looked camera ready enough that it might have made the cut even in a busier month. ;) 

The Princess made an earlier than anticipated return in October when she attended a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted to thank those who'd worked to promote mental health. Kate's return would have made the list no matter her ensemble, but this blue Temperley, with its paneled skirt and ruffled cuffs, deserves the accolades and makes the list for October on its own merit:

October was the month of surprise appearances as Kate eased back into royal duties slowly by accompanying her husband and brother-in-law when her health permitted. Her surprise stop at Paddington Station and her dance with Paddington lands on the list easily, and the floral Orla Kiely waltzes effortlessly in as a win, too. 

Kate wobbled a little with her maternity wear on a Coach Core engagement, but was back on track and in her element as she closed the month playing tennis with kids participating in the LTA training programs. As fun as it was to see her with a racket in hand, it was her school run the same day with a casually dressed little George that makes the list tonight:

Kate began November with a maternal health roundtable event at Kensington Palace wearing what was probably one of her best maternity ensembles had we been able to see the whole picture. Kate's recycle of her DVF Zarita at the KP Orangery for the Anna Freud Centre is the first smash hit of the month, though. Kate has certainly gotten her money's worth from this stunning dress. If I named an annual MVP, it would be the Zarita. 

On November 8th, Kate debuted a new GOAT London dress that makes the list. This burgundy mini dress with opaque stockings and suede accessories was just what fans had been craving, and hit the bulls-eye in Kate's favorite maternity style profile. 

The Festival of Remembrance was next on Kate's calendar and next on our "Best of" list. This custom Catherine Walker in a luxe velvet easily scores a slot. It was the perfect blend of coat and dress, and where last year's brocade faltered, this beautiful design transitioned effortlessly from outdoor to indoor. 

The very next day the Duchess was on the balcony of the foreign office for a landmark Remembrance Sunday as the Queen stepped back from her very public role to permit Charles a more prominent position. The Princess honored her earlier commitment to the Hornsey Road Children's Centre with a make-up event on the 15th, recycling the original Goat Coat, and the next week was pictured on her way to BP wearing the Zarita for a second time in a month. (I'm telling all y'all, MVP of the Year...if I awarded one.) None of these makes the list because this month was just so downright competitive.  Instead, it is another Goat Coat that elbowed out its peers for the next place among the highlights. The Washington Coat was great on its debut in New York, but I think pairing it with a cozy turtleneck and these tapered boots, on an Away Day in Birmingham, carried it across the finish line. 

Kate brought out the glitz and the glamour for her second appearance at the Royal Variety Performance, but that night was quickly eclipsed by news that set the royal watching world (and beyond) alive with excitement. Harry announced Kate will get a new sister-in-law come May 2018! ;)

The Duchess finished the month strong in Kate Spade at the Foundling Museum, where she gave a few brief comments congratulating the royal-couple-to-be. This final ensemble makes the list both because I loved the pattern and colors, but also because the event was so, so sweet. This "Best of" list glosses over the shortcomings of your blogger, but of all the events I was not able to fully cover, this might have been the one I regretted missing the most. 

By now you all know that if Kate wears a Barbour, it makes the "Best of" list. The Duchess's day at Robin Hood Primary School (including and peek at Bug-ingham Palace) is no exception. The fact she paired this with my all-time favorite Honeycomb sweater top from Temperley, makes this a smash hit. Casual Kate for the win...every time. 

Kate began December on some private business of her own. After Harry and Meghan's engagement announcement, photographers and paparazzi were on high alert and she was pictured in a dressed down Zara coat at King's Cross. These were some fun pieces individually, but the pictures make the list for Kate's fresh face and the novelty of candids these days. :(

The annual Diplomatic Reception revealed that Kate has a new gown in her collection, but we will have to wait for a better view for it to compete for the highlights. Another GOAT London debut is the first ensemble of December to make the list from a purely sartorial perspective. The Elodie was one of my favorite maternity dresses thanks to its gathered collar and ruffled cuffs.

Kate recycled her Séraphine purple maternity coat for a Christmas party with families of the Grenfell Tower blaze, before joining other members of her family at a memorial service at St. Paul's just a few days later. The blue Carolina Herrera wins for its classic style, and the event places on our list for its importance to the London community.

Mid-December, the Cambridges released an official Christmas portrait. We don't get one every year, and this easily scores one of the few slots left before we ring in the New Year.

From there, the Christmas season accelerated in a flurry as the Cambridges attended the Queen's pre-Christmas lunch, and Kate was spotted enjoying the Nutcracker at the Royal Opera House. Kate's final public appearance of 2017 was her Christmas morning walk at St. Mary Magdalene wearing Miu Miu. This bright and festive coat was a fitting end to what was a remarkable year of royal watching.

Best Ensemble of the Year

Despite Kate's time out with HG, this was a fantastic year for fashion, so Best Ensemble of the Year could have been any number of pieces. Ultimately, though, I think from the moment I saw this dress almost a year ago, I knew it would win the crown. The Erdem Evita was a throwback to one of Kate's best and most popular style eras. This dress hit every element perfectly, and these images stuck with me throughout the year. Despite the competition, this was a well-deserved win and relatively easy choice.

Designer of the Year

It's the year of the Goat!! I mean really, what a year for GOAT London! Kate practically made them the official sponsor of Cambridge #3. Who would have thought that back in 2013? Not only did Kate debut a number of new pieces from the label, she recycled both the coats from her previous pregnancies with complete success. The brand has fit perfectly in her style profile and certainly won this girl over. Huge congratulations to GOAT's founder Jane Lewis on a fantastic royal year that showcased her lovely designs! 

Best Evening Gown of the Year

It's the customized McQueen from the BAFTAs. This year was a little light on the full evening gowns, but this dress was an absolutely stunning piece and was head and shoulders above the crowd. Kate's full chignon and giant earrings added just the right polish to complement a truly royal gown. 

Love from Jane 

As I have noted in previous years, if you've made it this far, you are a real fan. :)  Thank you, thank you for joining me this year following Kate and the royals. This was, without a doubt, the most difficult year for me balancing the blog against other commitments, and I am so very grateful for those who encouraged me to keep blogging, and for everyone's patience when I couldn't pull the posts together in good time. My commitment to you for 2018 is to do better in that department! I wish you and yours health and every happiness in this new year!!