25 Kate Middleton Fashion Moments the Spotlight

Relive the buzz around Kate's fashion statements and delve into her remarkable wardrobe in this curated collection of standout moments.

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Kate Middleton is no stranger to making headlines. From her college days dating a young Prince William and being photographed out on the town in London, to her world-stopping wedding and three royal children, everything the Duchess of Cambridge does makes people stop and look.

And nothing does that more than her fashion.

From leading a new wave of ladylike English Rose style, to inspiring hundreds of fashion blogs and sparking tidal waves of interest for whatever brand she wears (dubbed the ‘Kate Effect’), her influence is undeniable. (And there are stats to prove it.)

But, of course, where there’s positive attention, there’s always someone looking to bring the mood down.

Kate—no stranger to media criticism or unkind headlines—is often on the receiving end of fashion commentary when she steps out. Whether for her stylistic choices, the (completely unintended) aftermath of her outfits, or simply from people who never learned ‘when you don’t have anything nice to say…’, it’s true that you can’t please everybody. While we at Vogue beg to differ—Kate is one of the best dressed royals in recent history—below is 25 times Kate’s outfit made headlines.


Her wedding dress

Kate’s iconic wedding gown
Kate’s iconic wedding gown

Like her mother-in-law Diana and her sister-in-law Meghan, Kate’s iconic wedding gown received plenty of attention, both positive and negative. And while the look of Kate’s dress itself was received well—a long-sleeved lace bodice with a full skirt and train, rumoured to be inspired by Grace Kelly—the legal fall-out from the day continued long after. English bridal designer Christine Kendall sued the house of Alexander McQueen for allegedly ripping off her sketches and design, to which Alexander McQueen’s creative director, Sarah Burton, replied that she had never heard of Kendall, nor seen the sketches.


Her wedding hair

Kate had her heart set on wearing her hair down with long flowing curls
Kate had her heart set on wearing her hair down with long flowing curls

It wasn’t only her dress that caused a fuss on the day, either. According to a documentary released about Kate and William, “royal sources tell [reporter Ashley Pearson] that the royals indicated very strongly to Kate that they would prefer her to wear her hair up for this very special occasion. However, Kate had her heart set on wearing her hair down with long flowing curls, which is her favourite way to wear it, and actually William’s favourite as well.”

Kate ended up wearing her hair in loose curls, with the top half of it pinned up. It was, of course, anchored by her tiara. In the end, Kate looked like a true princess, and her hair has become something of an icon.


Her (un-)weighted hems

Kate’s yellow Jenny Packham dress blew up in a gust of wind.

Royal watchers grasped their pearls in 2011 when, on her first royal tour to Australia, the hem of Kate’s yellow Jenny Packham dress blew up in a gust of wind. So scandalised were fans, in fact, that they penned letters to the designer to request she weight Kate’s hems!

“I had a little handwritten letter from a lady in Wisconsin passionately criticising me for the primrose yellow shift dress I made for the Duchess,” Packham told The Evening Standard. “She said didn’t I know about putting weights around the bottom of a hem, so it can’t blow up?” Sorry, lady, the wind is one thing even the royals can’t control!


Her see-through runway look

Her see-through runway look

While many call this look the ‘dress that bagged a prince,’ this see-through strapless dress—worn by Kate during a charity fashion show in college, in front of Prince William who was in the crowd—was one of the first that put Kate on international headlines.


Her sell-out engagement dress

Her deep blue silk-jersey wrap dress was made by British label Issa London
Her deep blue silk-jersey wrap dress was made by British label Issa London

In one her first big fashion outings—announcing her engagement in 2010—Kate wore a dress that would come to establish her as a future fashion star and give us a sneak peek of her sense of style: regal, ladylike and on-trend. Her deep blue silk-jersey wrap dress was made by British label Issa London, and was later re-named the ‘Kate’ dress in her honour. But the headlines didn’t roll in until after—according to the designer Daniella Helayel, her small label wasn’t equipped to handle the success and demand for the dress after Kate’s outing, which eventually led to the brand being bought and later closed. “How the “Kate Effect” May Have Shut Down This Popular Brand,” wrote publications about the closure.


Wearing wedges

Her Majesty The Queen detests wedges and prefers women don’t wear them in her company
Her Majesty The Queen detests wedges and prefers women don’t wear them in her company

While this has never been confirmed by royal sources, legend has it that Her Majesty The Queen detests wedges and prefers women don’t wear them in her company. So, imagine the shock and surprise when Kate proceeded to step out in multiple pairs, multiple times. In fairness, Kate only ever wears wedges when on her own engagements, and never in view of The Queen, so maybe there’s something in the rumour.


Her ‘unknown’ dress

when Kate and William visited Australia, Kate stepped out in local label Zimmermann.
when Kate and William visited Australia, Kate stepped out in local label Zimmermann.

While it certainly isn’t a rule, many royal ladies, including Kate, often choose to wear a designer from the country they’re visiting on a tour. For example, when Kate and William visited Australia, Kate stepped out in local label Zimmermann. So, many royal fans were perplexed when Kate arrived in the Solomon Islands in 2012 in a yellow fit-and-flare dress no one—not even the most eagle-eyed of fans—could identify for days. Rumour has it that Kate couldn’t find a design by a local designer she liked and had a custom dress made.


Her dress from the wrong island

it turned out that it was actually from the Cook Islands instead.
it turned out that it was actually from the Cook Islands instead.

Similarly, Kate made headlines in that same tour when she stepped out in a patterned pink and purple strapless dress. But although Kate and her team were under the impression the dress was from the Solomon Islands, where they were visiting, it turns out that it was actually from the Cook Islands instead. An aid had come into the royal couple’s room and added the dress, which was a gift, to the pile, which wound up confusing her team and sending Kate out in the wrong dress.

Government House released a press statement about the mix-up, which read: “We are incredibly frustrated that this situation has come about and see Kethie as entirely to blame. It was completely inappropriate for her to go to Their Royal Highnesses’ room, which she filled with various things, causing confusion.”


Her disco look

Kate’s disco-themed roller skates look—complete with yellow shorts and a green sequin halter-neck—got plenty of attention

Even though this was firmly in her pre-duchess days, Kate’s disco-themed roller skates look—complete with yellow shorts and a green sequin halter-neck—got plenty of attention. According to reports at the time, the palace were ‘appalled’ at what they deemed ‘most unladylike display’. Looked like fun to us!


Her BAFTAs gown

At the 2018 BAFTAs, attendees put on a coordinated effort to wear all black outfits in support of the Time’s Up movement. So of course, Kate’s deep green Jenny Packham gown raised more than a few eyebrows because it bucked the trend. While rumours went around that it was because royals can’t wear black except at funerals (which is mostly untrue, Kate has been seen wearing black on several occasions), it’s more likely because royals try not to align themselves with social or political movements—no matter how worthy. Nonetheless, people weren’t very happy when…


Her black dress

She was pictured wearing a black and white Erdem dress the very next day.


That red dress

Attending the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the river Thames in a bright red Alexander McQueen dress, Kate was the subject of headlines that bemoaned, “Did Kate really have to steal the show in her scarlet dress?” Noting that the rest of the royal family wore muted colours, several publications, including the Daily Mail called out her outfit, which they claimed was “as striking as it was inappropriate.”


Her white dress at Royal Ascot

While most saw her white lace McQueen dress at Royal Ascot in 2017 as angelic, many slammed it for breaking strict dress codes. Labelling it “too short, too sheer, and completely inappropriate,” commentators pointed out that—gasp—her legs could be seen through her skirt.


Her ‘too perfect’ post-birth look

Proving you can’t win, even when you’re a duchess, Kate’s second post-baby look—following the birth of Princess Charlotte—was the focus of attention for looking ‘too perfect.’ Considering she was critiqued for looking too ‘post-baby’ after Prince George, this reporting falls even flatter. Oy vey.


Her fur-lined gloves

An innocent photo of Kate and William enjoying a snow fight in 2016 made headlines when a blog identified the gloves Kate was wearing as allegedly being lined with possum fur. PETA released a lengthy statement, beginning, “If the gloves are indeed made of real fur, we’ll be contacting Kate…”


Her fox-fur beanie

The same furor was ignited in 2018 when Kate wore a beanie with a fox-fur bobble during a tour of Sweden. Again, PETA issued a statement asking for confirmation that the fur was faux: “If the Duchess of Cambridge’s hat is made with faux fur, PETA is delighted to see her take a leaf out of the Duchess of Cornwall’s book – Camilla reportedly swapped all her fur hats for luxurious faux-fur ones.”


Her scandalously un-manicured toes

A visit to India in 2016 saw Kate remove her shoes before entering Gandhi Smiriti, a museum dedicated to Gandhi, as is custom. As for the fallout? “Corns, clawed toes, bunions AND fallen arches,” wrote the Daily Mail. Cue eye rolls here.


Her dark nail polish

Just like with wedges, it isn’t a rule that royals have to avoid bright or bold nail polish colours—just a preference. While Kate usually follows in the Queen’s footsteps and sticks to a natural nude on both her toes and fingers, on occasion she has stepped out sporting a dark pedicure for nighttime events, sending royal watchers into a spin.


Her ‘curtain-like’ Erdem gown

Stepping out in Sweden for a black tie dinner, Kate’s choice of chartreuse Erdem didn’t go down well with fans. “Oh. My. Word. This look is atrocious,” wrote one fan. “I know the British love their wild prints, but this is quite possibly the ugliest dress I’ve ever seen.” We beg to differ, and enjoyed Kate’s take on trying out a ruched look.


Her other Erdem gown

Perhaps her fans have something against Erdem? At a dinner in 2015, Kate’s red, blue and white tiered gown garnered a similar reaction. While some loved it, others weren’t moved by the print or volume. “That print is something I’m certain my mother chose for curtains back in 1984. Don’t hate. Love Kate,” wrote one commenter.


Her other Erdem gown

Apparently Kate and Erdem are a match made for making headlines. When she wore this blue velvet midi dress in 2018, royal watchers were quick to compare it, again, to curtains. “I see Kate decided to wear a pair of 1970s curtains tonight in Sweden,” wrote one.


Her Dolce & Gabbana dress at Wimbledon

Although no one can deny she looked divine, Kate’s green sheath dress worn to Wimbledon in 2019 stirred up a few headlines, as the designers behind it, Dolce & Gabbana, were under no small amount of scrutiny at the time.


Her shorts

While it’s hard to see how anyone could sail a boat in a gown and pumps, Kate nonetheless made headlines for the shorts she wore while participating in the inaugural King’s Cup regatta. Wake up, it’s the 21st century!


Her off-the-shoulder look

While we’re sure everyone can agree this figure-hugging, off-the-shoulder look was a winner, that didn’t mean it didn’t get its fair share of headlines, with most asking: was she accidentally wearing the dress backwards?


Her backwards Gucci blouse

A similar story cropped up in March 2019 when Kate stepped out wearing navy wide-leg trousers and a purple silk Gucci pussy bow blouse, which fashion blogs quickly pointed out… was backwards. In photos of the blouse on various shopping sites, it is worn with the buttons running down the back—Kate chose to wear it with the buttons at the front. We have to say: we prefer it this way!

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