When the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in a white gown featuring asymmetric pleats and a low neckline last night, fashion pundits were quick to take notice. The dress, which was custom-made by Polish designer Gosia Bacsynska, was certainly a diplomatic choice, but it wasn’t what you would think of as her usual style. Accessorised with a fashion-forward statement necklace with four oversized pearls, and with her flowing locks swept up into a low chignon, it was a real departure for the usually sartorially safe royal.
Today, she stepped out for day two of the royal tour of Poland wearing a pretty floral co-ord set by Erdem, offering the slight promise of a flash of midriff if she lifted her arms up too high. While the designer itself may not be surprising – she frequently wears his designs, alongside those of Jenny Packham and Alexander McQueen – the outfit choice is a little unusual. And we like it.
So are we seeing Kate Middleton's style evole for the third time? (We're counting her initial transformation from non-royal to royal). These aren’t the first sartorial switches that the Duchess has made in recent weeks. Just last Thursday at a state dinner for the Spanish royal family she surprised us with a plunging Marchesa gown, which she accentuated further with a statement ruby necklace which sat on her décolletage. It was a real princess moment for Kate, and one that made you forget about her reputation for ‘safe’, conservative and Sloane-y fashion.
Then of course there is the most headline-grabbing change she’s made: her hairstyle. After championing the glossy Chelsea blow-dry since day dot, and occasionally toying with a side-swept fringe, she’s recently gone for the chop, debuting a long bob that is fondly being dubbed the ‘Kob’.
So, what’s behind the new look? Kate’s stylist, Natasha Archer, has remained the same since 2014, so it’s not that. Perhaps it’s something to do with the Duchess becoming more confident in her role – after all, she’s been part of the royal furniture for 5 years now, has two small children and is in her prime fashion-wise (most women reportedly hit their fashion stride in their 30s) – that’s making her want to start taking more sartorial risks.
There have been ripples of change happening throughout 2017. During her visit to Paris in March, she debuted the very same pearl necklace she wore last night. There have been occasions of late where she has – shock horror – not worn her nude L.K. Bennett heels. She’s been adding new designers to her wardrobe too, namely Gucci, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi and Oscar de la Renta, and she frequently wears pieces that require her to not wear a bra.
Of course, Princess Diana famously also underwent something of a fashion coming-of-age, which was recently the subject of an exhibition at Kensington Palace. Evolving from shy Di, hiding in outre ‘80s fashion, to one of the best-dressed women in the world who set trends rather than followed them, we’ve got a feeling that Kate is on the same trajectory. Again, her switch-up came after she had gained confidence and gotten comfortable with the role.
It's anyone's guess whether or not Kate will wear anything as iconic as Diana's Serpentine mini, John Travolta ballgown or Elvis collar, and it must be said that the Duchess does seem more at home in countryside leisurewear (a la her Vogue cover). The late Princess of Wales was completely immersed in the world of fashion - befriending designers and relishing the ability to tell stories with her clothes - and Kate has yet to show the same passion - but who's to say that's not Kate Middleton 4.0?
Watch this space.