Kate Middleton has gone through a busy time as she settles into her new royal role as Princess of Wales, following in the footsteps of another highly fashionable Princess of Wales, her mother-in-law, Princess Diana – to whom she occasionally pays tribute through her fashion choices.
Bethan Holt, Fashion News and Features Director of the Daily Telegraph, points out that Kate’s husband, Prince William has also “always been very conscious of his mother as a style icon.”
“I think that William and Kate between them might have decided that actually on some occasions it’s a really nice thing for Kate to reference the fact that Diana is still a fashion muse today and to do that through her own clothes,” says Bethan.
Polka dots are a timeless look, especially for a Princess, Kate rocked the print at Royal Ascot in June, taking inspiration from Diana’s outfit for the 1986 Epsom Derby – coincidentally another equestrian event – even completing the look with an angular hat and pearl drop earrings!
“What’s really key about these times when Kate references Princess Diana, it’s not like a costume. She brings it right up to date so she makes it look relevant for now.”
“She’s not doing an ’80s power shoulder or a puffball skirt, she’s making it look sleeker and more contemporary. She makes it her own without looking like she’s playing ‘dress up as Diana’, ” explains Holt.
Plaids were a regular part of Princess Diana’s outfits, and Kate managed to make black watch tartan look very modern during a Scotland outing in 2019.
Diana’s visit to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1987 featured a military-inspired structured suit with frogging and epaulets – with Kate channeling the same inspiration for related events.
Holt explains that Kate increasingly taking inspiration from Diana is a sign of confidence, saying: “I think for a long time she was a little bit reluctant with her style, and the reasoning behind that was meant to be that Diana was this huge global style icon and those were really big shoes for Catherine to fill.”
Diana’s statement jacket of the early 90s was often a red and white houndstooth, which is very similar to Kate’s stunning coat dress that she wore while pregnant with Prince Louis during a royal tour of Sweden and Norway in 2018.
“As she’s become more confident in her own style, knowing what works for her, she’s then been able to incorporate those Diana moments into her own wardrobe and she’s done it in a way that really makes sense,” Holt expands on the confidence statement.
The navy has also often been an inspiration, Diana’s 1981 sailor suit certainly turned eyes, while Kate’s modern approach with a sweater set was no less effective in 2011.
“The ’80s look is totally back in fashion, so even if you didn’t get the Diana reference, then Kate would also be looking fashionable in wearing those outfits. I think it shows her acknowledging that fashion is still obsessed with Diana,” says Bethan.
A metallic dress is a great way to light up the night, with both Princesses choosing the look for a Bond world premiere, with No Time to Die in September 2021 for Kate, and A View to Kill in 1985 for Diana, respectively.
“The look she goes for is very feminine. It’s not super-princessy, but she does dress in quite a traditional ladylike way which Diana was very well known for,” says Holt as we see them both in black strapless gowns for evening events.
An obvious comparison can be drawn between the emerald green dress of Princess Diana in 1981 and Kate in 2022. With her first state visit as the new Princess of Wales scheduled for November, Princess Catherine will surely stun just as Diana did.
“She can reinvent what looking like the Princess of Wales means, because if you say ‘Princess of Wales’ now, we still think of Diana, but in a few years we are going to be thinking of Catherine, which is quite phenomenal,” concludes Holt.
It can be argued that Prince William is what started the fashion comparison between the two Princesses when he proposed to Kate with Diana’s iconic sapphire engagement ring back in 2010.
Kate “appreciates the history associated with this role but will understandably want to look to the future as she creates her own path,” says a palace source, with Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton – former private secretary of Prince William – adding: “She will do so with humility and by acknowledging the past but in her own way.”