Millinery Style: The Duchess of Cambridge

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by a national news magazine to comment about the Duchess of Cambridge’s millinery style. Here is part of my response:

When I look at Kate’s hats, I notice a visible difference in the hats she wore before she was married compared to the hats we have seen on her since 2011. Prior to becoming a duchess, Kate’s millinery style made quite a statement:

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At the Royal Order of the Garter service, June 16, 2008 and
at weddings on May 6, 2006, August 14, 2009  and October 23, 2010   

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At the Cheltenham Festival, March 17, 2006 and
at the weddings of friends April 17, 2010 and July 19, 2008 

During the first months of her marriage, we saw the new Duchess of Cambridge in three dramatic hats;

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In Silvia Fletcher for Lock & Co. for Trooping the Colour, June 11, 2011; in Gina Foster for the
July 30, 2011 wedding of Zara Phillips; in Jane Corbett for Christmas Day 2011 at Sandringham

Since then, Kate’s hats have noticeably decreased in size and the colours are more muted. While still very beautiful, I think these hats carry less dramatic effect but are more elegant and refined:

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A Jane Taylor beaded cocktail hat for the Diamond Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving, June 5, 2012;
a navy silk covered button percher with feathers by Rachel Trevor Morgan for a  visit to Nottingham June 13, 2012;
a Whitely percher with formed straw beret base and twist trim for the July 4, 2012 Order of the Thistle Service

The three hats Kate has worn since Prince George’s arrival have continued on this more muted stream- fashionable percher hats with formed beret bases that are small in scale and rather sedate;

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Cream Jane Taylor for the October 23, 2013 christening of Prince George; black Silvia Fletcher for Lock & Co. for Remembrance Day 2013; and green Gina Foster for Christmas 2013 at Sandringham

The reason for this change in millinery style? I think Kate is very good at balancing looking good with blending into the background at events where the entire royal family is present. If you think about the royal succession, her job is not to overshadow the Queen or the Duchess of Cornwall. While her popularity is very high and she is obviously the most fashionable member of this trio, her clothes and hats strategically do not overshadow the senior royal women when they are seen together. 

I also suspect there is a strong desire from several sources (from the Palace, from William and from Kate herself) to avoid Kate turning into the fashion icon that Princess Diana became.  While I don’t think Kate will become as pragmatic about her fashion as Princess Anne (who recycled three 30+ year old hats last year!), I also don’t think she will become as linked to fashion as her late mother-in-law. Kate has managed to strike an understated balance so far and I think that’s what we’ll continue to see in the future. I suspect on the upcoming royal tour of Australia and New Zealand, Kate’s hats will remain smaller-scale perchers and berets; perhaps we will see her in designs made by milliners in these countries.   

 I am curious- what do you think of Kate’s millinery style evolution?

Photos from  Camera Press/Retna   Max Mumby/Indigo, Dan Kitwood, WPA Pool, Chris Jackson,  WPA Pool, Chris Jackson, Chris Jackson, WPA Pool, Mark Cuthbert and Chris Jackson via Getty


24 thoughts on “Millinery Style: The Duchess of Cambridge

  1. What a great article! I kinda miss the large hats she used to wear before marrying William, but now thanks to your analysis, I have a better understanding of the reason why. The two large black hats were really fantastic!
    The feathery little things don’t age well I think. 7 years later they don’t look too great.
    Based on this article, and what happened his year after you posted it, I suspect we will see many more small-sized hats, percher hats and sedate berets in the future.

  2. I guess I’m in the minority here, but I prefer her bigger more dramatic hats than the little ones she now wears. I always prefer large picturesque hats. But your comments hit the nail on the head in determining why her hat style has changed since she has gotten married to William.

  3. I think Kate looks best in the very first picture, the black with white trim. She is tall, has ridiculously long hair that she doesn’t keep under control, and little perchers sat on top look a bit silly IMHO. These hats themselves are ho-hum in shape. Kate needs more drama in her hats,. Her youth means she will always be the go-to for the press, and you could never say Camilla has down-sized her hats so as not to detract from the Queen when they appear together. So really I think Kate should just get on with it. We are certainly much more casual down under in Oz, but with the Royal visits it is often the formality of the occasion which dictates hat wearing, or of course the intensity of the sun.

  4. Your comments are very perceptive, and you are obviously paying close attention! I could have said that Kate wears lots of the smaller percher-type hats, but I hadn’t really made the connection with the virtual disappearance of her more dramatic hats. I agree with the poster above that my favourites are the three interesting ones in the first year of her marriage, and I wish she would continue to wear something a bit more like these when she is on solo engagements (taking your point about not overshadowing more senior ladies when at family events).

  5. I think Catherine has a good idea of what type of hat to wear for any occasion that requires a hat. For me, the Jane Taylor hat in 2011 at Christmas is my all time favorite, there is something about that hat that I just love, the style, the shape and the color and the fabric all fit her perfectly. That hat that she wore for her son’s christening is also a winner. I like her style, only problem I have seen is way to short in the length of the hem…………other then that, love her hats, and the green hat with the plaid, can’t forget that hat either. So many beautiful hats, wish I could raid her hat closet, what fun I would have.

  6. You know so much about hats I am just amazed at all the good in formation on this blog. If you ever have time, I would love to see this kind of review of the other royal’s hats too!

  7. You made some excellent points and used great photos to back up your statements. Concerning her upcoming trip Down Under, I’d be surprised if Catherine wears many hats. Things seem more low key in that region and, if memory serves me correctly, hats didn’t figure largely in her wardrobe on her 2012 Asian/South Pacific tour with William.

  8. I’m sure your analysis is correct, that Kate doesn’t want (or was told not to want) to overshadow older royals’ hats or to be noted for fashion to the extent that Princess Diane was. I do hope, though, that the Australia – New Zealand tour shows off dresses and hats with more color than Kate often wears. QE2’s “stand out in the crowd with bright colors” dictum makes a lot of sense. Extremely photogenic, Kate has a presence and looks self-assured in almost anything. I think small hats are most dramatic when matched to the dress/coat color, however, particularly if the hat might be of a similar color to the hair. (Think of some of Máxima’s hats on the Caribbean tour.) Viewers need to take in the whole outfit at once, not with one look at the dress, another look at the hat.

    • I agree. I like the style of hats more since Kate became Duchess Kate but the colors are so dark and muted. I think you are right that she doesn’t want to take attention away from the Queen but she could really stand to pep it up.

      • The last hat, the hat she wore for Christmas was a brighter color and the bow on it made it a modern statement hat. With her plaid dress I thought Kate looked perfect for a royal Christmas.

  9. Kate’s hair used to look pretty messy (before she was married). Getting a good blow out really helps her hats look better. I think I like her earlier hats better but

    • Sorry- I was going to say I like her earlier hats but the fascinators seem very young and not very royal. I love the cream and burgundy ones she wore in 2011.

    • Looking back at these old photos, I forgot how much better groomed Kate looks now than before she and Will got hitched. She’s better groomed from head to toe- hair, hats, clothes (if only she’d get better shoes). Thank gawd she ditched those hideous feathered train wreks. Her hats aren’t all that interesting now but it’s a big improvement from where she started.

  10. I think you comments were right on target and I believe it shows wisdom on her part to not overshadow the other members of the family, especially since it is so obvious that she garners more attention than they at any event she attends.

  11. I didn’t realize how bad Kate’s hats were before she got married. The first one is OK (the big black lattice saucer) and the red rose fascinator is cute (but too matchy matchy with her dress) but the others are really awful. I say marriage and royal life has been good for her style!

  12. I like her earlier hat styles. Not a fan of the “percher”
    -berets, although the one for Prince Georges Christening is nice.

    • I don’t know. I think the early ones are pretty bad and the ones in the past year are so boring. The best ones were those 3 she wore in the year after she got married. Stunning.

    • I agree although I don’t think I’ll ever like the percher hats. I would love to see Kate in a classic pill box!

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