Remember how the Duchess of Cambridge once sparked instant sell-outs of every dress she wore? In the first couple of years after her marriage to Prince William, everything she touched turned to gold. It was known as the “Kate Effect” and brands from Reiss to Issa enjoyed soaring sales as a result of her endorsement. In 2012, just a year after her wedding, it was estimated that she had boosted the British economy by £1 billion.
But Kate didn’t want to be used as marketing collateral for brands. She was in the early stages of building a sartorial arsenal that continues to serve her today. Critics called her style “safe” and “boring”, and perhaps it was to a degree, but she wasn’t dressing for the sheer joy of it; every purchase was a judicious one that met the demands of her job and would have staying power in her wardrobe.
Hence all those headlines about “Kate, the royal re-wearer”. No matter that the Queen and Princess Anne have been doing that all their lives, in the age of fast fashion, Kate’s repeat outfits were Big News.
It’s no longer (much of) a story when Kate wears something more than once. It’s part of her MO. But Kate’s latest appearance at Wimbledon, in a blue polka-dot dress and heels by Alessandra Rich, indicates that she is now doubling down on that strategy. In the past, an outfit might have been put in storage for a year or two, but this dress was seen for the first time during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend, a mere month ago.
Wearing the same dress twice in as many months would be no big deal for you or I. But for a public figure, this is a statement akin to a regular, non-famous person wearing the same formal dress to two weddings within the space of one summer. It’s thrifty, it’s admirable and yet it still requires a certain level of confidence to actually execute.
Perhaps there is nothing more to Kate’s outfit than the fact that she loves the dress and feels good wearing it. She owns several from this London-based label, whose designs pay homage to the late Eighties aesthetic championed by Princess Diana. It still comes off as a statement though; one that reflects her evolving role as one of the most senior working royals.
It could also be interpreted as an indication of the Prince of Wales’ and the Cambridges’ vision of a more relatable monarchy: one that champions sustainability and thrift. And although spending £1,500 on an Alessandra Rich dress can hardly be described as relatable (or frugal), the desire to wear a much loved new dress on repeat certainly is.