Today we’re going to review the Duchess of Cambridge’s past year. Month by month we’re going to walk through the most memorable moments of 2017, review the fashion and discuss the highs and lows of Kate’s engagements, foreign tours and public appearances. Ideally what we’d like to see each year is growth as Kate evolves within her role as a member of the Royal Family and personalizes her position. In order to gauge that, we’re going to (briefly) cover where we ended in 2016 and then work our way through the highlights of the past 12 months.
This won’t capture everything and is certainly a subjective exercise and I’d love to see where you agree or disagree. With that, let’s get into it:
This year dawned after a busy, but fairly controversial, 2016 – a year that ended with the release of annual engagement numbers that didn’t do much to satisfy Kate’s critics that she needed to be out and about in public more. None of this was helped by the Cambridges’ decision to spend the Christmas holiday with the Middleton family in Berkshire – while we were gifted great images of the young family attending church, they were absent from the traditional walk to church the Royal Family makes at Sandringham each year.
Our first sighting came on January 8, a few days before I started covering the modern royals on this site so there’s no corresponding post. William and Kate were pictured at Sandringham attending church with the rest of the Windsors the day before Kate’s 35th birthday. Recycling a green Sportsmax coat and wearing a fur hat, we never got a great shot of the Duchess, but it was mollifying for some that the two were at the Queen’s side as she recovered from a bad cold.
It soon became apparent that Kensington Palace was prepared to address the couple’s critics head on. Kate carried out her first engagement on January 11, on the early side for her to return from the holidays. She chose a royal blue coatdress by Eponine, which I’ve mentally relegated as a holdover from the year before. It was short-waisted, a little dull and this particular hairstyle favored by Kate last winter is better left forgotten.
This was followed by two major announcements. William, Kate and Harry unveiled the next phase of their mental health-focused Heads Together campaign, during which Kate made a speech. As we’ve discussed here in the past, public speaking isn’t Kate’s forte and it’s always notable when she delivers formal remarks. The floral Erdem she wore with the big, bouncing curls was a huge win with folks, though I will admit I was mostly apathetic.
And finally, KP announced that the Cambridges would be moving to London by the fall and William would be leaving his job as an ambulance pilot. Major changes were afoot in the Palace.
I very much remember February as a fun month for Kate watching. For me personally I was finally getting the hang of what went into covering her engagements and the speed with which people were able to ID what she was wearing (still have literally no idea how people do this so quickly!). The first engagement of the month gave us marathon training for the Heads Together team as they prepared for the London marathon in April.
The relay race between William, Kate and Harry remains a highlight of the year, even if a few of us were left scratching our heads as to the utility of sprinting in skinny jeans.
The next day Kate carried out two engagements, both of which were notable fashion moments for different reasons. That evening, Kate debuted a fuchsia Oscar de la Renta skirt suit, the first time she’d ever publicly featured apparel from the brand. For me, however, the win of the day came to the Luisa Spagnoli skirt suit she wore earlier in the day – it was the fourth time she recycled the look (having debuted it during her engagement in 2011), but I thought she looked absolutely gorgeous in the photos.
The day event also featured Kate’s second speech of the year – remarkable stats for a shy duchess!
The “wow” moment came on February 12 when Kate accompanied William to the BAFTAs. She chose a bespoke, off-the-shoulder black floral Alexander McQueen that was both unusual and surprising. I don’t think anyone would have necessarily chosen that print for Kate, but in my book it was picture perfect. I still maintain whoever did her hair should be given a knighthood.
For me, the runner up ensemble for the month came when Kate recycled her Paule Ka skirt suit from 2012, this time pairing it with flat boots and a black turtleneck. A lot of people preferred her original styling with heels and a lace camisole, but I actually loved this slightly sportier look and 2017 got the edge by me.
One final note from the month came at the tail end when Kate wore a blue tweed Rebecca Taylor skirt suit. While remarkably similar to another Rebecca Taylor tweed suit in her closet, this one was actually a debut, featuring a slightly different jacket and detailing. But the two outfits are so similar as to be a little confusing – I like to think of them as fraternal twins.
This was a busy month for Cambridge news, but not necessarily for the reasons we want. Our first Kate sighting came on the 9th when she and the rest of the Royal Family turned up for the unveiling of an Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. Kate recycled a blue and white Michael Kors coatdress with a new navy blue hat that was both larger and bolder than the toppers she usually chooses. I hated this at first, but by the time I finished writing the post on it, had completely changed my mind and it’s now one of my favorites.
Kate fans had long been looking forward to the next item on the books, which was a three-day tour mini tour of Paris. Unfortunately, just before that happened it came out that William had gone on a bit of a lads’ ski trip and was photographed both lunching with random women and drunk dancing in a nightclub at 4 am. To make matters worse, the trip coincided with Commonwealth Day, an event at which many believed William should have been. It later came out that Kate was also skiing that weekend, while attending Pippa’s hen party – thankfully no such comparable photos emerged.
The two put on a brave face for a St. Patrick’s Day engagement with the Irish Guards after several days of blistering headlines, with Kate debuting a new forest green coat by Catherine Walker:
On the flight to Paris shortly thereafter she took down her hair so as to provide a slightly fresher look for her arrival at the Élysée Palace.
That evening saw two more appearance (and two more dresses), but the light blue Jenny Packham gown she debuted at the second was breathtaking. Slightly glitzier than what Kate usually favors and featuring a neckline and cut that wouldn’t have looked off on Jackie Kennedy, I thought she nailed it. In my opinion, this was the highlight of Paris.
Even so, I have to give an honorable mention to the dress/coatdress she wore the next day, because, well, it was Chanel. Kate has worn very little Chanel in public. There was one pink blazer during the North America tour in 2011, but since then nada – perhaps because of Karl Lagerfeld’s rude comments about Pippa. But, when in Paris…
Frankly, I found it boring, so let’s move on.
An honorable mention goes to a speech Kate made shortly after the terror attacks in Westminster. It was the first royal engagement (that got news coverage at least) following the incident and it was notable in that it was Kate who publicly acknowledged the tragedy in her remarks. Not only that, but the speech she made on parenting was her best one the entire year. As for the fashion, she recycled gingham separates by Eponine, a London-based brand, which was a thoughtful touch.
The only other event from March worth covering is Kate’s appearance at the National Portrait Gallery at the end of the month for which she wore a new green lace gown. A lot of people loved this – and it’s a beautiful dress – but Oh. My. God. how many floor-length lace gowns can one person own? We’ll never know.
The month opened with two back-to-back engagements of note. For one, Kate turned up at the theatre for an evening event wearing Marchesa Notte. I disliked the dress, but love when Kate wears a new designer, so we came out even on this one.
The next day she joined William for a Service of Hope at Westminster Abbey in commemoration for the terrorist attacks that took place in London. She appropriately recycled a grey Missoni coat for the engagement, so while not a big fashion moment it belongs on our list of highlights for the importance of her presence at the Abbey that day.
The rest of the month was pretty quiet until a burst of activity towards the end surrounding Heads Together and the London marathon. Mostly this was a big moment for William and Harry thanks to interviews they gave, but Kate did join them for an engagement and the marathon itself, and she hosted the charity’s team of runners at Kensington Palace a few days before.
The Luisa Spagnoli striped top she wore was also featured in the video she filmed with William and Harry for the #okaytosay campaign.
And this Temperley top deserves an honorable mention, if only because Kate wore it for what has been the most in-depth interview she and William have jointly given since their engagement was announced in 2010. Informal and irreverent, this BBC radio conversation between the two and the DJs is a fun listen if you haven’t already.
I also feel like I have to highlight this red
Calvin Klein Armani (whoops!) skirt suit since I feel like this engagement was buried by other marathon news – it was also recycled when Kate participated in the tennis documentary later in the year.
This was a bit of a boring month, in my humble opinion. It was also fairly quiet. Kate undertook her second solo trip abroad on May 11, turning up in Luxembourg in a pale blue Emilia Wickstead. I thought it was dull, but I did enjoy the shots of Medieval castles from the photos.
In addition to two garden parties, both of which garnered repeats of looks I didn’t care for, the big event on the calendar wasn’t even an official engagement, but rather Pippa Middleton’s wedding. While the bride (rightfully!) stole the show, Kate was an appropriate hen to the chicks in a peach Alexander McQueen dress, while Prince George and Princess Charlotte served as a page and bridesmaid, respectively. Kate’s dress was almost universally panned, and while I wouldn’t necessarily write home about it, I thought it fit the scene and let Pippa shine.
Last but not least I want to highlight Kate at the Chelsea Flower Show at the end of the month. When she turned up in a new green floral Rochas dress, it was the first time I’d been genuinely excited by something she’s worn all spring. Looking back at it now, I’m not even sure why – a crewneck, a ruffle, whatever. But it was different after several weeks of predictability.
We didn’t see Kate at all for the first half of June, marking a three-week gap in her appearances. In retrospect, the scheduling snafu was likely a result of the Spanish royal visit being postponed and George’s school break, but it was a strange lull. Nevertheless, June is always a fun month thanks to a few annual events, not least of which is Trooping the Colour.
This year Kate chose a bubblegum pink Alexander McQueen dress and matching fascinator that I absolutely despised. The sleeveless version featured on the brand’s website I can sort of get behind, but the long-sleeved version worn by Kate looked constrictive and it was just very loud.
The white lace Alexander McQueen she wore just a few days later to Ascot was a definite win in my book. While the collar and ruffles were a lot, the dress was tailored to such perfection that it was both structured and dream-like (in the way all white lace should be).
An honorable mention goes to Kate’s engagement at the Victoria & Albert museum at the end of the month, because a lot of people adored the Gucci dress she debuted. I didn’t, but I did appreciate the switch up.
I did, however, love July. Everything about it. The month opened strong with a new haircut shown off at Wimbledon and paired with a new polka-dot Dolce & Gabbana dress. Everything about that sentence is #goals. And while Kate has certainly worn polka-dots, gotten a haircut and attended a tennis match before, on that particular day everything was just a little fresher, a little bit more fun and a smidge more youthful. The Office Nina Block heels took this right over the edge.
After that strong showing, Kate followed it up by attending the state banquet at Buckingham Palace in honor of King Felipe and Queen Letizia’s visit to London. We have yet to get a crisp and clear shot of it, but the pink lace Marchesa gown that Kate wore that night was the stuff princess dreams are made of.
I’d like to skip right into the Poland and Germany tour, but the two looks she wore at home beforehand are both worth noting. The pale Preen dress and Prada heels she wore at the Natural History Museum warrant a repeat and I loved the floral Catherine Walker she wore when she attended her second Wimbledon game with William. N.B., we got yet another speech at the Natural History Museum.
From there, the tour. We don’t have time to get into everything, but let’s focus on the highlights. The outfit Kate chooses to land in tends to become the image that sticks with each tour. The white peplum Alexander McQueen that Kate wore, paired with ruby jewelry and color coordinated with her husband and children to match the Polish flag was perfection. I loved everything about it, even the nude court heels.
Actually, in reviewing her outfits for the tour, she didn’t have an off moment. My least favorite was the yellow Jenny Packham dress she wore towards the tail end of Germany, but even that was fine. From the daring black and white Gosia Baczynska in Warsaw to the floral Erdem separates at Gdansk, each choice was bold and…new. This tour saw zero repeats and I can’t remember the last time that happened.
A second shout out has to go to the red off-the-shoulder Alexander McQueen she wore for a reception in Berlin. As one reader pointed out to me after the fact, our love for that gown may have had more to do with how unusual a choice it was for Kate, but even so the images of her that night capture a very beautiful and happy woman.
The real star of July may have been the wavy Prada sandals that she debuted in purple, black and tan. The tan heels not only made an appearance with the red McQueen, but again in a sparrow-print dress by Markus Lupfer that she wore for an evening event at Claerchens Ballhaus that was a sleeper hit for me. And before I forget, catching Kate with her stein of beer should give us a hint that she didn’t know she was pregnant as of late July…
And while the lavender Emilia Wickstead worn for the Cambridges’ last day in Germany wasn’t my favorite, the images we got of the couple interacting with their children on the tarmac – including Charlotte’s brief temper tantrum – make the outing another highlight for the year.
If all of that wasn’t enough, William and Kate ended the month with a two-day trek to Belgium for ceremonies commemorating the centenary of World War I. The white and grey floral coatdress debuted on the second day by Catherine Walker was a clear win.
The busyness of July made up for a slow end of spring for Kate – and went a long way in helping her engagement numbers. That was frankly necessary because August mainly saw tumbleweeds. It’s always a quiet month as the RF takes off for holiday and the Queen decamps for Balmoral, but it was particularly dry this year. William and Kate officially moved from Norfolk to Kensington Palace and while we saw the Duchess twice, only one of those times was formal.
On August 30, she joined William and Harry for a tour of the sunken garden (or the White Garden as it nicknamed) at Kensington Palace in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Princess of Wales’s death. The month – and the summer for that matter – was full of Diana news, most of it rehashing sad gossip from the 1990s, so perhaps it’s just as well the RF laid low for a bit.
The floral dress Kate debuted that day was Prada and not a hit with me.
Usually September has a nice re-start feeling to it. And that was meant to be the case for the Cambridges after KP announced they and Harry were in for a busy autumn. New engagements were announced, as well another tour scheduled for November. William and Kate, however, knew slightly better and on September 4 the long-anticipated news that they were expecting their third child was announced.
We’ve covered here what this meant for Kate’s engagements in the long-run, but the reality of her pregnancies means that she’s out of commission for several weeks. This time around we lost the Duchess for all of September, while William and Harry did in fact take on a heavier workload.
Kate re-appeared for the first time since August 30 on October 10 when she joined William and Harry for a reception at Buckingham Palace in honor of World Mental Health Day. The blue lace Temperley dress wasn’t a big win in my book, but I think we were all so excited to see Kate after such a long gap it was easy to overlook.
The pink Orla Kiely dress she donned less than a week later was adored by everyone…except for me, I’m sorry to say. I really, really want to like this and I just can’t quite muster it. I’m highlighting this one for all of you, though, and God knows we all loved seeing Kate dance with Paddington Bear.
On October 31, Kate carried out her first scheduled solo engagement, so despite the lackluster athletic apparel the moment is worth capturing(!)
The month dawned with photo shared from a closed-doors meeting Kate held at KP on maternal mental health, a new issue area in which she intends to double down. We obviously won’t see this fully play out until well into 2018, but I’m excited to see what she does with this space. It’s a good fit for her and based on other remarks she’s made, including her March speech, I think she’s well-positioned to be an excellent ambassador.
Thus began the autumn/winter of Goat. But in reality, it could also be called the season in which we saw a lot of repeats from Kate’s pregnancy with Charlotte. The black Diane von Furstenberg gown first debuted in 2014 saw two repeats this month, once at a gala at KP and again when William and Kate attended a private dinner in honor of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s 70th wedding anniversary at Windsor Castle.
Kate recycled two Goat coats, one from her pregnancy with George and another from Charlotte, both of which were solid repeats. The cream Goat was re-styled with flat boots and black tights and I actually much preferred this more casual look over the heels with which she debuted it.
Remembrance Day is probably the biggest moment on the Royal calendar in the fall and what Kate wears is carefully scrutinized. For the evening ceremony on November 11 she wore a new black velvet coat (coatdress? I’m torn) by Catherine Walker. Her attendance was notable because she appeared without William, who was carrying out an engagement at a rugby match elsewhere. I actually expected him to get more criticized for that than he did, but I think quite a bit of that was mitigated by Kate turning up on both of their behalf.
On Remembrance Sunday, Kate wore a new black coat by Dolce & Gabbana. We never get a great look at the full coat thanks to the balcony, but from what we can see of it I didn’t love the collar-less look. Still less did I like the faux-bob in which her hair was styled, so we’ll just keep moving.
The last moment worth highlighting has to be her and William’s attendance at the Royal Variety show. Always a fun event, Kate was a showstopper in a bejeweled Jenny Packham that essentially served as the pregnancy-friendly version of the JP gown she debuted in Paris. The dress drew mixed reviews from royal watchers, but it wasn’t lace so I was on board!
December tends to get broken up by the Christmas holiday, but nevertheless there are a few events worth noting before we wrap up. Kate debuted a new cream gown at Buckingham Palace’s Diplomatic Reception, which has subsequently been ID’d as Jenny Packham.
She recycled yet another coat from her pregnancy with Charlotte, this time a sparkly purple Séraphine first worn in New York City. The event was one with charities associated with the Grenfell Tower fire, as well as with former residents who are still feeling the impact from that terrible tragedy.
Appropriately, then, Kate’s last engagement before Christmas was at a prayer service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a navy Carolina Herrera coat. I didn’t much care for the coat, but that was wholly beside the point that day and it’s been affirming that so many members of the RF have been outspoken in their support of the Grenfell Tower victims.
And finally, Kate and William joined the Royal Family at Sandringham on Christmas day, participating in the walkabout after church. They appeared alongside Harry and his fiancee, Meghan Markle, making it the first time all four have been seen together. Seeing Meghan join the team was fun and special, and certainly a harbinger of what’s to come.
This was an interesting year for Kate, but it was also an uneven one. The RF in general went through a lot of change between the Duke of Edinburgh’s retirement, Harry’s engagement and the Queen stepping down from a few notable public duties. A strong first quarter and a jam-packed July probably kept Kate from being criticized too much for gaps in her work schedule – not to mention the announcement of a third Cambridge baby. In other words, a lot of other news overshadowed her, as well as some circumstantial factors.
Nevertheless, it was a quiet late spring and Kate was out of the picture for August, September and the first half of October. Perfectly understandable, of course, but if history repeats itself, it will be problematic if Kate takes a long maternity leave such as she did when Charlotte was born in 2015. It’s less likely that will happen now that the Cambridges are based in London, but I’m hoping that Kate and KP handle her re-emergence a bit more thoughtfully than they did the last time around.
There’s a lot of excitement on the books for 2018 between a new royal baby and Harry and Meghan’s wedding, but in the background of all of that, I’d love to see Kate continue to give speeches, invest in maternal mental health and take on new patronages. When she comes back from maternity leave, I hope it’s as a full-time working royal whose duties are on par with William’s.
Best Formal Look
Hands down, I have to give this to the ice blue Jenny Packham Kate wore in Paris in March. I know some people have nicknamed it the “Elsa” dress, but I loved it.
Best Debut Ensemble
As strange as it is given a year of very notable looks, nothing gave me quite the same excitement as seeing Kate debut that haircut in this Dolce & Gabbana dress and those block heels. Classic Kate Middleton with a twist.
Best Recycled Ensemble
I’m giving this to the burgundy Paule Ka skirt suit from February. This was a deep cut from Kate’s closet and I loved how different it looked paired with boots and a turtleneck. My God, I don’t think I’ve ever thought a turtleneck improved anything. What a moment.
We’ll do a longer poll for all of you to chime in before the end of the year. There will also be an option to call out your least favorite looks, but what can I say, I decided to end today on a positive note. Let me know where you agree and where you think I’m wildly off-base in the comments!