It wasn’t a coincidence that the first time the Duchess of Cambridge was photographed wearing a trouser suit in her nine years as a royal was when she undertook her first Covid-19 related engagement back in March. It might have been in a soothing shade of pink (and from that ultimate everywoman brand, Marks and Spencer), but by choosing the sharpest tailoring of her royal life, she signalled the sombre reality of the situation
I was reminded of that look on Monday, when a video was released by Kensington Palace showing Kate announce that the results of her Early Years survey, a project which launched in January, long before the pandemic reached the UK, would be released this week.
In the clip, the Duchess wears a Massimo Dutti crew-neck knit in the same soft rose pink hue as that trouser suit. The sweater is teamed with a forest green blazer and an old pair of Reiss trousers (similar to the current £235 ‘Sadie’ style), marking the second time in two months that she has chosen dark tailoring - in mid-October, she (virtually) presented the Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize in a black Alexander McQueen tuxedo with coordinating trousers - a departure from the glitzy party dress she might usually have chosen for such an engagement.
She finished the look with a second outing for her new £285 Alex Monroe necklace, the ‘Paleontology Nugget’ design which takes its inspiration from a visit to the Natural History Museum, a landmark of which the Duchess is patron, but which is also favourite destination for the young Cambridges, too.
The overall effect of Kate’s latest look is businesslike, while incorporating emotional, calmer touches. It’s a carefully balanced combination which she has trialled in a few different ways since England went into a second lockdown earlier this month.
Take Sunday’s look for a call with the charity Future Men spotlighting the role of fathers in their children’s development. The Duchess opted for a patterned blouse by Michael Kors - the ‘70s-style print had an on-trend, retro feel (dare I say, it even looked a little bit Queen/ Margaret Thatcher in The Crown) but still felt polished and right-for-now with its subdued colour palette.
Last week also saw Kate chose two outfits which showed sensitivity to the current situation.
For a video call with NHS workers Johannah Churchill and Dr Edward Cole marking the end of her Hold Still photography exhibition, the Duchess coordinated with the callers’ scrubs in a pale blue cardigan by Boden. The £75 piece nodded to the current trend for scalloped-edges and statement collars whilst incorporating solidarity with healthcare workers.
In another video thanking everyone who had taken part in the exhibition, Kate re-wore a crimson, puff-sleeved blazer from Zara, first seen in 2012. It’s the latest in a series of examples of the Duchess reviving items which are almost a decade old, like Reiss’s cream coat first seen in 2007 and worn again in Ireland in March and Smythe’s navy blazer, debuted in 2011 and worn for the 12th time in October.
You’ll notice a few threads which tie all these latest outfits together. They’re all either existing pieces in Kate’s wardrobe (thrifty recycles) or largely sourced from the high street, making them a democratic dressing decision when much of the country is facing financial woes.
While the Duchess’s lockdown looks haven’t been entirely solemn, each one has seemed mindful of the current situation, whether that’s by picking out a symbolic colour or semaphoring a restrained mood.
Just as Kate might usually opt for bright colours if she were heading to a children’s hospital or nautical stripes by the sea, so her wardrobe has captured the uncertainty of a second lockdown and a winter of restrictions ahead whilst also serving that other essential royal wardrobe purpose - to create an image of positivity and cheer; while the Duchess is still rewearing her trusty Zara blazers, something is still right with the world.