When it comes to style icons, the Royal Family has provided us with many, and the Duchess of Cambridge is up there with the best of them. While it's hard to pick just one of the many styles we love on her, it's Kate Middleton's dresses that have gained an immense following, proving to be a fan favorite by all.
Every royal family member is known for their own signature fashion staples. From the Queen and her neat skirt suits and Balmoral attire (the latter of which has often provided catwalk inspiration for designers) to Princess Diana's myriad looks throughout her sartorial evolution, from demure debutant (think jumper vests and pearls) to fully-fledged vamp.
But there's one royal who reigns as everyone's favorite style icon: The Duchess of Cambridge. Ever since the duchess wed Prince William in 2011 and was thrust into the spotlight, she has served up non-stop stylish looks. And as much as we love her trusty off-duty best jeans and boots combo, Kate Middleton's dresses are always knock-out. From the Alexander McQueen wedding gown to the electric blue Issa wrap she wore for her engagement announcement, the Duchess of Cambridge's dresses have become synonymous with chic, feminine polish.
Her dresses have become so popular that several have instantly sold out after a royal appearance. Coined “the Kate effect,” her immense selling power means an endorsement of any brand – whether it’s high-end or high street – see’s it catapulted into the fashion conscience and sales rocket.
Kate Middleton's dresses: the Duchess's favourite brands
From designer to thrifty, Kate Middleton's favorite dresses span a wide range of labels. Here are her 11 go-to dress brands, with look-a-like styles and our editor's top picks from each.
It would seem that almost no one is immune to the allure of Zara, even the Duchess of Cambridge. Throughout her tenure, she has been spotted several times in clothes from the high street brand, from the blue pleated dress she wore on her honeymoon, to the red cropped coat she donned to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday, and the myriad skinny jeans she favors for less formal events.
Most recently, she opted for a green floral midi dress with a lace-trimmed neckline for a video call for the Hold Still portrait project with the National Gallery. This one was part of the Spanish brand’s Join Life collection, which means at least 50% of the materials used to make the piece were from sustainable sources.
Fashion Editor's picks from Zara:
Zara Printed Midi Dress
Zara Paisley Print Dress
Zara Floral Print Midi Dress
A go-to brand during her university days, Kate has maintained her love for Topshop even throughout her royal transition, proving that the teen-focused brand can work for grown-ups too. In 2013, she wore a cream and black polka-dot dress while visiting Warner Bros film studio and six months pregnant with Prince George. Proof of the power of Kate Middleton's dresses, the spotty dress sold out within hours.
Three years later, the duchess showcased the brand again, this time during the 2016 India Royal Tour, when she sported a pink smock dress with black embroidery, which she teamed with Pied-A-Terre wedges and Accessorize earrings.
Fashion Editor's picks from Topshop:
Topshop Printed Wrap Detail Midi Dress
Topshop Button Down Wrap Midi Dress in Pink
A cult brand during the 1990s, British high street brand Ghost dropped off the fashion radar during the noughties, only to be revived in 2017 with a fresh direction of covetable floral dresses. Always on the fashion pulse, the duchess first wore the brand in October 2019, when she opted for the blue ditsy print Avery wrap dress during the royal tour of Pakistan. She teamed it with a pair of equally budget-friendly nude New Look court shoes.
Having become a firm favorite, Kate made a second outing in Ghost in April 2020, when she wore the blue floral print Anouk dress during an appearance on BBC’s Big Night In. Since any dress Kate Middleton is seen fashioning almost always sell out immediately, which is why, following the appearance, Ghost announced that all sales of the dress would be donated to the NHS.
Fashion Editor's picks from Ghost:
Ghost Flo Dress
Ghost Luella Dress
Ghost Fable Dress
4. L.K. Bennett
L.K. Bennett has long been a go-to for the Duchess. Not only is she a big fan of the brand’s nude courts, but she has also often been spotted in its flattering dresses. The most recent was the Cayla, a bold red midi with elbow-length sleeves, which she wore during a video call with veterans to mark VE day in 2020. An advocate of recycling her wardrobe, the Duchess was first seen in the dress in 2015 when she made her Wimbledon debut.
Kate wore the Madison in May 2020, a pretty red midi with delicate floral print, for a video call she made with Prince William to care workers. Just like the Cayla, this is an old favorite that she first wore in 2019 at the King Power Royal Charity Polo Day.
Fashion Editor's picks from LK Bennett:
LK Bennett Caterina Red Crepe Shift Dress
LK Bennett Sina Print Dress
LK Bennett Tamara Print Dress
During the early 2010s, the duchess became an unofficial ambassador for Reiss after wearing the British retailer’s figure-flattering dresses on numerous occasions (she even wore the brand’s white Nanette dress for her official engagement photographs). However, it was her appearance in the blush-hued Shola dress while meeting the Obama’s in 2011 that really made a splash. Not only did the dress sell out in hours, but such was also the surge in the public interest that the brand’s website crashed. Having had a tough few years, Reiss’ subsequent uptick in sales has widely been attributed to being known for stocking Kate Middleton's dresses.
Fashion Editor's picks from Reiss:
Reiss Emma Lace & Pleat Detailed Midi Dress
Reiss Jessie Printed Shift Dress
Reiss Eddie Printed Midi Dress
6. Alexander McQueen
Though a keen supporter of the high street, Kate does have a penchant for the odd designer dress. One of her favorite labels is, of course, Alexander McQueen.
Her most famous McQueen moment has got to be the stunning ivory gown she wore for her marriage to Prince William in 2011. A commonly asked question is who designed Kate Middleton's wedding dress, and the answer is McQueen's then-new creative director Sarah Burton. The plunge-front lace gown with a nine-foot train sent shock waves (of the best kind) down Westminster Abbey. It's arguably the most iconic of Kate Middleton's dresses too. Since then, McQueen has become a go-to for myriad occasions.
Her most recent McQueen look was a white and gold sparking floor-sweeping gown worn to the 2020 BAFTA awards, which made headlines not only for its starry quality but also for its sustainable credentials being a piece the duchess had already worn in 2012 during a visit to Malaysia.
Fashion Editor's picks from Alexander McQueen:
Alexander McQueen Patterned Knitted Maxi Dress
Alexander McQueen Open-Back Crepe Gown
Alexander McQueen Draped Cotton-Faille Midi Dress
7. Beulah London
As well as championing a sustainable approach to fashion via recycling her wardrobe, the Duchess supports myriad ethical brands, including Beulah London. The British-based brand, founded in 2009, offers employment to vulnerable women and promotes sustainable artisan handicrafts. Kate was seen in one of its dresses back in May 2020, when she wore the raspberry-red Calla Rose floral silk dress with contrasting white collar during the Mental Health Minute television broadcast.
She then confirmed her love for the dress in September, when she re-wore it to visit the Beigel Bake Brick Lane Bakery with Prince William.
Fashion Editor's picks from Beulah London:
Beulah London Calla Rose Red Dress
Beulah London Camellia Beige Dress
Beulah Fleur Cornflower Dress
The duchess confirmed her down-to-earth approach to dressing when she wore a blue floral wrap dress from Boden to participate in a video call with new parents and midwives ahead of UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2020. The Aurora dress features a flowing tiered skirt, mini-length hem, and flattering ¾ sleeves.
It's clearly one of Kate Middleton's dresses that she turns to time again. She also wore it for the 2019 Cambridge family Christmas card, teamed with loose waves and drop earrings. Naturally, the style is no longer available.
Fashion Editor's picks from Boden:
Boden Adora Midi Dress
Boden Nicola Midi Shirt Dress
Boden Kitty Midi Shirt Dress
9. & Other Stories
A firm favorite among fashion editors, Scandi high street brand & Other Stories is also beloved by the duchess (as well as fellow royal Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden). For a family visit to the RHS Back to Nature garden at Chelsea Flower Show in May 2019, Kate wore a floaty floral print dress complete with a mandarin collar and balloon sleeves. As expected, it flew off the shelves as bargain hunters flocked to buy one of Kate Middleton's dresses. Though now unavailable, similar styles can still be picked up from the retailer.
Fashion Editor's picks from & Other Stories:
& Other Stories Floral Print Maxi Dress
& Other Stories Printed Puff Sleeve Midi Dress
& Other Stories Floral Print Cut Out Midi Dress
10. Emilia Wickstead
Much to the delight of fashion fans, the last few years have seen the Duchess introduce a handful of on-the-pulse designers into her wardrobe, one of which is Emilia Wickstead. A mainstay at London Fashion Week, the Newzealand-born designer is known for her ladylike silhouettes, romantic prints, and feminine color palette. Though Kate has reached for Wickstead’s dresses on numerous occasions, it’s the powder blue and pink floral Aurora dress that proves the most stylish.
First worn at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show, the Duchess re-wore the piece in August 2020 during a trip to Wales with husband William. She teamed the midi dress with her favorite Castana wedge espadrilles and floral face mask.
Fashion Editor's picks from Emilia Wickstead:
Emilia Wickstead Zilda Floral-Print Midi
Emilia Wickstead Nolan Midi Dress
Emilia Wickstead Ruched Crepe Midi Dress
11. Gabriela Hearst
Reiterating her ethos of sustainable fashion, Kate wore a dress by Gabriela Hearst during a screening of David Attenborough: A life On Our Planet in September 2020, in the gardens of Kensington Palace. A denim shirt style, it chimed in perfectly with the evening’s sartorial blue theme, which was adopted by her family and Sir Attenborough himself, who was in attendance.
Having recently been awarded American Womenswear Designer of the Year by the CDFA, Hearst is currently the toast of the fashion town. The Uruguay-born designer is known for her sustainable credentials—in fact, one of Kate Middleton's dresses, the Marley, is made entirely from recycled denim.
Fashion Editor's picks from Gabriela Hearst:
Gabriela Hearst Simone Belted Wool Midi Dress
Gabriela Hearst Elvis Geometric-Pattern Cashmere-Silk Blend Midi Dress
Gabriela Hearst Cervantes Maxi Dress
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