Thursday, August 14, 2014

Carole Middleton: Dressing to Rub Shoulders with Royalty

Today we are going to speak about a very, very special person. A remarkable woman for whom I have so much admiration and respect. This could describe Kate, but it is Carole were are focusing on this morning.  She is a woman with "true grit" but beautifully packaged in style and grace, and powered by a calm, quiet, and powerful presence. Carole Middleotn, perhaps even more than her often maligned daughter Kate, has patiently endured some pretty nasty slights from press and public alike over the years. Despite it all, she is a massively impressive success story. 

One of the most delightful and through accounts of Carole Middleton is the comprehensive piece written by Julia Llewellyn Smith for The Telegraph on the occasion of George's birth. While I may seem biased because Ms. Llewellyn Smith interviewed me for the piece, all JB quotes aside, it is truly a great overview of the Middleton matriarch and gives a very thorough overview of the woman who went from an airline stewardess to the grandmother of the future king of England, laughing familiarly with the Duke of Edinburgh at Ascot, and taking tea and birthday cake with Elizabeth II herself. I highly recommend you read it if you have not already.  In so far as Carole raised Kate, instilled in her many of the principles and standards by which our favorite princess operates, and supported and advised her daughter  throughout her stressful and at times touch-and-go relationship, it is fair to say that this woman played a major role in the success of her daughter, and by extension her family. She has much  to be proud of. Since our focus here is style, let's pause and take a moment to admire Carole's equally impressive sartorial touch.

Needless to say, dressing for your daughter's wedding is always an event (I imagine) but, when your daughter is marrying the most popular heir to the throne of the most powerful and prestigious monarchy left in existence...well, that ups the style stakes. Significantly. Carole rose to this challenge and was absolute perfection in this soft blue coat-dress ensemble by Catherine Walker when her family took center stage on April 29th. 

As any fan of her daughter the Duchess knows, Catherine Walker was a French-born designer, whom Kate has worn on a number of occasions. 

Kate Cambridge Wearing Catherine Walker (Not and exhaustive example.)

Both Middleton ladies, however, tip their hat to a previous princess when wearing Ms. Walker. Diana made Catherine Walker a (fashion)household name when she continuously patronized the label during her lifetime. 

It was a smart move to wear designer royalty, but also perhaps a tribute to her daughter's mother-in-law...even if that mother-in-law was in-absentia. Carole accessorized with very elegant neutrals and a beautiful Jane Corbett hat.  She easily held her own with the two most senior ladies of the realm:

The stylish mother-of-the-bride did not miss a beat when it came time to choose her evening attire. Carole turned to a Middleton favorite for this event. Temperley London got the nod from both Carole and Pippa for an evening that included cocktails, dinner, and dancing at Buckingham Palace...closing the night in the early hours of the morning with a fireworks display. 

Both Pippa and Kate wear Temperley often, and Kate has worn various pieces from the label, turning to them for everything from evening-wear to stampede attire, albeit western-wear fit for a princess:

Perhaps Kate got her thrifty side from her mom, because Carole recycled the Temperley dress for the Red Cross Gala in November of 2013:

It isn't just when an estimated 2 billion people around the globe will be watching, however, that Mama Middleton gets it right. She is pretty much as consistent as Kate choosing winners again, and again. She also resembles her daughter in returning to certain labels for certain genres...or perhaps whenever it is a royal event. Carole again wore Catherine Walker and Jane Corbett for her grandson's christening in October of 2013. Although this coat did get mixed reviews, I liked it very much and found both the colors and the paneling to be very flattering:

While Carole had been attending Ascot before 2011's Royal Wedding, once her daughter was raised from Miss Middleton to HRH Princess William of Wales, the Queen issued the couple an invitation requesting they join her at Royal Ascot. The carriage procession entrance and the royal box are certainly a step-up from the normal milieu, and the Middletons arrived in the 4th coach from the front. Carole was wearing a beautiful neutral ensemble with lace detailing and a sweeping, wide-brimmed hat:

I have to say, I take a rather delicious, albeit uncharitable, delight in the anguish and gnashing of teeth that no doubt ensues from those individuals who throughout the years have taken swipes at Carole Middleton. Which is one of the reasons why I love moments like this. Carole, enjoying an afternoon at Ascot in 2012, giggling away with HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. (I guess we see where Harry gets it...)

Closing off this installment with one final horse sporting event, I could not leave out her summery and winsome appearance at the Epsom Derby. I really loved this ensemble. Carole favors structured for these more formal events, but in this case she added this soft chiffon and it was a lovely success. Brown and delicate pink, and the light jacket were the perfect combo for a more relaxed afternoon at Epsom:

Not all Carole's clothes are identified. If you can identify any piece that I have not, please pop into the comments share your wealth of knowledge !

Part II on Carole Middleton and her style coming soon... 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Kate Has Been Enjoying a Quiet August: Playdates with George & Discount Shopping

While the Cambridges seem to be taking some quiet time during August, Kate has been using it to spend quality time with her little man. She was spotted in Kensington Gardens playing in a little children's beach. The Express reports:
Last week she was spotted playing with the spirited toddler on the "beach" in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, a few yards from Kensington Palace where she and William have an apartment.
"It was lovely seeing them play together in the sand. They stayed for about 15 minutes," I am told.
"They had three protection officers with them but Kate seemed oblivious to anyone except her gorgeous baby enjoying himself."
I cannot speak to the significance of the park's name in Kate's mind when she popped by. I suspect as a royal there are a great number of streets, and statues, and places that carry the names of family members, old and new. Certainly, though, Kate is following in Diana's spirit by not shrinking from a public outing with her child.

Kate also likes a bargain--that's a sentence we have heard a million and one times--and was indulging in a little retail therapy yesterday as she was spotted at the oft frequented Bicetser Village. Bicester Village is a designer outlet mall. As any good shopper knows, not every "designer outlet mall" is created equal, but this one gets the royal nod of approval, and small wonder. Bicester boasts outlet stores from a significant number of the labels that Kate wears today, and is universally recognized as the best designer outlet mall in the UK. 

E! reported last year that Kate is often at Bicester Village.  (Not entirely relevant, but I notice the quote says, "with the same two friends.")
"She said: 'Oh, it's Kate Middleton—she's in here all the time. You look up and there'll be Kate and her same two friends going through the 60 percent off rack. You have no idea she's there and security must be outside, but she comes in all the time.'
I have the sense this is probably a habit that goes a ways back.   In addition to many of the labels Kate wears today, brands that she hasn't been seen in for some time are also available at Bicester. French Connection, Armani, Diesel are all past-favorites. Kate wore French Connection with regularity as a single girl, and chose one of their blouses when it came time for her first portrait to be painted--although sleeves were added in the final production:

Now Kate almost exclusively favors, JBrand, Paige, or Zara, but she used to run around London in Diesel jeans:

Until she recycled it while pregnant with George, we hadn't seen Kate's Armani red in a while:

On yesterday's visit, it was reported that Kate was shopping at Ralph Lauren, a label of which she is very, very fond, in addition to popping into Reiss and Gucci. 

It is hard to know for certain what Kate actually bought, as often the reported items never surface, although that does not mean that she did not simply wear them in private. Nevertheless, perhaps we can expect to see a lovely Reiss, or a stunning RL in the near future. 

I am currently on holiday, so I apologize if I am slow to respond to all your lovely comments, but I am reading them and enjoying them all. I will be back with a post on Wednesday...see you then! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cambridges Will Move to Norfolk As William Takes on Civilian Pilot Role

This morning brought the confirmation of the rumors that have been circling for many months now. In April of this year, Sunday Times journalist Kate Mansey reported that at the close of his transition year, Prince William would choose to move to Norfolk and take a position in the East Anglian Air Ambulance, rather than taking up a position as a full-time working royal. Although the palace denied the story, it became increasingly obvious over time that this was the most likely scenario. In a Kensignton Palace press release this morning, the news has been confirmed. 

The press release points out that this will be William's full-time job, and that he will undertake both day and night shifts. Obviously, this confirms another hypothesis that was fairly obvious: the Cambridges will be moving out to Anmer Hall. Renovations are essentially complete at this time, and only the finishing touches on interior design remain to be completed. Work should be done by September.  

William will sign an employment contract with a civilian employer, and he is believed to be the first royal in direct line of succession ever to have done so. He will be earning a salary of £40,000 and donating it to charity. To me, one of the most interesting elements of this development is that William is signing a two-year contract. Royal reporter Rebecca English hypothesizes that due the significant amount of training William will undergo to take him from a co-pilot to a commander, that the prince will remain an additional two years in the ambulance service, for a total of four years. We will not be seeing the Cambridges take up royal duties in a greater capacity for some time.

British Monarchy Facebook

Kate will naturally not progress in royal duties while William maintains a semi-private, working life. The Palace told reporters that Kate will, "continue with her small portfolio of work and focus on begin a mother." 

This is obviously a multi-faceted decision, I believe taking into a account a number of priorities and needs for the Cambridges as a family and for the BRF as an institution. 

From a personal perspective, Kate and William want to raise George in an environment that is as calm and as normal as possible. I am sure that Kate is particularly anxious to give her son the kind of happy, healthy, and secure upbringing that she enjoyed. The Cambridges obviously love the lifestyle and privacy that a country house affords, as is evidenced by the amount of time they spend in Bucklebury with Kate's parents. Maintaining some modicum of normalcy is a priority...

The Cambridges in Bucklebury

For the royal family, this is also no doubt a tactical move and one that has to be made. Charles and Camilla cannot always and increasingly be overshadowed by William and Kate, which in the press and in public interest is almost universally the case. While the Cambridges are certainly senior royals and are significant assets to the Royals as a brand, they can't fly too high too quickly, or it throws the balance off. In short, Kate and William are the cool kids and none of the wallflowers get a chance to blossom if they are always present. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall need to have priority, and even Harry, whom the Palace is obviously trying to promote as a more and more serious senior royal, needs to have some space to highlight his work with charities.


Thankfully, in this instance, the needs of the Palace and the needs of the Cambridges beautifully complement one another and I cannot imagine a more felicitous solution for all parties. 

Kensington Palace via Historic Royal Palaces Facebook

There has been a lot of seeming outrage over the home situation, which I find entirely perplexing. Yes, the Cambridges renovated their Kensington Palace apartment. They are royals, very senior royals, and they need a London base-home. Unlike the majority of people, they will not be selling the KP apartment and moving to a better street in five years, for a better school district, or relocating to  the other side of town because it is better for traffic in the morning for the commute. This home will be their London home until...the move to an even more iconic London palace... So, it had to be done.  Straight-forwardly, just do it. 

What of the expense? Yes, it was expensive. Was there anyone, anywhere under the impression that the renovation of an historic palace would be cheap? In this economy and with the price of labor today? I mean really. It is unlikely that 1A will receive this kind of overhaul again in a very, very long time. When it comes to renovating one's living space, splurging a little more while you have the place torn up and the workers present usually saves you more than few dollars down the road. My personal perspective: if one were to sit down and really study where tax dollars go, fixing up an historic home which is a national treasure, and giving your (nationally lucrative) royal family a royal living space, would probably be nowhere near the top of the list of wasteful (and more importantly harmful) government spending. At the end of the day, this is one of those complaints that is easy to sell at face-value while in reality holding little water.

You can read the full KP press release here. I leave you with a picture of William piloting a helicopter demonstration in Canada, while Kate takes pictures for the family album on the far bank. I think it nicely demonstrates exactly the kind of couple these two want to be, as far possible: normal. 

Dress Like the Duchess: Banana Republic's Roland Mouret Collaboration Available Today

Red Alert, Fashionistas. This is a Dress Like the Duchess special reminder! Today is the day. Banana Republic is releasing their Roland Mouret line. Someone over there is one smart cookie, that is all I can say. I already love Banana Republic in general, but who can resist a little royal Repli-Kate every now and again?  I made a special trip to check out their Issa special last year. She might not be publicly in favor anymore, but we all know that even if Kate doesn't wear Issa in public, she is totally sipping iced-teas with Carole on the veranda in Bucklebury wearing those gorgeous wrap dresses. I am perhaps even more excited for this collection.

I don't know how many in this company were with me and with William as we swooned over Kate's recycle of the white Roland Mouret evening gown, but it certainly made me a lifelong disciple of the label:

While there are no specific Kate creations in this BR line, I am very excited for several of the dresses that are utilizing longer hemlines.

Victoria Beckham, who attended the Royal Wedding and certainly rubs shoulders with the Duchess here and there, has highlighted these knee-length and below-the-knee hemlines.

Victoria Beckham Facebook

Although you all know me to love a little mini, this longer length can add a certain sophistication that is really stunning We have chatted about the difference a lengthened hemline made to the Luisa Spagnoli. I frankly thought the re-working on that dress was sensational.

Carolina Herrera, a creator of goddess worthy apparel, was promoting a stunning LBD and if Kate hadn't already sold me, this would have been the final push:

Carolina Herrera Facebook
All this is a convoluted way of saying that I am pretty stoked for the Banana Republic/Roland Mouret collaboration, and you should be too! Don't put off your shopping spree too long, either, I have a sense these will go quickly...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kate Wears LK Bennet to Visit Blood Swept Lands & Seas of Red at the Tower of London with Wills and Harry

Today, William, Kate, and Harry visited the Tower of London to view the poppy installation, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, where 888,246 are in the process of being installed in the dry moat of the medieval fortress.

The poppies in this display are ceramic and are handmade in Derby:

As one woman in the video pointed out, because they are handmade, they each are unique.  I think that beautifully mirrors the people they represent...each unique.

You can watch the quick video of the making of the poppies here:

The royal trio making their way through the sea of red makes for a very striking photo:

The poppies flow out from a window of the tower and into the dry moat, very accurately given a sense of blood flowing:

The Cambridges and Harry met with both artists who created the poppies as well as various representatives of the charities who will benefit from the millions that will be raised from the sale of the flowers, before they moved to place their own blooms.

All three royals planted a poppy on the site:

The three royal poppies are visible here standing just a little taller:

@SkyHarriet Twitter
A great video recap of the visit:

I was lying in bed last night wondering what color Kate would wear today. Obviously not red, and she needed to wear a shade that would pop against the sea of poppies. White was out, which left black or blue. She went snorkel blue in a recycle, which again is fairly predictable. After yesterday's double debut, she was bound to pull from her closet for this event.  Thankfully, she chose a dress she has worn before and with great success. Kate initially wore this to open an ICAP art room at Northolt Highschool on Valentine's Day of this year. 

Today, she did wear a new pair of Jimmy Choo "Georgia" pumps, accessorized with her sapphire drops, Russell & Bromley "Muse" clutch:

More exciting even than new shoes, is new jewelry, and Kate was sporting some of that, too.  Her necklace is assuredly a new piece.

As mentioned on Facebook this morning, Anna, from My Small Obsessions identified it as Mappin & Webb. The pendant is described as the Empress Mini White Gold & Diamond Pendant and retails for £1,850.00.

Splash/Mappin & Webb
Her hair looked pretty fantastic, too. If not the iconic, bouncy curls, certainly with plenty of twirling wave:

Th verdict today is certainly a positive, if not glowing, one. She needed to wear a shade that popped, and she chose to complement not just the flowers, but the boys, too, by wearing a shade of blue rather than black. We have seen this dress before, and for whatever reason it isn't blowing me away as it did on her first wear. Nevertheless, in every element it was the perfect choice for the occasion, so I assume my apathy stems from the recycle.

The poppy installation is quite eye popping. :) In all seriousness, a very impressive tribute to the souls lost in World War I. It fits really beautifully into the historic magnificence that is the Tower of London.

I did come across another interesting commemorative fundraiser that I wanted to quickly pass on to you all. Solid brass cufflinks made from World War I shells can be purchased with the proceeds to benefit veterans. This is a fantastic idea to raise money while providing small pieces of history that are both artistic and useful:

Cufflinks can be purchased here at The Poppy Shop.

I will update this post later in the day....

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pictures of Kate Walking George in the Park

PopSugar published fabulous photos of Kate walking George in his pram accompanied by Emma Probert, one of her very usual her PPOs.

Within half an hour, however, Popsugar removed the photos and story:

I suspect there was some sort of legal hang-up, either with the Palace or with the photographer. If PopSugar puts them back up, I will alert you and link to the article.

Sorry for the disappointment. :(