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Duchess of Cambridge's high street wardrobe makes her a relatable royal - expert

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·6-min read

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge's high street style helps people relate to her

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The Duchess of Cambridge's commitment to having high street pieces in her wardrobe helps people feel they know her and gives her messages more impact, an expert has said.

Bethan Holt, the author of The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade in Modern Royal Style, told Yahoo UK Kate has used high street style to differentiate herself from her predecessors.

She said: "She is the first royal, certainly very senior royal, to wear high street. The Queen and Diana before her, stuck to designers making couture fashion.

"For Kate it was a way to differentiate herself from that past, a way for her to tell the world something about her.

"A lot of it is to do with the atmosphere which she came to the Royal Family in. There's a lot more scrutiny and there's the internet, so everyone can find out how much what she's worn cost, or they can find out about the designers.

"It was really savvy of her to decide to shop designer and high street.

"People can relate to her - if you see her in a Zara dress, you could go out and buy it too and that helps her with the other messages.

"If you feel like you can dress like her you might feel more impact when she talks about problems with child mental health or the environment, you feel like you know her and those messages have more impact."

Prince William (R) and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, walk hand in hand from Buckingham Palace in London, before departing for their honeymoon on April 30, 2011. Prince William and his new bride Kate left Buckingham Palace by helicopter on Saturday to start their married life together. AFP PHOTO/John Stillwell/POOL (Photo credit should read JOHN STILLWELL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate wore a Zara dress the day after her wedding to Prince William. (John Stillwell/AFP via Getty Images)

Holt, who is also the fashion news and features director at The Telegraph, has tracked the duchess's style since she joined the Royal Family as Prince William's fiancée, and said Zara has been a constant favourite for the royal.

She said: "When I was researching the book that was her number one high street go to. She gets all kinds of clothes from there - lots of her favourite skinny jeans are from there, dresses, pieces of jewellery.

"There is a whole array of Zara in her wardrobe.

"I love that she wore Zara the day after her wedding. She'd had this big day of wearing Alexander McQueen, being the future queen, that everyone had been looking at wearing priceless couture dresses and the next day she was back in her bargain Zara dress."

And the prestige of the events has not stopped Kate from donning a bit of high street.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge at The Queen's 90th Birthday Celebration at The Royal Windsor Horse Show on May 15, 2016 in Windsor, England.  (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images )
Kate wore a Zara coat over a Dolce and Gabbana dress to the The Queen's 90th Birthday Celebration at The Royal Windsor Horse Show. (Mark Cuthbert/UK Press)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 02: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits Sayers Croft Forest School and Wildlife Garden on October 2, 2018 in London, England.  Sayers Croft is an activity centre aimed at educating and involving children and the local community in the environment. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge, here in 2018 in Sayers Croft, in a pair of Zara trousers which she has worn several times in more casual looks. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

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Holt explained; "At the Queen's 90th birthday [celebration in Windsor], she was wearing a Dolce and Gabbana dress with a Zara jacket over the top, doing that high-low thing and she was sat next to Prince Philip, so wearing Zara next to him at this really important event.

"Her style has become more sophisticated and more polished and she has learnt ways to pair things together that looks really seamless now.

"One of my favourites recently was at the Natural History Museum and she was wearing Warehouse and carrying a Chanel handbag. It worked really well.

"Those more surprising combinations she has made work really well."

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, bag detail, visits The Angela Marmont Centre For UK Biodiversity at Natural History Museum on October 09, 2019 in London, England. HRH is Patron of the Natural History Museum. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
Kate carried a Chanel bag to the Natural History Museum in a 2019 visit but paired it with high street clothes. (Karwai Tang/WireImage)

Like thousands of Britons, Kate has had to master Zoom dressing, and Holt said she "stepped up pretty quickly", but noted a big difference in the months of lockdown.

She said: "During the first lockdown she was wearing bright colours, people noticed she wore all of colours of the rainbow, she wore British brands and affordable brands, keeping it very real.

"So far in January during this third lockdown it's been much more serious. She's gone for a navy blazer, a black blazer, a plain jumper. it's been much more sombre, maybe that reflects the mood of the nation a bit more.

"Last March we needed cheering up, there was big positivity and it feels now like this third lockdown especially as it has been January, it's taken its toll and that's reflected in how she is dressing."

Kate may be trying to remain an accessible mother-of-three at the moment but she will one day be Queen, which raises the question of whether she will continue to shop high street brands.

GLOUCESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 10: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attend the Maserati Royal Charity Polo Trophy at the Beaufort Polo Club on June 10, 2018 in Gloucester, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Kate, with her daughter Charlotte, in a Zara dress at the Maserati Royal Charity Polo Trophy at the Beaufort Polo Club in 2018. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge help make glasses of Kulfi lassi during a visit to the British Asian 'MyLahores' flagship restaurant in Bradford on January 15, 2020, to learn about some of the community work undertaken by the restaurant. (Photo by Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CHRIS JACKSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Kate in Zara as she makes Kulfi lassi during a visit to the British Asian 'MyLahores' flagship restaurant in Bradford with William. (Chris Jackson/AFP)

Holt said: "She's taken on more seniority in the past few years but her determination to wear high street hasn't diminished.

"I feel quite optimistic we will see her continuing to wear affordable fashion, I don't know if she will always want to wear high street, the whole concept of high street has changed recently with lockdown and all the changes in ownership.

"What an amazing moment it would be if the newly crowned Queen came out in Marks and Spencer, but that's a long way off.

"A lot could change in that time.

"It's something we see other royals doing - Queen Letizia of Spain, she is always wearing Massimo Dutti, Zara, Mango, that hasn't stopped her and I don't see why it would stop Kate either."

The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade in Modern Royal Style is out now.

The Duchess of Cambridge's high street items you can still purchase

Abercorn Scallop cardigan | £75 from Boden

Parker Navy Wide-Leg Trousers | £150 from L.K Bennett

2750 Cotu Classic Trainer | £55 from Superga

Twisted circle drop earrings | £5 from Accessorize