Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Kate Loves: Five Royal Years in Gowns

Kate's appearance at last week's gala 'A Taste of Norfolk' at Houghton Hall saw Her Royal Highness bring back a much-loved Jenny Packham gown. Indeed, the shimmering rose sequin gown has long been a fan favourite with many hoping it would have another outing before being retired. The reaction led me to ponder why this particular look resonated so much (apart from the glaringly obvious fact it's a beautiful garment). I concluded it's particularly special for several reasons. It's the dress she wore for her first official event as the Duchess of Cambridge, the Ark Gala in 2011, offering out first look at the style she would adopt as a member of the Royal family. It was also William and Kate's first red carpet appearance following the wedding and the beginning of a lifetime of joint engagements.

In many ways the gowns Kate has worn over the last five years tell the story of her transition from Kate Middleton to future queen - and tonight we're taking a look back through them.

The Duchess debuted her first regal gown in London, the second would be unveiled in Los Angeles. Following a hugely successful tour of Canada, which saw the newlyweds undertake a flurry of engagements during their first joint tour, it was time for a brief stop in LA. The Cambridges were the toast of tinseltown as they mingled with Hollywood's elite. Kate was drop dead gorgeous in a lavender grecian style gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. It was an incredible evening; I'm sure Kate, still very much a new royal, was nervous. I recall reading an article in which a guest observed how stars such as Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman and Barbara Streisand were 'starstruck' by the royal couple.

For the 100 Women in Hedge Funds dinner at St James's Palace in October 2011, Kate selected the red 'Sarai' dress by Beulah London, marking the beginning of a fashion relationship that continues today. At this point, Kate had decided to forego wearing what had been her signature label for years - ISSA, however, this dress very much had the same feminine, whimsical feel of the brand and was reminiscent of several of her pre-engagement looks.

Kate carried out her first solo engagement in late October 2011, on behalf of her father-in-law Prince Charles, who was in Saudi Arabia following the death of the Crown Prince. A Palace aide said the Duchess "was delighted to step in". One imagines her first solo engagement had to be a daunting and intimidating one. As a stand-in, Kate could avoid a lot of media glare and last minute nerves as it all occurred at very short notice. The Duchess wore a very pretty aqua Amanda Wakeley gown with grecian lines and criss-cross straps. From the 2006-2007 collection, it's likely a piece she had in her wardrobe years prior.

The Duchess was elegant in a bespoke, one-shoulder satin chiffon gown by Jenny Packham for a reception at St James's Palace in support of the National Aboretum Appeal.

Kate was simply stunning at The Sun Military Awards in December 2011 in a sumptuous black velvet Alexander McQueen gown. With its sweetheart neckline and figure-hugging silhouette, I think it was one of those times when Kate looked incredibly comfortable in what she was wearing and oozed confidence and ease. The look was completed with dazzling Mouawad jewels. It remains my favourite gown to this day! HRH looked every inch the duchess that evening, and six months on from her first royal appearance, was settling into royal life with aplomb.

2012 began with unquestionably one of Kate's favourite gowns - the Temperley London 'Amoret' - at the London premiere of War Horse. The black lace dress was trimmed with scalloped eyelash edges, and featured a curved seam and removable crepe belt. It was the perfect choice for Kate's first premiere.

William and Kate were back on the red carpet four months later for an exclusive dinner at Claridge's. The Duchess wore the lovely Roland Mouret 'Ella' gown. The creamy gown with long sleeves, structured shoulders and a split was something of a collaboration between Kate and Mr Mouret. The designer later said: "I think it was quite fantastic there was a split up the front. It was not too much I think I did quite well." The Cambridges had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary and Kate was very much in her element with a slew of impressive sartorial choices.

In their roles as London 2012 ambassadors, the Duke and Duchess attended the 'Our Greatest Team Rises' event. Kate wore a bespoke teal Jenny Packham gown, based on a style from the designer's bridal collection. The gown combined an emerald lace bodice embellished with Swarovski crystals and a pleated skirt and ribbon waist with a crystal and flower embellishment. The back of the dress is the highlight of the gown and to show it off Kate wore her hair up - the first time she had done so with a gown since the wedding.

In September the Cambridges undertook a tour of Southeast Asia. The aim of the much anticipated tour was to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee tour. The tour demonstrated Her Royal Highness's growing confidence with a speech at Hospis Malaysia. The itinerary's glittering event was an official dinner given by His Majesty the Agong at his official residence, the Istana Negara, in Kuala Lumpur. Kate dazzled in a long, cream gown with embroidered gold hibiscuses (the national flower of Malaysia) by Alexander McQueen. It was one of the early occasions where HRH proved she was more than adept at sartorial diplomacy.

Kate's Amoret gown had its second appearance of the year as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a black-tie fundraiser in Middle Temple Hall, London in support of St Andrews University's 600th Anniversary Campaign. During a speech William thanked St Andrews for "the woman he loves".

2012 was a big year, and the defining moment came with the announcement the Duchess was expecting her first child. The nation and fans worldwide joined in congratulating the couple on the joyous news. Unfortunately, the announcement came sooner than they would have liked because Kate was hospitalised with Hyperemesis gravidarum. Following a period of rest, a fragile-looking Kate made a surprise appearance at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year Awards. The Duchess wore an emerald green, bell-sleeve Alexander McQueen gown.

With the arrival of Prince George, we didn't see Kate at a red carpet event again until September 2013 when she joined William for the inaugural Tusk Trust Awards, seven weeks after George's birth. The Duchess wore a glittering Jenny Packham gown embroidered with shiny sequins and featuring a high round neck and drop waist.

For the 100 Women in Hedge Funds Gala at Kensington Palace, another favoured gown was debuted. Described as: 'Simply stunning in ink-tinged silk, this floor-grazing gown from Jenny Packham is the ultimate in evening elegance. It features a wrapped front, V-neckline, gathered short sleeves, black velvet sash, hidden back zip, tailored bodice and full skirt.' Taking place shortly after Prince George's christening, talk on the night was very much focused on the recent event, with Kate telling guests: "He was such a good boy actually, he's not always like that, but the people there, lots going on, it's slightly distracting." The Duchess revealed the three-month-old was "fast asleep" when she left.

That December, the Duke and Duchess attended their first Diplomatic Reception. The white-tie event saw Kate don a lilac McQueen and marked her first tiara appearance since the royal wedding. We would have to wait a while to see the gown in its entirety...

It was time to hit the red carpet for the premiere of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on 5 December. Sadly, the event turned out to be a sombre one as Nelson Mandela passed away during the screening. The movie's star Idris Elba later spoke about hearing the sad news: "The Duchess, Kate sort of turned to me and looked at me as she had her phone and I wondered what was wrong with her because she looked quite emotional. And my girlfriend looked at me and handed the phone and I looked down and there it was, Mandela had passed. I looked back at Prince William and Kate and they were just in tears with me." Kate chose her Roland Mouret 'Ella' gown, this time freshening up the look with a ponytail and a ZARA necklace.

It was a third outing for the Temperley London 'Amoret' gown for an advance screening of David Attenborough's Alive 3D at the Natural History Museum. Electing to wear two repeats in quick succession was likely down to having a young baby at home (as you may recall William and Kate have often said George was a poor sleeper) and I expect with other priorities dominating it was most convenient to choose gowns already in her closet.

The Duchess carried out her first engagement of 2014 in style for the Portrait Gala at the National Portrait Gallery. The dress code for the night dictated "black tie with a touch of sparkle" and the Duchess certainly didn't disappoint in her ink-blue Jenny Packham gown. The look was certainly given sparkle as the Queen loaned Kate the Nizam of Hyderabad necklace (I don't know about you, but the image below always reminds me of a poster for a movie or a painting).

It was a Ms Packham design for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards in 2014. Again, it had been another momentous year following a tour of Australia and New Zealand with Prince George. The month before the awards it had been announced the Cambridges were expecting their second child. With so much speculation as to whether Baby Cambridge would be a boy or a girl, it was fun to see Kate having fun with fashion, teaming the powder blue wrap gown with her pink L.K. Bennett Agata Sandals. The colour combination worked beautifully and the ensemble was completed by Monica Vinader jewels.

For the Royal Variety Performance, Kate dazzled in an elegant black DVF 'Zarita' gown. The entire look was perfect for the event and the Duchess was in her element.

The final month of 2014 will be remembered for William and Kate's trip to New York. Enormous excitement surrounded the brief visit, which saw the couple meet a host of well-known figures including Hillary Clinton and BeyoncĂ©.  The trip concluded on a fitting note - with the glamorous St Andrews' 600th Anniversary dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kate's ink-blue Packham gown received its third public wear - this time with an updo and beautiful emerald jewels. My favourite photo of the trip is the one below of William and Kate holding hands as they left the event.

With the arrival of Princess Charlotte, 2015 was relatively quiet. In October, Kate debuted her first gown of the year with a sartorial bang for the Cambridges first state banquet. The Duchess turned to her go-to 'evening wear' designer Jenny Packham to create the cap sleeve, sweeping red gown. The Papyrus tiara and bracelets loaned by the Queen completed the sparkling look. The white-tie event marked a royal milestone for William and Kate, and the Duchess was given pride of place beside the Chinese president.

Kate had a date with 007 for the premiere of Spectre. Once again it was a Packham creation - this time a bespoke duck egg gown with sheer sleeves, sheer overlay and a glittering belt. Kate teamed the gown with the Robinson Pelham earrings her mother Carole Middleton wore for the royal wedding reception.

One might say Kate's most talked about and divisive gown selection came when she chose the Erdem 'Alouette' for the 100 Women in Hedge Funds Gala. The floral-print piece had quite a bit going on with a voluminous peplum skirt, fitted bodice and very busy print. At the time, as a mother of two in her early thirties, Kate was experimenting a little with fashion and with her hair. Whilst it wasn't a 'fashion win' or an iconic look for her, it was interesting to see her having fun with fashion and trying something entirely out of her comfort zone.

'If it's not broke why fix it' was Kate's motto for the 2015 Diplomatic Reception as she chose the same McQueen dress she wore for the same event two years previously. Thanks to a documentary on Her Majesty's 90th, we finally got to see the very princessy gown in all its glory, and of course, Kate wearing the Cambridge Lovers Knot tiara.

And that brings us to 2016 which has brought us a flurry of gowns thanks to the glittering Royal Tour of India and Bhutan. For the pre-tour reception at Kensington Palace, HRH fittingly wore the Mary Illusion Dot Dress by Indian designer Saloni.

For the first evening of the royal tour Kate was Queen of the Night in a dazzling sapphire-blue Jenny Packham gown for a glamorous Bollywood gala. The beading on the gown was actually done in India, and the silhouette and design of the garment was clearly inspired by the host country. An outstanding look.

We really saw Kate embrace colours and prints across her style choices for the tour. One of the most colourful was the Tory Burch gown she wore for a private dinner with the King and Queen of Bhutan. The colourful gown is intricately embroidered with retro-inspired floral shades of sky-blue, orange, green and brown. The neckline is adorned with red-bead embellishments. Meeting with other royals, heads of state and dignitaries is an important aspect of Kate's royal role, and will be an increasing one as her role grows.

On the couple's final night in Bhutan, they attended a reception for British nationals in the country along with Bhutanese people with strong links to the UK. Kate was elegant in the vibrant red poppy-print Beulah London 'Juliet' dress. The Himalayan blue poppy is the national flower of Bhutan, and it was a nice touch to see the flower incorporated.

For SportsAid's 40th anniversary gala, Kate stunned in the beautiful off-the-shoulder Roland Mouret 'Nansen' gown. From the French designer's Resort 2016 Collection, the gown features the label's signature darts and panels, providing a flattering silhouette with a nipped waistline and svelte contours. It was a treat to see the Duchess choosing another piece by the talented designer.

And Kate's most recent appearance brings us back to where we started: with her shimmering rose Jenny Packham gown, this time for a gala in support of her patronage East Anglia's Children's Hospices.

The significance of reaching five years as a member of the Royal family will not have been lost on Kate and I'm sure played a part in her selecting to wear the gown again. When Kate first wore it, she was a 29-year-old newlywed finding her bearings as the eyes of the world looked on. Now, at 34, she's a mother of two and is very much growing into her role as a future queen. Long gone is the initial nervousness and uncertainty, replaced by a quiet confidence and assuredness. From solo engagements, to overseas tours and dining with world leaders, the sophisticated Duchess has no doubt learned an enormous amount to prepare her as her role grows - and it's fascinating to see how those years have progressed through the gowns she has worn.

What will the next five years bring? I'm sure we're all looking forward to seeing! :)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Kate Brings Back Favourite Jenny Packham Gown for A Taste of Norfolk at Houghton Hall

It was a glittering evening at Houghton Hall, as the long-awaited gala dinner 'A Taste of Norfolk' got underway with special guests the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Duke and Duchess arriving, fresh from Prince William's 34th birthday celebrations yesterday. The event was hosted by the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley in support of Kate's patronage East Anglia's Children's Hospices  - with all guests invited as a special thank you for supporting the charity's fundraising efforts for the Nook appeal.

William and Kate received a warm welcome from David and Rose.

Due to the high demands of the charity's specialist services in Norfolk, the team has long outgrown their current hospice in Quidenham, a very old two-storey building. Accessibility and flexibility within the building is restricted and in order to continue to provide their services it was realised a new hospice was very badly needed. EACH obtained planning permission for a new hospice - the Nook - on a five acre site, with a vision to provide the latest and most efficient services. And thus the Nook Appeal was born...

The Nook will be built on a five-acre woodland site in Framingham Earl just south of Norwich and will offer services which are either currently unavailable or extremely limited at Quidenham hospice, such as a hydrotherapy pool, music studio, large rooms for on-site family support groups, larger and more accessible outside space for children to explore and play and private rooms for one-to-one counselling. If you would like to find out more or support the appeal please click here.

Tonight's event will see the charity's plans move one step closer towards fruition. The Duchess attended the launch of the Nook Appeal in 2014, and almost two years later its fitting to see her and William at tonight's event, thanking those who have supported the appeal.

Ahead of the event EACH patron and event organiser Emma Deterding said:

'Having been a Patron of EACH for over 25 years, I am proud to be part of something so inspirational. I have seen at first hand how incredible and important the development of the children’s hospice movement is since its beginnings in the 1980s. I continue to be amazed by how hard EACH works to ensure that hundreds of children with life-threatening conditions and their families in East Anglia get the best care possible. The passion and commitment that the staff demonstrates and the care they offer both in the hospices and the community is inspiring and humbling in equal measure.
I would like to thank Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for agreeing to join us for this amazing evening. Special thanks are also due to the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley for so generously offering us Houghton Hall as a venue.'

Kate and Rose chatting.

The couple exchanged friendly banter with each other on the topic of Kate's cooking.

Rebecca English Twitter Feed

A special five-course meal filled with culinary delights was created by five world-renowned chefs: Galton Blackiston, Sat Bains, Claude Bosi, Tom Kerridge and Mark Edwards.

The menu.


A champagne reception featured musical entertainment by the Jefford Brothers and Sam Aldersey-Williams, and magician Archie Manners. EACH's Treehouse Choir performed after dinner, followed by a speech from parent Charlotte Markham. Charlotte and her family received care and support from EACH in Ipswich when her son Elliot died at just a few hours old.

The Duchess enjoyed meeting guests.

Guests heard speeches from critically-acclaimed author and EACH Ambassador Anthony Horowitz OBE and the Marquess of Cholmondeley.

The Duke and Duchess listened to the speeches.

Below we see Kate with Mr. Horowitz who has been an Ambassador for EACH since 2008 and is passionate about the work of the charity. He recently visited the existing hospice in Quidenham to find out more about the plans for the nook and why a new building in Norfolk is so important for care delivery.

Choosing Houghton Hall as the venue for the evening was an excellent idea. What better location to host 'A Taste of Norfolk' than the stately country house which is located just minutes from William and Kate's country home Anmer Hall. It is thought the Marquess and Marchioness, David and Rose, have been an integral part of the Norfolk set the Cambridges socialise with. Kate and Rose are of a similar age, both have young children (and a penchant for Temperley London designs). The couple were guests at the China state dinner last year and most recently William and Kate took the children to the Houghton Hall horse trials.

The Grade I listed building has a rich history. It was built for the de facto first British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Construction began in 1722 and was completed in 1735. Walpole was an extravagant host; hunting parties with local Norfolk gentry would last for weeks at a time. Visits from Royalty were common, and his fellow politicians - particularly members of his cabinet - held their meetings each spring over a three-week period in the rooms at Houghton. These meetings were known as the 'Norfolk Congress'.

Houghton Hall

More on the history of the hall's residents from Wikipedia:

'Sir Robert Walpole became the 1st Earl of Orford in 1742. Ownership passed to his son and grandson, the 2nd and 3rd earls. On the death of the 3rd earl it reverted to his uncle the 4th Earl of Orford, better known as Horace Walpole. On his death in 1797, possession passed to the family of his sister, Lady Cholmondeley, who died at just 26 years in 1731, more than 65 years before. Sir Robert Walpole's daughter, Mary, had married George Cholmondeley, 3rd Earl of Cholmondeley and Houghton Hall was modified and maintained by her Cholmondeley family across a further span of generations.'

Houghton Hall is considered a key building in the history of Palladian architecture in England. The exterior is both grand and restrained, constructed of fine-grained, silver-white stone. The Gibbs-designed domes punctuate each corner. In line with Palladian conventions, the interiors are much more colourful, exuberant and opulent than the exteriors.

Houghton Hall

It is surrounded by 1,000 acres of parkland adjacent to Sandringham House.

Houghton Hall

Today, Houghton is the home of David Cholmondeley, 7th Marquess of Cholomondleey. Born in 1960, the old Etonian is a Peer of the United Kingdom and serves as Lord Great Chamberlain. David found his passion in filmmaking and often featured on most eligible bachelor lists. Despite being linked with a number of socialites and well-known figures it was thought he would never settle down. Indeed, there was surprise when it was announced in 2009 he was marry socialite and model Rose Hanbury twenty-four years his junior. Rose's paternal grandmother is Lady Rose Lambert, daughter of the 10th Earl of Cavan: she was one of the bridesmaids at the 1947 wedding of the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) and Prince Philip.

The couple, who are considered Norfolk's glamour pair, welcomed twin boys Alexander and Oliver in October 2009. According to the Telegraph the couple decided which of their sons would be the heir to the title based on their weight. Alexander, who weighed eight ounces more than his brother, will be the 8th marquess of Cholmondeley. In March they welcomed another addition to their family - a daughter, Lady Iris Marina Aline Cholmondeley. Below, we see Rose in a Gucci ensemble (with thanks to Balbina) with Prince Harry's former flame Florence Brudenell-Bruce at Ascot last Wednesday (the same day William and Kate attended).

A lovely shot of William, Kate, David and Rose.

For those interested, the Marchioness wore a colourful print gown from Valentino's Resort 2016 Collection (with many thanks to Galatee Astree).

Due to poor communication around Houghton Hall, there was quite the debate as to which gown Kate was wearing (it turns out the Palace mistakenly released stating it was a 'Jenny Packham gown first worn in LA' which led to the confusion). Richard Palmer was the only reporter covering the event and had to drive five miles to eventually share photos and info.

Richard Palmer Twitter Feed

Meanwhile, we were all speculating on whether Kate chose to repeat her blush sequin Jenny Packham gown or lavender McQueen from LA.

To the delight of many royal fans on social media (yours truly included) the Duchess brought back the breathtaking Jenny Packham gown she wore to the 2011 Ark Gala. It's almost exactly five years since the Duchess wore it for her first official engagement following the royal wedding. It's a gorgeous gown - and one I know many of you will be pleased to see again. :)

The gown was described as "pearlescent rose sequin gown with Swarovski crystal from the SS11 catwalk collection". The dress features layered mesh inserts at neckline, shoulders and sleeves.

Jenny Packham

A closer look at the fabric.

Kate teamed the dress with the same shoes and clutch she chose in 2011. Her striking pink Prada Logo Box Clutch.

And L.K. Bennett Agata Sandals.The popular sandals were recently re-released by L.K. Bennett in black suede, navy suede and pink marshmallow (very similar to Kate's). They are available for £250.

L.K. Bennett

The Duchess added an additional touch of sparkle with jewels on loan from the Queen. Kate has been loaned the very elegant chandelier earrings for several formal occasions.

Kate's bracelet was originally a choker Queen Mary used to wear, circa 1920. It was later converted to a bracelet and worn by the late Queen Mother.

The Duchess wore the bracelet for the last year's state banquet.

What do you think of Kate's look tonight?


We also have news of an addition to Kate's calendar. Earlier today, Kensington Palace confirmed the Duchess will present the Art Fund Museum of the Year Prize 2016 at a dinner for her patronage the National Portrait Gallery on Wednesday, 6 July. The prize is awarded annually to one outstanding museum which has shown exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement in the preceding year. The prize of £100,000 is presented each year at an awards dinner attended by some of the UK’s leading figures in the arts and culture sector.

Before that, the Cambridges and Prince Harry will visit France next week (30 June and 1 July) for events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.