The Stunning Style Transformation Of Kate Middleton

When you see pictures of Kate Middleton or you encounter news coverage of her royal tours, appearances, and charity work, it's evident that she is an integral part of the royal family. She looks and acts the part of royalty to perfection. However, it has taken her a substantial amount of time and effort to achieve her current level of poise, polish, and sophistication. It also took tutelage from a team of people ranging from royal palace staff to the late Queen Elizabeth II herself, per Now To Love.

At the time of her birth in 1982, Middleton was considered a commoner, although her family did have some ties to the royal family. She did not start out with a princess's wardrobe or jewelry box full of tiaras. Throughout Middleton's years of courtship with William, Prince of Wales, and their early years of marriage, it was evident that the future Princess of Wales had her own sense of style. However, the fashion statements she made didn't always live up to the queen's ideals for how royalty should dress.

Middleton's style transformation from commoner to princess has truly been a stunning one. It's the stuff fairy tales are made of, but this is not a fable the Brothers Grimm dreamed up. It's a real-life drama filled with pageantry, theatrics, some triumphs, and some regrettable fashion faux pas. 

2008: Kate Middleton appears at a charity roller disco event in sequins and hot pants

If you've ever paused to wonder about the lengths Kate Middleton would go to help raise money for charity, this picture reveals your answer. In 2008, Middleton was one of the organizers of a 1980s-themed charity roller disco fundraising event. Middleton turned up at the event wearing a glittering halter top, neon pink leg warmers, and teeny yellow hot pants.

There are different ways you could view this situation. Undeniably, Middleton indulged in some harmless fun. At the same time, she showed the world she had a sense of humor, she didn't take herself too seriously, and she had a kind, generous spirit. When you view this pic, keep in mind that the event's other attendees were also wearing similarly gaudy outfits.

On the other hand, this photo also clearly shows that Middleton had a lot of growing up to do before she would be ready to assume the title of princess. There were plenty of people who had critical things to say about the future princess's escapades that evening, especially because Middleton fell while skating and went sprawling on the floor. Critics at the Daily Mail described the episode using words like "embarrassing" and "undignified."

Can we all agree that Middleton's style has come a long way since the roller disco incident? Yes, we can.

2009: Kate Middleton wears blue brocade to a friend's wedding

In August 2009, Kate Middleton was a guest at the nuptials of her friends Nicholas Van Cutsem and Alice Hadded-Paton. For this occasion, Middleton donned a silvery Issa dress with a hemline that fell slightly above the knees. She layered the dress underneath a high-waisted, vibrant blue brocade coat dress by Jane Troughton. Although the coat was generally regarded as sophisticated and lovely, some onlookers remarked that its surface design resembled wallpaper or "china pattern" dinnerware (via The Fashion Spot). 

Middleton accessorized her ensemble with a saucer-shaped, faux flower-embellished fascinator by Jane Corbett. For footwear, she chose navy blue high-heeled pumps, and her hosiery was noticeably absent. She carried a structured, patterned clutch handbag in a blue hue that was in the same general color family as the coat, but was not an exact match.

Public opinion on Middleton's brocade ensemble was not unified, with some fans responding favorably to this look and others being underwhelmed. At this point in her fashion journey, Middleton still had some maturing to do before she'd discover all the elements that would result in her most regal looks of all time.

2010: Kate Middleton attends the Chakravarty Cup polo match wearing a sleeveless green dress

In November of 2010, Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement. The photo above was taken on July 10, 2010. This picture gives you a glimpse at what Middleton's style was like before she joined the royal family: breezy, chic, down-to-earth, flirtatious, and a bit sexy. She was carrying a shoulder bag. This is noteworthy because later in the course of her style transformation, she made a habit of carrying clutch style bags, like her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, frequently did.

Since she wasn't officially a member of the royal family at this point, it's possible that she didn't yet understand royal fashion guidelines, a couple of which she was breaking with this ensemble. The most critical rule violation: She wasn't wearing hosiery, and Queen Elizabeth II strongly preferred for royal women to wear flesh-colored tights. The other issue: Bare knees were unacceptable, and the queen had a strong preference for hemlines that landed below the knees. However, the fact that Middleton's dress is sleeveless is not a problem in this informal setting. When Queen Elizabeth II was young, even she was occasionally photographed wearing sleeveless apparel in public.

But we're not sure if the wedge shoes were problematic or not. "The queen isn't a fan of wedged shoes," an inside source told Vanity Fair. "She really doesn't like them and it's well known among the women in the family." Yet later, the queen and Middleton were photographed together, and Middleton was wearing wedge shoes (via Insider). 

2011: Kate Middleton gets married in a stunning Alexander McQueen gown

On April 29, 2011, Kate Middleton married into the royal family. The couple held to the 900-year-old royal tradition of having their wedding at Westminster Abbey in London. On their special day, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed new titles on them. In light of the prince's status as the second heir in line for the royal throne, he was to be known as William, Duke of Cambridge. As his spouse, Middleton was to be known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Overall, the nuptials proceeded smoothly. However, weddings are rarely frictionless, and this one was no different. At this affair, the bride's hairstyle was a point of contention. " ... the royals indicated very strongly to Kate that they would prefer her to wear her hair up for this very special occasion," royal expert Ashley Pearson told audiences in the documentary "William & Kate: The Journey" (via Hello! Magazine). However, Middleton didn't comply with this request, thereby breaking protocol with 350 years' worth of royal tradition.

Middleton attended the ceremony looking radiant in a flowing wedding gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. She astonished beauty aficionados by applying her own wedding day makeup.

2012: Kate Middleton bedazzles Malaysia in a gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander Mcqueen

The year 2012 was the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's monarchy in the United Kingdom, known as the "Diamond Jubilee."  In September of 2012, Prince William and then-Duchess Catherine took a Diamond Jubilee tour of Southeast Asia. One of the highlights of this trip: The rulers of Malaysia invited the royal couple to a banquet.

Pictured above, Catherine is standing with Sultanah Tuanku Haminah binti Hamidun, the Raja Permaisuri Agong of Malaysia. For this engagement, the future princess wore a floor-length, cream-colored Alexander McQueen gown embellished with gold floral embroideries. Check out the gown's sheer embroidered sleeves, which are an interesting tidbit to observe in the princess' long-term fashion transformation.

Catherine later had this dress altered. She wore it again to the BAFTA awards in 2020 with one inconspicuous yet significant change — the sleeves on the gown were no longer sheer for her 2020 appearance wearing it. Anthony McGrath, fashion journalist, educator, and editor-in-chief of the Clothes Make the Man fashion blog, explained the details of the princess' dress alteration to Insider. "With this particular dress, it appears she adapted the sleeves to flatter her figure, adding a lining and shoulder pads to create a more structured look," McGrath said. He added, "This means the dress frames her face better and enhances her posture." We'd also speculate that this alteration was intended to make the dress appear more modest. In either iteration, this is one of Princess Catherine's best Alexander McQueen looks.

2013: Kate Middleton flaunts her fondness for short hemlines and dark-colored tights

Pictured above, you can see how Catherine, now the Princess of Wales, and her husband William, Prince of Wales, dressed when they went to check out the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Scotland, ahead of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Middleton wore a short tartan plaid coat by luxury British fashion brand Moloh over dark-colored tights.

In those days, Queen Elizabeth II was still the United Kingdom's reigning monarch. At the time, the queen imposed a number of fashion rules on the royal family, some of which were longstanding traditions and some of which came about because of her well-cultivated sense of propriety, and also her personal preferences. In 2017, prior to the queen's death, royal expert Victoria Arbiter told Insider about the one style rule that the monarch was absolutely fixated on. Her Majesty was adamant that royal women had to wear hosiery at all times — and that, in particular, it had to be skin-colored hosiery. Arbiter said, "You never see a royal without their nude stockings ... I would say that's really the only hard, steadfast rule in terms of what the queen requires."

Well, oops. You're looking at photographic proof that Middleton tossed that rule out the window on at least one occasion. From how things went down afterward, we've inferred that this infraction probably came to the queen's attention.

2014: Kate Middleton is told that she should make an effort to look more regal

In 2014, Kate Middleton accidentally made a forgivable fashion blunder. She wore the same M Missoni coat that another guest also wore when they both attended Lucy Meade and Charlie Budgett's March wedding. M Missoni introduced that coat style in its 2010 collection. When Middleton wore the coat to the wedding that day, she layered it over a printed dress with an above-the-knee hemline. She chose a dark-colored clutch handbag, hat, and high-heeled pumps for accessories.

It's evident in hindsight that 2014 was one of the most significant years in Middleton's stunning style transformation from commoner to polished princess. Apparently, it was Queen Elizabeth II who helped to initiate the dramatic leap in maturity Middleton's styling made that year. At the time, fashion expert Mark Heyes told ITV Lorraine (via Express), "It was actually rumoured in 2014 that the queen asked for the duchess to look a bit more regal ... Just a bit longer hemlines, a little bit more formal. Just a little bit more grown-up styling."

2014: Kate Middleton makes a bejeweled appearance at the National Portrait Gallery

2014 was the year that Natasha Archer became Kate Middleton's style advisor. Archer had previously worked for the then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as their personal assistant. Archer deserves recognition for influencing the direction of Middleton's striking style transformation from commoner to chic, regal princess.

2014 was also the year that Queen Elizabeth II decided to share the services of her personal dresser, Angela Kelly, with Middleton. Kelly was to begin their working relationship by helping Middleton prepare for a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. "She knows most of the pieces in the queen's private collection," a palace source told the Daily Mail, adding, "Her understanding is crucial because this trip will be about Kate appearing more royal than ever — you can expect to see a lot more tiaras and the queen will be watching closely."

Middleton did look every bit the part of the regal royal when she attended 2014's Portrait Gala fundraising event at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Pictured above, you get a glimpse of how she looked that evening dressed in a Jenny Packham gown. The focal point of her ensemble was a breathtaking diamond Nizam of Hyderabad necklace. Middleton had borrowed the necklace from the queen for the black tie affair.

2015: Kate Middleton wears a crisp white Alexander McQueen coat dress to Princess Charlotte's christening

Princess Charlotte's christening on July 5, 2015 was a joyous occasion for the royal family. The Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, presided over the baptism. For this special ceremony, Kate Middleton dressed in one of her favorite styles by Alexander McQueen. She wore a beautifully tailored pristine white coat dress with bust darts and wide, flattering lapels.

Middleton owns at least three different colorways of this style. The coat dress is a mainstay in her wardrobe, demonstrating that some aspects of her style haven't changed much over time. She owns this dress in white, as pictured above, plus a primrose yellow colorway and a duck egg blue colorway.  She typically accessorizes these dresses in different ways every time she wears them, making each ensemble look refreshingly different. For example, at Princess Charlotte's christening, she wore the white coat dress with a white fascinator hat and patent leather pumps. In 2022, she wore the dress again to an Anzac Day ceremony (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) held at Westminster Abbey. On that occasion, she accessorized the dress with a vibrant red abstract poppy floral pin and a Jane Taylor headband so large that it resembled a hat. The headband is white in front with a black, three-dimensional bow in the back.

 Remember this dress silhouette, because you'll see it again in a different colorway shortly.

2016: Kate Middleton looks royally regal in red for the Order of The Garter service

According to the royal family's website, the Order of the Garter is Britain's longest standing order of knighthood. King Edward III initiated the order nearly 700 years ago during the medieval era. Every year, the knights of the order celebrate a traditional Garter Day ceremony at Windsor Castle that includes a procession and chapel service. 

In 2016, Catherine, Princess of Wales, attended the Order of the Garter ceremony with her husband, William, Prince of Wales, wearing a bright, monochromatic red outfit. Catherine Walker was the designer of Kate Middleton's red coat dress. The princess accessorized with a matching red clutch purse, red hat, and deep-red high-heeled pumps. 

In 2008, we observed Middleton carrying a shoulder bag at the roller disco charity event. Since then, she has abandoned the shoulder bag style and has instead opted to carry clutches. As pictured above, Middleton has often held a clutch in front of her, gripping it with both hands. Her proclivity for clutch bags wasn't a haphazard fluke; it was an intentional stepping stone in her style evolution. When Middleton was growing into her role as a member of the royal family, she may have used the clutch handbag as a means for avoiding awkwardness in her social interactions with others. However, nowadays, she has apparently matured beyond needing to rely on clutches and has been frequently observed without handbags.

2017: Kate Middleton wears a bespoke Alexander McQueen dress to her sister's wedding

For Kate Middleton, one of 2017's highlights was her sister Pippa's wedding to hedge fund manager James Matthews. The wedding ceremony took place at St. Mark's Church in Englefield, England.

For this special event, Middleton wore a pleated dusty pink bespoke dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The demure pink color of Middleton's dress was a close match for the pink sashes on the adorable dresses worn by the lively young bridesmaids; Princess Charlotte of Wales, the daughter of the Prince and Princess of Wales, was among them. On her head, Middleton wore a sophisticated fascinator designed by Jane Taylor.

Both Middleton sisters were on the receiving end of much favorable press as a result of their wedding style choices that day. Kate was praised for looking beautiful and polished, but not so stunning as to steal the thunder of her sister, the bride. 

2018: Kate Middleton shines at Prince Harry's wedding to Meghan Markle

In 2018, another important royal wedding took place. Prince William's younger brother Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, exchanged vows with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, on May 19, 2018, at St George's Chapel. Pictured above, you can see how Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte of Wales, looked as they exited the chapel after the wedding ceremony. 

Middleton's dress sparked a huge debate after the wedding's conclusion, with members of the public asking why she wore white to her brother-in-law's wedding. The official answer comes to us directly from a source at Buckingham Palace: Middleton did not wear white to the wedding. According to a post on the royal family's website, dated May 19, 2018, "Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge will be wearing a primrose yellow wool silk tailored coat by Alexander McQueen. The Duchess of Cambridge is wearing a hat designed by Philip Treacy and shoes by Jimmy Choo."

The dress does look whitish in all the photos we've seen of it, but its white appearance may be due to overexposed photographs or improperly calibrated computer monitors. Definitively, the dress was a pale, lovely shade of primrose yellow.

2019: Kate Middleton makes a Commonwealth Day appearance outfitted in red

In April of 2019, royal commentator Rebecca Long talked to Us Weekly about the royal family's preparations for the future time when William, Prince of Wales, would become king of the United Kingdom and Catherine, Princess of Wales, would become queen consort. Long said, "Kate's been taking on new responsibilities little by little over the last few years, so it won't be a shock when the time comes." As it turns out, Queen Elizabeth II was one of Middleton's primary advisors. "She's really taken Kate under her wing," a source told the outlet. "The two of them will often spend hours discussing royal life and the future of the monarchy."

By this point, it was evident that the queen's efforts to influence Kate Middleton's stunning style transformation had been effective. Pictured above, you can see how Middleton looked on Commonwealth Day of 2019 wearing a sophisticated red coat dress by Catherine Walker. The girlish and occasionally undignified commoner Kate Middleton had thoroughly been displaced by Her Royal Highness, the refined, stylish, and mature Duchess of Cambridge.

2020: William, Prince of Wales and Catherine, future Princess of Wales, entertain at Buckingham Palace

In January 2020, Buckingham palace released a statement, saying, "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed African Heads of State and Government and delegates from the UK-Africa Investment Summit to Buckingham Palace at a reception to celebrate the strength of the relationship between the UK and Africa." Besides William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, now Princess of Wales, other attendees included then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson; the Earl and Countess of Wessex; Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; Ghana's President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; and other political leaders.

For this stately affair, Princess Catherine wore a sophisticated red evening dress, known as the Aurora Ballerina style, by British brand Needle & Thread. The sequined tulle fabric of the dress is reminiscent of a lace tablecloth design, which, according to the brand, inspired this style. The princess carried one of her signature clutch handbags, a regal red Jenny Packham design called "Casa." This clutch features gold-colored hardware and a sparkling crystal closure. The princess wore genuine handmade teardrop-shaped ruby and crystal earrings, as well as a pair of dressy Gianvito high-heeled pumps by Rossi.

This dress reappeared in December of 2022 when Princess Catherine wore it to alert fans about an upcoming carol concert that was to be broadcast on Christmas Eve that year. She also wore the same Soru earrings she'd paired with her red dress at the 2020 summit, suggesting that aspects of her style didn't undergo a dramatic evolutionary change between the years 2020 and 2022.

2021: Kate Middleton wears a vintage gown to the Earthshot Prize ceremony in London

Catherine, Princess of Wales, was one of the award presenters at the Earthshot Prize ceremony in 2021, which she attended with her husband William, Prince of Wales. The dress code at this event called for sustainable fashion, and the princess set an impressive example for the world to follow with her style choice. She selected a gown she had previously worn to a BAFTA event in July of 2011. In 2011, she had paired the dress with shoes and a clutch purse by Jimmy Choo. The dress was a floor-length, lilac-colored Alexander McQueen design that was cinched at the waist with a sparkling lilac-colored belt. 

For the Earthshot Prize ceremony in 2021, the princess cleverly made the dress look new again by choosing a new belt to wear with it. This time, she wore an embellished golden belt from Jenny Packham's 2018 wedding collection.  

2022: Catherine, Princess of Wales, poses for her first royal portrait

Above, British artist Jamie Coreth stands with a portrait he painted of William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, Princess of Wales. The photo was taken June 23, 2022 when Coreth's painting was unveiled at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum.

The princess' choice of apparel for this portrait is of particular interest as we evaluate her impressive style transformation. As depicted in the portrait, she's wearing a shimmering green silk gown designed by The Vampire's Wife. Her shoes are high-heeled green Hangisi pumps by Manolo Blahnik; these were one of the trends that Carrie Bradshaw pioneered on the television show "Sex and the City." 

These selections look totally contemporary and up-to-date, yet also timeless. We predict they will age gracefully with the eventual passage of time. According to CNN, Coreth made a statement, saying, "I wanted to show Their Royal Highnesses in a manner where they appeared both relaxed and approachable, as well as elegant and dignified." 

2022: Catherine, Princess of Wales, looks the part while attending a state banquet at Buckingham Palace

Shortly after Queen Elizabeth II's death on September 8, 2022, the woman formerly known as Kate Middleton officially acquired her new title: Catherine, Princess of Wales. Her father-in-law, who had been known as the Prince of Wales, ascended to the United Kingdom's throne and was transformed into King Charles III. The king gave a speech conferring new titles on his son and daughter-in-law, saying, "Today, I am proud to create him Prince of Wales, Tywysog Cymru, the country whose title I have been so greatly privileged to bear, during so much of my life and duty." In the clip, which was uploaded to YouTube by The Guardian, he added, "With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations ... " 

Pictured here, you can see how Princess Catherine dressed for a November 2022 state banquet in London. On her head, she wore a diamond and pearl Lover's Knot tiara that had originally belonged to Queen Mary. Her regal gown was by Jenny Packham.

2023: Princess Catherine looks vibrant in monochromatic blue

Here you can see how Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked at her father-in-law's Scottish coronation ceremony in Edinburgh, Scotland, on July 5, 2023, which she attended with her husband William, Prince of Wales. She wore an eye-catching Catherine Walker coat dress that is royal blue in every sense of the word. The body of the coat is constructed of high-quality wool crepe fabric, and the collar is velvet. She selected Emmy London high-heeled pumps; that shoe style is called "Rebecca," and the colorway the princess wore is called "Cobalt Blue." The princess wore a matching blue hat by Philip Treacy. The main highlight of her coronation ensemble was a pearl and diamond choker necklace. This spectacular piece features four strands of pearls, and it fastens with a diamond closure. It belonged to Queen Elizabeth II.

The princess' royal style has progressed significantly, but it is still evolving. Lately, she's made headlines for rocking Mary Janes and ditching her headbands. We're on board for whichever style direction she chooses next.