TODAY   |  December 14, 2010

Princess Catherine: Sensible and stylish

For her royal engagement portrait, the future bride of Prince William didn’t turn to designers, but instead went to her closet, wearing off-the-rack finds that she has owned for years. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Back now at 8:08 with Kate Middleton 's flair for fashion. As she gets ready for her wedding, fashionistas everywhere are looking to the princess-to-be for inspiration. NBC 's Stephanie Gosk has details. Stephanie , good morning.

STEPHANIE GOSK reporting: Good morning, Meredith . Well, you know, very few women are lucky enough to land the prince. Kate Middleton is now at the top of that very elite and very glamorous list. And around the world women who can't actually be her are trying really hard to be just like her. What they lack in likeness, they make up for in attention to detail. Her clothes, her hair, sensible and stylish, elegant and, at least some of it, surprisingly accessible. For the engagement the future princess didn't turn to designers, she went to her closet. This dress was off the rack from the British store Reiss ; Kate bought it two years ago.

GOSK: The blouse, from a store called Whistles .

Ms. COURTNEY BLACKMAN (United Kingdom Fashion Commentator): She's not going for extremely expensive designer wear, she's just going for anything that any girl in London or any girl nationwide would have access to.

GOSK: Not like Princess Diana , whose high-end clothes fell into the

look-but-don't-touch category: Versace, Chanel, Amanda Wakeley. More like Michelle Obama and J.Crew and Talbots , Kate gives her admirers a style within reach, even the hair. This New York salon sees a steady stream of wannabes.

Ms. KATHERINE MANN (Customer): I think her haircut's simple, but it's classy, she's beautiful. And so I was going for a look like that.

GOSK: To be fair, it may not be as easy for everybody. I've got a good idea, Sam.

SAM: Mm-hmm.

SAM: It's a bit hard, actually.

GOSK: I've got a little length in the back.

SAM: Uh...

GOSK: Those looking to buy the Kate Middleton look are very good for business. Knockoffs of the ring have sold out everywhere, and the British brands lucky enough to get a nod in these photos are set to cash in.

Ms. BLACKMAN: When the Issa dress was worn for official -- for her official engagement, they sold out immediately. So I can definitely see people going and purchasing those items.

GOSK: At Reiss , the dress will go on sale again in January, but Kate wears a lot of their clothes. Quite a bit for the copy- Kate to choose from.

Mr. ANDY ROGERS (Reiss Brand Director, London): Yeah, she's a good customer. She wears our coats, she wears our dresses. She comes into our stores. I think she even knows some of our staff personally.

GOSK: And now so do I.

Mr. ROGERS: It's very snug, it's very feminine.

GOSK: Someone was going to be sort of a Kate Middleton wannabe, they might want to buy that coat, maybe?

Mr. ROGERS: I'd like to think so.

GOSK: Yeah?

Mr. ROGERS: Yeah.

GOSK: So I've got the coat, I need to work on the hair a little bit. But I have four months. I figure by April, Meredith , I'm going to be a dead ringer. What do you think?

VIEIRA: You don't need to take after anybody, you are one of a kind , Stephanie Gosk . Thank you so much .

GOSK: Oh, thank you very much .

VIEIRA: I, however, would like to take after Kate . Avril Graham is the executive fashion and beauty editor of Harper's Bazaar . Sally Hershberger is a celebrity hairstylist. Good morning to both of you. First of all, what grade do you give Kate for the clothing that she's selected and the haircut? Start with you.

Ms. AVRIL GRAHAM (Executive Fashion and Beauty Editor, Harper's Bazaar): Oh, it's got to be an A-plus . You know, the idea that this girl is going into her wardrobe -- we talk about the little dress that she wore being a year old, the shirt that she wore was two years old.

VIEIRA: In the -- in the cuddle picture, right.

Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah. And that's going to come out again. They're going to call it the " Kate Shirt" from Whistles. And if you can't get it in a store here, you'll be able to get it online. So there is that chance that we're all going to have that approachable Kate look. She's going to have her designer moments, 100 percent absolutely. She should, she's going to be a princess. But this idea that she dips into the high street or the mall store brands, but also has that sort of princess-y moment, is fabulous, modern and absolutely right. The British public are lapping this up.

VIEIRA: Yeah, and what about the haircut?

Ms. SALLY HERSHBERGER: I think her hair is just classic and beautiful, and I think it's really hard to look classic and interesting, and she can pull it off. And it's super shiny, and it's just very natural looking and yet modern, you know?

Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah, absolutely.


Ms. GRAHAM: And don't you agree it'll look great as an updo as well?

Ms. HERSHBERGER: Awesome. Beautiful.

VIEIRA: Yeah, and what -- do you think she's going to make the mark on fashion that Diana did?

Ms. GRAHAM: We're desperate for someone back in England to make a mark.


Ms. GRAHAM: One of our members of our royal family who looks gorgeous and who's going to be a major fashion plate , how great. We loved it the first time and we're going to love it again. I think everyone's a little bit nervous that she's going to be turning into this iconic figure and it's going to be a huge amount of pressure. But she can do it that in a Michelle Obama way. She can dip into designer and...

VIEIRA: Well, when you say Michelle Obama , that's exactly who I thought of right away, right...


Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah.

VIEIRA: ...who went to the J.Crew look and the Talbots and all of that instead of doing the high end .

Ms. GRAHAM: But she wears Alaia , too.

VIEIRA: That's right .

Ms. GRAHAM: She wears fabulous clothes, too. So, you know, fashion doesn't stop and end on the high street . You know, the -- it's both ends and it's what make -- what makes a great closet.

Ms. HERSHBERGER: And I think it's more of who she is, too.

VIEIRA: I was going to ask you that, yeah, who is she?

Ms. HERSHBERGER: Yeah, she's -- I think she's just more from that middle class and she's not flashy, and again she's super classic and approachable. And I think that's what appeals to so many people is that, I mean, look at her in that white coat . She's just is so elegant and regal.

Ms. GRAHAM: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Ms. HERSHBERGER: And I think that's very hard to pull off and be modern.

VIEIRA: And be modern. And it's not just the clothes or the hair that people are copying, it's the ring as well...

Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah.

VIEIRA: ...that was originally Diana 's, so it's been copied for years, essentially.

Ms. GRAHAM: And bear in mind that when that ring was given to Princess Diana it was worth $50,000. With its prominence now, it's worth half a million dollars. So if you can buy that for $500 somewhere, a touch of that royal glamorous thing, yeah, that's great.

VIEIRA: Does her look make her just seem more attainable to the average person?

Ms. HERSHBERGER: Definitely.


Ms. HERSHBERGER: And I think that's why so many people are coming in wanting to look like her, and I think women have looked like that for a long time. It's just that classic long layered flowing hair that just has the round brush at the bottom and it's just very approachable. It's not too trendy, yet I think it's hard to pull off that look and look interesting.

Ms. GRAHAM: Yeah.

VIEIRA: Well, it's hard to pull it off if you're my age. If you're in your 20s then you can get away with that...


VIEIRA: ...but I don't know about the older women. I'll go for one of her hats or something.

Ms. HERSHBERGER: I think -- I would go a little bit shorter...

VIEIRA: Exactly.

Ms. HERSHBERGER: ...a little shorter, but just the framing around the face, you can be pretty much any age.