Duchess Kate is a designer’s dream come true. After all, how many people can make an outfit sell out only hours after appearing in it in public?
Yet the duchess does it time and time again. Her penchant for affordable fashion – or "high street brands," as they are known in the U.K. – only makes her more admired by women around the world, many of whom would give their favorite frock for just an ounce of her glamour.
"Kate represents a dream for so many women," Gabriele Hackworthy, fashion director at Harper's Bazaar UK told TODAY.com. "She was an ordinary girl who became a princess, and if she can wear a Reiss dress that costs 60 pounds (about $97) and you can also buy a Reiss dress for 60 pounds, then you're buying into that dream."
Kate's favorite designers remain mum when it comes to revealing how she's changed their world, with Orla Kiely merely telling TODAY.com that she’s “thrilled” that the duchess has chosen to wear her dresses. Erdem Moralioglu, the Canadian designer who created the blue lace dress Kate wore on her Canada tour, was similarly reserved, saying that it was “an enormous compliment” that she chose his designs.
Here's a look back at some of Kate's most popular styles of the last year – outfits that sold out within minutes, shoes that helped propel small businesses, and dresses that inspired imitation.
Meeting the president
What exactly does one wear to meet the president? If Kate had any trouble deciding, it sure didn’t show.
Just hours after the world’s hottest newlyweds met the Obamas, Kate’s nude bandage dress by Reiss sold out, and the high demand crashed the brand’s website. After Reiss restocked the dress, it quickly sold out again. (It’s still available on the Reiss site under the name Lola, and is now marked down to $220.)
This wasn’t the first time Kate made an appearance in Reiss; she wore a cream Reiss dress in her formal engagement photo that the brand quickly re-released.
"There is no question that Kate choosing to wear Reiss has impacted our brand," a Reiss spokesman told TODAY.com. "We have noticed a significant increase in terms of brand interest and awareness globally, strengthening existing markets and attracting attention in markets we are yet to enter."
This year, sales went up 15.9 percent, according to the company. That's no mean feat for what was once a small British brand.
In the meantime, Banana Republic has gotten in on the action and come out with an eerily similar dress.
Nude shoes were all the rage last summer, thanks in part to the duchess, who was pictured over and over in the L.K. Bennett “Sledge.” And she wasn’t the only royal to sport the look: Her new cousin Princess Beatrice wore them to cousin Zara’s wedding, while Kate’s mother and sister were also seen out and about in nude heels.
L.K. Bennett, which just opened a new flagship store in New York, won’t reveal how many pairs it’s sold since Kate’s become its most famous fan, merely saying that she’s “a great ambassador for Britain.” But judging by the difficulty many shoppers had getting their hands on these shoes, we can be sure the numbers are sky high.
Part of the brand’s signature collection, the “Sledge” is still available on its website, as are black wedges similar to those that Kate wore on the days before and after her wedding.
Valentine's Day treat
It took only a few short hours for Hobbs’ knee-length “Unlimited Celeste Flared Coat” to sell out when Kate visited Liverpool. The duchess’s appearance in the chestnut-colored cloak certainly helped make the brand’s Valentine’s Day, and Hobb’s quickly ordered new stock to help fill the demand.
If you didn’t get a chance to buy it then and there, it’s now on sale for $293.
A day on the court
Forget the players on the court - all eyes at Wimbledon last spring were on the new duchess. The white, three-tiered Temperley dress she wore in the royals box sold out fast, despite its high price tag of $1,200.
Kate’s a big fan of Temperley, and has appeared in her designs several times, most notably on the night before her 30th birthday, when she wore a floor-length black lace dress to the premiere of “War Horse.”
Despite the designer prices on these duds, Kate’s not one to turn her nose up at a bargain. She was recently spotted at the Bicester Village designer outlet center, home to outlet stores of some of her favorite designers, including Temperley, Alexander McQueen and Ralph Lauren outlets.
Peplums are all the rage this season, and Kate certainly got in on the action for her trip to Leicester. Wearing a dress and jacket by L.K. Bennett, Kate looked like a 1940s movie star as she accompanied the queen and Prince Phillip to kick off their Diamond Jubilee tour.
Although she reportedly picked up her ensemble at a second-hand store, it is now available again on the L.K. Bennett website. And thanks in part to her help as a walking advertisement for its shoes and clothing, the company reported that online sales are growing 100 percent a year, according to the Financial Times.
Kate’s $100 dress
Zara certainly wasn’t complaining in December when Kate showed up at a charity concert wearing their short black-and-white lace overlay dress. Although it was already sold out on the site, pants in the same pattern were available - at least until eager shoppers snapped them all up.
While fancy dresses and high heels are definitely staples in the duchess's closet, she has made no secret of her love for jeans, often appearing in the same pair over and over. Her casual style has helped make the monarchy more accessible, even if during a private visit to an art therapy charity it did disappoint one little girl who remarked, "She doesn’t look like a princess. Where’s her dress?"
In March, Kate brightened up London's Olympic stadium wearing coral skinnyjeans paired with a navy jacket and Team GB scarf, although that outfit got far less attention than the grey sweatshirt she wore to show off her hockey skills. After the appearance, discount supermarket ASDA reported an 88 percent rise in the sales of its coral jeans on its website.
Rachel Elbaum is a London-based writer who loves nude patent heels.
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