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A Look Back at Kate Middleton’s Style Evolution

Fashion

| LAST UPDATE 06/14/2022

By Lia Thomson

Over the past decade, the Duchess of Cambridge has completely evolved her sense of style. From keeping it casual to full-on royalty glam, let's take a look back at Kate Middleton's fashion transformation.

College Girl

Back in 2002, Kate Middleton was a fresh-faced teenager headed to her first year at St. Andrews University of Scotland. At the time, her style consisted of many casual outfits, but sometimes she'd step out of the box.

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Malcolm Clarke/Daily Mail via Shutterstock

Middleton was given the chance to model for a charity event, and obviously, the future royal accepted. She wore a sheer black dress that caught her future husband's eye. From there, she was involved in fashion in many ways. After graduating in 2005, she went on to work as an accessories buyer for a British fashion label, Jigsaw.

Bold & Bright

Middleton had a lot going on the following year. Not only was she a recent graduate from University, but she was the girlfriend of none other than Prince William. This meant that her style game had one up-ed on itself. In 2006 she started to try out new and fun looks.

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Max Mumby/Indigo/ Contributor via Getty Images

Look no further than the image above, where Kate watched Prince William compete in the Chakravarty Cup charity polo match. We have no doubt that all eyes were on her and her playful patterned dress that day. But the young woman only continued to experiment with her wardrobe...

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Her Closet Staple

It seemed like hats became a major staple for the future Duchess of Cambridge in 2006. Middleton attended Prince William's passing out ceremony in Surrey, England, in December of that year. And, of course, on top of her head was a black Philip Treacy hat.

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Pool/Tim Graham Picture Library / Contributor via Getty Images

She paired it with a long red coat and knee-high boots. The look was finished off with black gloves and a small clutch - in black, of course. That following year, her style was steadily the same, with a closet full of hats, shirts, and boots. Yet each outfit had its own unique touch.

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The Skirt Suits

When Middleton and Prince William attended The Cheltenham Festival Race Meeting back in 2007, the style icon rocked a skirt suit. But what really made the outfit was her accessories that helped take it to a whole different level. One more fitting for the event.

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Anthony Devlin - PA Images / Contributor via Getty Images

Leave it to Middleton to be able to turn a skirt suit into a pretty casual outfit. She paired the brown-greenish set with a shoulder bag, dangly earrings, and a pair of sunglasses. Because, after all, she was at an outdoor event where the sun would be blazing down on her.

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"International Best Dressed List"

Middleton was named a part of Vanity Fair's "International Best Dressed List" way back when in 2008. So, of course, she had to make sure to attend events that year in outfits that would wow other attendees. Surprise, surprise, the then-girlfriend of a royal rocked a hard-to-miss hat.

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With her modest skirt suit and classic black heel, Middleton had on a perfect business casual look. Something she often loved to throw on, but over the years, as she got older, her style began to change, and her options were a bit more bold - rather than playing it on the safe side.

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Bright Lights, Brighter Outfits

When going out for a night out in town Middleton knew how to bring her A-game. We have no doubt in our minds that her 2008 party outfit turned many heads as this future royal strutted down the street - especially since it was probably hard to miss all of that sparkle!

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Middleton wore a green halter, yellow shorts, and knee-high boots with pink socks sticking out. Oh, and how could we forget the pink handbag to tie the look in? We're not sure what inspired Middleton to wear such a daring outfit, but we can't lie: We love it.

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Matchy-Matchy

It seems like more than loving her hats, Middleton loved to match her hat to her outfit. For a wedding in August of 2009, the Duchess of Cambridge showed up wearing a lavender gown with a matching lavender cap - which once again, was from the infamous designer, Philip Treacy.

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Max Mumby / Indigo / Contributor via Getty Images

The black heels she chose made it clear this London wedding was a classy event. Her style could range from very fancy (she is a royal, after all) or pretty casual. It all depended on the occasion, as well as the year, because as time went on, her fashion sense shifted.

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Smokey Eye

It wasn't just Middleton's clothing that was different way back when than it is today. The Duchess of Cambridge would most likely not be seen wearing a dark smokey eyeshadow look these years. But back in 2009, Middleton's makeup choices were different.

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During the Art For Starlight Party in Aid of Starlight Children's Foundation for Granting Wishes, Prince William's wife showed up wearing a flowy muted mauve gown. Her hair was lightly curled and down, but what stood out most was her dark lids. Certainly made us do a double-take.

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Accessories Galore

Before officially being wed into one of the most powerful families in the United Kingdom, Middleton didn't yet need to follow the strict dress code set in place for the Royal Family. This meant that her clothing choices could be broader and more relaxed.

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Max Mumby/Indigo / Contributor via Getty Images

We have a feeling that these days Middleton wouldn't wear a casual green dress, cinched at the waist with a belt, and finished with wedges. While the big shoulder bag might have been a thing for her in 2010, the Duchess of Cambridge takes a different approach with accessories today.

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Engagement Evolution

In November 2010, Prince William and Middleton announced their engagement at the Clarence House. The Duchess of Cambridge wore a blue Issa wrap dress. But it wasn't the first time she was seen with her new fiance. It was also the start of her style evolution from casual to cool and sophisticated.

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Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP via Shutterstock

Of course, she was also wearing her new ring. The blue sapphire and diamond engagement ring was originally given to Princess Diana in 1981 by Prince Williams's father. Middleton getting it was a way for the Prince to ensure his mom was a part of the big day. Aww.

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Royally Red

Her joining of the Royal family didn't stop Middleton from choosing bold clothing pieces. Just shortly after her engagement with William, which took place on a private holiday in Kenya, she was spotted wearing a Luisa Spagnoli skirt suit in bright red.

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Max Mumby/Indigo / Contributor via Getty Images

The Duchess of Cambridge wore the eye-catching outfit in February 2011 as she went back to visit the place where she and her then-future husband met: at St. Andrews. We guess they wanted to take a trip down memory before officially tying the knot. How sweet.

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Cozying Up to Her New Chapter

Slowly but surely, Middleton's style transformed into one fit for a royal. For her very first appearance at a royal event with her fiance, Prince William, she was seen rocking her go-to black eyeliner, something that she would eventually say goodbye to.

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But nonetheless, her outfit choice seemed to be up to par with royal rules. Middleton showed up in North Wales in 2011, wearing a Katherine Hooker coat to keep herself warm. For extra heat, she threw on a black scarf that brought the entire outfit together.

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A Giddy Bride-to-Be

Just a few hours before Middleton was set to walk down the aisle, the paparazzi caught her as she was checking into the Goring Hotel in London. Although the following day, she would be walking into her new future as a royal, the bride-to-be was dressed playful and young.

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Kay Nietfeld/EPA via Shutterstock

Maybe it was in a bid to prove that she still knew how to dress down. Either way, the bride-to-be looked smiley and happy as she sported a black and white polka dot dress with a white cropped cardigan on top, along with some L.K. Bennett black wedges.

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Duchess, At Last

Finally, April 29th, 2011: the day that thousands of people all around the world had been waiting for. Catherine Middleton and Prince Williams of Whales were getting married! But even more so, spectators were looking forward to seeing the bride's gorgeous gown.

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ODD ANDERSEN / Staff via Getty Images

Middleton stunned onlookers in a beautiful white gown by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The v-neckline wasn't too revealing, it was just classy enough. The dress had lace sleeves, and of course, the veil was topped with a Cartier Halo tiara - perfect for the Duchess of Cambridge.

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New Title, Same Relatability

Despite the fact that Middleton officially became a royal, she didn't let that stop her from wearing her trusty favorite brands. Just one-day post-wedding, as she and her new husband were heading for their honeymoon, Middleton wore a pleated blue Zara dress.

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JOHN STILLWELL / Staff via Getty Images

To stay warm, she placed a black jacket on her arms and finished it off with her tried and true L.K. Bennett wedges. Her style was still more on the laidback side, but in no time at all, that would change. Before she knew it, Middleton was morphing into a fashion icon.

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Lovely In Lilac

Middleton's regal style shined through during her first big event as the Duchess of Cambridge. She was traveling North America on her royal tour when it was time to attend the BAFTA Brits To Watch. And let's just say, she did not disappoint with her outfit!

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Pool via Getty Images

The royal beauty wore a lilac Alexander McQueen gown that cinched at the waist and dropped to the floor. After tying the knot, Middleton began wearing the designer often - who, btw, also made her wedding dress. Her hair was curled and flew in the wind as she walked, showing off her diamond-dangly earrings.

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Stepping Into Her Own

After the royal wedding, Middleton really grew into herself. Bethan Holt, author of The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade of Modern Royal Style, told 9Honey, "At the start of her royal life, it was a little bit more tentative. She was stepping onto the world stage. This was a woman who perhaps hadn't been all that famous before."

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ARTHUR EDWARDS / Staff via Getty Images

"She lived a quieter life and was suddenly she was the most famous woman in the world, and I think, in the beginning, you really saw that." But over time, her confidence in fashion soared. And it showed in 2011 at the Sun Military Awards, when she looked ultra-glam wearing a strapless velvet gown by, of course, Alexander McQueen.

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Pregnant in Peach

In 2013 Middleton was pregnant with her very first child, Prince George. It didn't take long for her to figure out the best way to dress while carrying a baby. A few months before giving birth on July 22, she attended the Naomi House Children's Hospice on April 29.

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All eyes were undoubtedly on her, and not just became of the bump, but because of her peach ensemble that featured a coat by Tara Jarmon, nude heels, and a gold clutch. Her sense of style was becoming more like a sophisticated woman - a mom even, one might say.

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Blushing New Mom

It seemed like the new mom was loving the color pink, despite just birthing a baby boy. Even beyond pregnancy, Middleton was spotted rocking pastel shades quite often. In April 2014, the Duchess of Cambridge appeared coming out of a plane wearing a blush pink outfit - around the same time her hemlines began to lengthen.

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Unsurprisingly the dress was from her favorite designer Alexander McQueen. Henry Holland said, "We love Kate, she's gorgeous, she's a great ambassador for British fashion and the way that she chooses to wear not just established labels like Alexander McQueen but the way she also chooses to wear up-and-coming designers."

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Red Carpet Ready

We have no doubt in our mind that the Duchess of Cambridge's closet is full of many unbelievable gowns. And for the Spectre premiere in 2015, she pulled out a baby blue number that left onlookers' jaws on the floor. From the red carpet to royal tours, Middleton knows how to make an appearance.

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David Fisher via Shutterstock

She paired her Jenny Packham gown with a small sparkly clutch and finished the look off with an updo, something relatively rare for the royal. But as she grew older and her style matured, Middleton became more courageous with her beauty and fashion choices.

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Making a Splash

Despite her admiration for muted tones and light color choices, Middleton would every so often throw a bold color into her outfit choices - especially as she grew older. In September 2016, she was spotted at an evening reception in Canada wearing a deep-colored Preen gown.

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But her out-of-box decisions didn't stop there. Middleton was even wearing red heels to match her unbelievably eye-catching dress. Once again, she had her hair in a very classy up-do. The entire ensemble showed the world that her regal style had fully come out to play that night.

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Feeling Inspired

As the years went by, Middleton became even more situated in her role in the royal family, and it even became clear from her fashion choices. Holt explained, "I can see that she'll take some inspiration from the Queen in the way the Queen has a kind of uniform with her public dress."

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WPA Pool / Pool via Getty Images

She went on, "We always see the Queen in a brightly colored hat, a brightly colored coat, so we may see Kate wear much more plain, bright colors." In 2017, Middleton was seen wearing a baby blue Jenny Packham gown at a dinner being held at Paris' British Embassy, where she and her husband had their two-day tour of France.

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Goodbye, Side Bangs

Her love for light-colored clothing pieces became quite obvious when Middleton wore a white peplum Alexander McQueen dress. The style of the top gave her a more mature and refined look. After all, by this point, in 2017, she was now a mother of two after birthing Princess Charlotte.

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Tim Rooke via Shutterstock

Her hairstyle was also evolving as the years went by. Middleton said goodbye to her old side bangs and welcomed a new mature look. She showed off her middle part at the welcoming ceremony for her and the Duke of Cambridge at the Polish presidential palace in Warsaw. 

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Poised & Pregnant (Again)

The Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy fashion emerged once again in 2018 when Middleton was pregnant with her third child. Once again, she sported an Alexander McQueen gown, boasting an ethereal cape for an official dinner at the royal palace in Oslo, Norway.

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Holt said, "I think we'll see this more grown-up, sophisticated element develop in her style as she and William become more senior members of the royal family." And it seems like she was right because Middleton looked like the definition of class with her hair up in a low bun and her shiny diamond earrings.

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Trip to The Salon

By now, we know that Middleton is a big fan of Alexander McQueen, but she is also known to adore dresses from designer Jenny Packham. While she was in London visiting the Imperial War Museum, the Duchess of Cambridge tested out a new style - different from her usual choices.

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While she typically dresses in timeless options, she changed it up once more. The mother of three rocked a tight-knit dark blue dress. And that wasn't the only trend she was channeling. The brunette beauty had her hair done in tighter wavy curls, something a bit more on the playful side.

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"Elegant, Sensual, Timeless"

Through and through, Middleton's elegant style remained strong throughout the years. In fact, it just became more apparent as time went on. Donna Karen noted about the Duchess of Cambridge, "Kate Middleton is elegant, sensual, timeless." And she was not wrong.

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James Veysey via Shutterstock

In 2019, she went to the Royal Ascot to watch the races. And of course, she came prepared with her Elie Saab blue dress that she matched with her long-time favorite, a Philip Treacy hat. After nearly 8 years in the royal family, Middleton had gotten her regal fashion down to a T.

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Trying Out Tiaras

Middleton's style shines during big events like the state banquet held in honor of President Donald Trump at Buckingham Palace. The Duchess of Cambridge yet again wore an Alexander McQueen design, but this time it was a bit more different than the designer's other dresses that she wore.

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But the true beauty of the entire ensemble wasn't the gown - instead, it was sitting atop Middleton's brunette head. She accessorized with a Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara, making her seem like she was born into royalty. It's no wonder so many people adore her sense of style.

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Making (Fashion) Investments

While her royal status arguably gave her access to any fashion pieces she could possibly want, Middleton loved her classic staples. One of her favorite most worn pieces, the Penelope Chilvers boots, have been seen on her for many years from 2004 to 2020.

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Max Mumby/Indigo / Contributor via Getty Images

Holt shared, "Apparently, she's kept that same pair the whole time, so 16/17 years she's been wearing the same pair of boots, which is a really good message - you don't have to keep buying the same thing over and over again if you have a really good quality thing to start with."

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An Effortless Icon

A major reason why women look up to Middleton for fashion advice is her ability to not always go for designer pieces. The Duchess of Cambridge is a big fan of the high street brands, something that is more accessible and affordable for the everyday gal.

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Sam Hussein/Pool via Shutterstock

Holt said, "That just shows what she wears can have a really positive impact in that way. And I think she's still really influencing the style of a huge number of women who look up to her as someone who does just enough fashion but keeps her own style at the same time." The Rixo dress she wore above sold out right after she wore it!

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Blossomed Beauty

For more than a decade, Middleton has been in the center of the public eye. She went from a relatively normal life to a world filled with tiaras, designer gowns, and many rules to follow as a member of the royal family. Yet still, she remains a timeless influence on regular citizens all around the world.

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DAN KITWOOD / Contributor via Getty Images

Designer Camilla Al Fayed of Issa said, "If Kate wears a Zara dress, these huge companies have the backing to follow through." From casual outfits to extravagant looks, the Duchess of Cambridge's style has definitely blossomed into something spectacular over the years...

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