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How many items in your wardrobe are over a decade-old? Even if you consider yourself to be a conscious consumer who gets plenty of wear from everything you buy, ten years is a long time to keep a piece of clothing.
For the Duchess of Cambridge, who has built up a vast wardrobe since she joined the Royal family in 2011, it might seem even more far-fetched to think of her dusting off a blouse which dates back the late 2000s.
Yet, just days after celebrating her tenth wedding anniversary, the Duchess has reminded us of one of her earliest big fashion moments, re-wearing the silk ruffled blouse first seen in the portraits released to celebrate her engagement to Prince William in late 2010.
In a video call with five-year-old cancer survivor Mila Sneddon, who features in a photograph chosen to be part of the Duchess’s Hold Still project with the National Portrait Gallery, Kate wears the cream Whistles blouse with wide-legged navy Jigsaw trousers and a pair of diamond and pearl earrings belonging to the Queen. The video was released on the new YouTube channel launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Wednesday.
The £125 blouse design, thought to have been bought by Kate in 2009, caused huge excitement when it was first worn, becoming a symbol of an accessible, relatable new royal whose style any woman could buy into. Indeed, Whistles later reissued the blouse as the ‘Kate’ in a nod to the flurry of interest it had created.
At the time, it was refreshing to see the future king’s fiancée wearing high street in such historic portraits, but the impact is even more interesting ten years later. Now this isn’t just an affordable piece, but one which has been kept for years and chosen from among dozens of other options in the Duchess’s collection.
Besides the blouse’s sentimental meaning for Kate, it also shows that what goes around, comes around in fashion; romantic, frilly tops have been a huge trend for the past few seasons. The Duchess weaves in a subtle message about shopping sustainably, showing that you don’t always have to buy new to look au courant but may have just the thing at the back of your wardrobe from the last time the look was in vogue.
As the Duchess has reached a decade of marriage, she has become increasingly confident to re-style pieces first seen when she was William’s girlfriend.
Most famous are the Penelope Chilvers tassel boots which she wore as far back as 2004, when she was still a student at St Andrew’s. The pictures of her modelling country tweeds at Blenheim Palace were some of the first glimpses the world saw of the future wife of Prince William. She’s recycled them many times for public engagements in recent years - just last week she wore them visiting Durham with the Duke a few days before their anniversary.
In Ireland last year, the Duchess surprised style-watchers by bringing back the Reiss ‘Olivia’ coat which she was famously pictured wearing in 2008 at William’s RAF graduation ceremony, as well on several nights out around the same time - there's no better sign of versatility than a coat which works as well for partying in your 20s as carrying official royal duties in your late 30s.
Last November, Kate revived a cobalt blue dress, also from Reiss, which her mother Carole first wore at Royal Ascot in 2010. The Duchess borrowed it in 2012 to visit The Treehouse children’s hospice in Suffolk. She wore it again in 2020 in a video created to share the findings of research into the Early Years which she had spearheaded.
Kate has made recycling one of her royal style signatures, not only is it practical, but it continues the thrifty approach to clothe shopping demonstrated by other members of the family - Prince Charles has suits he’s been wearing for over 30 years, Prince Philip wore the shoes from his 1947 wedding well into the 2000s and Princess Anne often prefers to dig out a 40-year-old Royal Ascot outfit than buy something new for a big event.
Given that climate change and the environment are major areas of focus for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the wider royal family, it's unsurprising that Kate is using her considerable influence to suggest shopping your own wardrobe.
The key to all of the decade-old items that the Duchess has been wearing recently is their classic aesthetic - while they may one day begin to look dated, for now they remain timeless, elegant styles which could as easily have been bought yesterday as ten years ago.
If Kate’s message in those engagement portraits was about her down-to-earth attitude, then now it’s perhaps a gentle encouragement not to rush out and buy new all the time but to adopt a more sustainable approach and see how you could re-style something you already own. If the Kate Effect then was all about her ability to create a buying frenzy which boosted high street labels, it could now be set to be redefined as making us think twice before purchasing something new.