Mallory Bowling, a D.C.-area lawyer, has over 10,000 followers on Instagram who pore over her every post. Each of the nearly 300 pictures on her Instagram feed, Lady M RepliKates, is a remix — if not an exact replica — of something worn by Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge (plus her sister, Pippa Middleton Matthews, and sister-in-law Meghan Markle). “I think Kate serves as an incredible role model of both substance and style,” Bowling says. “When she wears something that is accessible to the public, it is a chance to own a piece of sartorial history.”
And own it she does. Bowling has spent the last two years documenting every royally inspired purchase she has made, from £8 Accessorize earrings to a $995 Sentaler coat. Whether it's an office-friendly dress (like this one, which Bowler calls her “favorite grab-and-go dress from Ralph Lauren that’s easy for work or out with friends.”) to the pieces that are made for travel, Bowling buys it, tries it, and shows her followers exactly how to make a royal wardrobe work for everyday life. This is called repliKate-ing, and many, many women are onboard.
This devoted community of copy-Kates sees the Lady M account as a shopping resource, where they can not only find exact brands Kate Middleton is wearing, but also read trusted reviews on how those items fit, or how to style them for re-wears (something Kate Middleton herself is a fan of). “Again, you just gave me my outfit inspiration for today! I’m sitting here wondering what I’m going to wear today,” one comment reads. Another chimes in, “I need that dress!” When Bowling posts a lookalike copy of Kate’s now-iconic blue polka-dot dress, the questions flood in: “How is the size? Is it long or short?” “Where did you get that?? Amazon?” “How is it around the middle? Elastic?”
Bowling is happy to answer, and she says her followers love the more formal fashion pieces she shares on Instagram. “It seems like the special occasion dresses tend to have the best reception, since they are more uncommon. [These pieces] speak to that idealized sense of glamour and fashion that Kate inspires.” When asked which of her repliKate pieces is the most popular among her followers, Bowling says, “I was able to find a Lela Rose pink twill dress, and wearing that felt very much like a fairy tale, which was exceptionally well received.”
Across the globe, Rachael Tagg, a photographer and teacher in New South Wales, Australia, is doing the same thing. Along with her friend, Brooke Nurthen, Tagg runs The Cambridge Mums, a royal fashion account with over 5,000 followers. The two women were “brought together over a mutual love of the Duchess of Cambridge and stripes, plus some extraordinary coincidences,” during coinciding pregnancies. Since the birth of their first children, Tagg and Nurthen have documented their #repliKate (a hashtag that returns 16.5K results on Instagram alone) and “repliGeorge” wardrobes, as another resource for royally inspired fashion for moms and their kids.
“What I love the most about replikating is the community it has created,” Tagg shared in an Instagram post from December. “When I was pregnant with [my second child], an incredibly lovely Aussie replikater contacted me to say she had found this Luisa Spagnoli suit at a thrift shop in Melbourne — brand new with tags, and in my size. You can imagine my shock and excitement at this news, and then the thrill of opening it once it arrived at my doorstep.” One of Tagg and Nurthen’s followers quickly replied, saying, “I love the community. They’re so supportive, not just with our mutual love of replicating and Kate Middleton but in other areas of our lives too. You look stunning in this suit!”
Speaking of those kiddies, Tagg has a knack for finding Prince George's looks for her son, too. “I love repliKating for myself, but there is something different about buying items as seen on the Cambridge kids for your own little ones,” she says. George, Charlotte and Louis are influencing shopping trends, as almost every piece they wear in official appearances flies off the shelves. Through their style, Tagg says she's learned about new brands, like Trotters, Fina Ejerique and Amaia Kids — ones that "offer classic styles and heirloom pieces to be cherished and passed on.” Hunting them down and putting them on her son, she says, “added an extra layer of 'special' to the ensemble.” Want that added layer of special in your own wardrobe? Here's what the repliKaters have learned about remixing royal looks for real life.
Shop for the re-wears.
While Kate Middleton is known to work affordable brands into her own royal closet, like Zara and J. Crew, her fans embrace her splurgier looks, too. The key, for any would-be repliKaters, is finding something with a years-long shelf life. “There are definitely some of Kate's pieces that are a little more pricey, but given that she tends to pick items that have longevity and are of high quality, the price per wear can make them justifiable investments,” Bowling says.
Tagg also admires Kate’s affinity for investment pieces, especially the ones we have seen time and time again. “She has some closet staples that we've seen her repeat over the years, that are definitely worth the investment. From her Stuart Weitzman boots, to her Smythe blazers, to the Kiki McDonough earrings. Items like these will get plenty of use over the years.”
Identify your signature look — and stick to it.
Kate’s fashion choices are all about exuding that confidence and comfortable-in-her-own-skin vibe. “She never looks uncomfortable in what she's wearing,” says Tagg. “That kind of confidence is so appealing.” To achieve that, Tagg says “Kate opts for simple silhouettes, classic cuts that cinch the waist and feel feminine and modest, without being too old-fashioned.” The Kate-inspired pieces she's found make her feel elegant, she says. “Not only do they look and feel good, but knowing they’re good enough for a duchess as well adds that extra element of confidence,” she says.
Bowling’s favorite repliKates are “the pieces that really speak to my personal style, integrate really well into my everyday wardrobe, and add that royal je ne sais quoi that provides an extra boost of confidence and elegance.”
Shop for you, not for her.
Of course every item Kate Middleton wears isn't so easily accessed by an everyday citizen of the world, and we don't all feel confident and elegant in something just because a duchess wore it once. Tagg tells a story of a repliKate dress she regrets buying, but she learned about her personal style from the purchase. She tracked down the bright yellow Jaeger sun dress the duchess wore on a royal tour in the Solomon Islands. “The cut of the dress was gorgeous, but the color was SO bright,” she says. “I tried to love it, but it taught me an important lesson about only buying items that I can genuinely wear.”
To that end, Bowling says: “Kate’s choices always work on her, and of course there are things she wears that I know won’t work for me. Instead of buying whatever she wears for the sake of it, I’ve learned that choosing carefully ends up in me loving those pieces more.” She had to bail on a Boden repliKate when the coat just would not fit (and she bought a few). “None of the sizes really worked for me. The length of the arms was way too long, and with a ruffle on the end they couldn’t really be tailored — but fortunately they were returnable!”
“So often I get caught up in wanting to own certain items that I forget what actually suits me, and what will fit nicely into my wardrobe,” Tagg shares of her own repliKate shopping experiences. “Over the last nine years of repliKate-ing, I've come to discover my own style, taking inspiration from Kate but not always buying the exact same items. Fashion trends don't often suit everyone, so when Kate steps out in a look that is quite achievable, even if you can't afford the real thing, people are interested.”
If it doesn't work, let it go.
What do you do when a piece doesn’t work out? Bowling says: sell. “Fortunately there is a huge market for Kate's clothes, so I've just turned around and re-sold them on Instagram or eBay so that I can make up what I spent.” A quick search for “Kate Middleton” on Poshmark pulls up hundreds of results, from Zara sweaters to Jenny Packham evening gowns. One of Bowling’s Instagram followers asked how she manages to collect so many pieces, and she replied that the resale market is the secret to her success: “I look and find the items on Poshmark or eBay if I can’t get them directly from the store.”
But why? Bowling and her Instagram followers love the relatability of the royal mom-of-three. “Even though Kate is one of the most famous figures in the world, many of her fashion choices are those of a normal person,” Bowling says. In the past, she adds, “royal fashion was either haute couture or bespoke, so it’s been refreshing and down-to-earth when Kate wears something that is obtainable.” That down-to-earth nature is what draws thousands of women out to J.Crew the second Kate wears a velvet hair bow. And it's what leads them to follow, befriend, and feverishly shop alongside Instagram's repli-Kate-ing pros.