Post-lockdown, many of us have been relearning the art of dressing for social interactions. With phrases like “picnic chic” being bandied around, summer fashion has become a fusion of athleisure and smocking. Everyone you know seems to own Ganni’s viral seersucker dress: a comfort purchase based on the belief that Scandis do style best. Daily outfit conundrums don’t appear to be an issue for the Duchess of Cambridge, who has navigated the “new normal” in a catalogue of sprightly printed summer dresses that symbolise hope.
Of course, Kate Middleton was the cheeriest of Zoom dressers, so it’s only natural that she has continued practising her joyful approach to seasonal style. This month, she has made visits to hospitals and given BBC Breakfast interviews wearing a floral, vintage-inspired frock from Faithfull, a polka dot Emilia Wickstead shirt dress, a crisp-collared, posy-dappled look by Beulah, and a cotton poplin shirt dress peppered with blue rectangles by Suzannnah.
Splashy patterns and hopeful colour palettes have long been a wardrobe tactic deployed by the royal family to help subtly buoy the nation’s spirits. The Queen’s roster of colour-pop dress coats is carefully curated to ensure Her Majesty is always highly visible to the people she is serving. Diana, Princess of Wales favoured polka dots to bring a dash of personality to the formal attire demanded by her calendar of public engagements on the world stage. And Princess Margaret’s globe-trotting wardrobe centred around zany ’60s prints and statement accessories—particularly during her charm offensive visit to the US, where she met with Lyndon B Johnson at the White House. Frothy evening attire and a dazzling personality were Margaret’s most effective diplomatic weapons.
Comparisons are frequently drawn between Lady Di and the Duchess of Cambridge, owing to their shared love of Minnie Mouse-esque prints, prim collars and dress coats crafted by British designers. But during the pandemic, Middleton has used fashion to convey messages beyond nods to her heritage and gestures of support for the UK’s fashion industry. It is no coincidence, for example, that she wore every colour of the rainbow during her many Zoom appointments. The meteorological phenomenon took on a new meaning during the health crisis, as a symbol of gratitude for the National Health Service. Every Thursday during lockdown, Middleton wore NHS-blue looks to underline the Cambridge family’s message of support while applauding medical staff from the doorstep of their Norfolk home, Anmer Hall.
With every rainbow shade dutifully ticked off, the Duchess has moved on to peppy patterned pieces that also have a back-to-work feel to them. The Emilia Wickstead, Suzannah and Beulah shirt dresses evoke an air of properness, thanks to their school uniform-esque shades and neat silhouettes. The Easter-hued Faithfull look, meanwhile, referenced nature as the Duchess met with children at The Nook, one of the three East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, of which Middleton is patron.
The Duchess’s summer of bold prints will likely continue, as Middleton and her family attempt to shore up a country facing further uncertainty because of the global health crisis. By keeping calm and carrying on in her version of mood-boosting fashion, Middleton has become a shining example of the fact a little attention to detail goes a long way.