Kate Middleton sealed her reputation as queen of the British high street today when she stepped out at an official solo function wearing a $500 wool coat from British mass retailer Hobbs. When she got inside, the thrifty young royal stripped off to reveal that underneath the coat, she was wearing a three-year-old belted dress from another British shopping-center stalwart, Oasis, which cost less than $100.
The famously parsimonious Queen Elizabeth II will doubtless be delighted at her new granddaughter-in-law’s frugal habits.
Kate’s cheap, chic choices were well suited to Tuesday’s outing—a visit to the Brink Bar, an alcohol-free juice bar in a community rehab clinic (insert your own Prince Harry joke here).
But Kate doesn’t just save the high-street stuff for ex-druggies. For this was the second time in a week that she had worn a mainstream, affordable retail designer while on official duties. On Monday night, she wore a dress by another British high-street brand, Jesiré, to her first-ever official solo function, the opening of an exhibition of work by Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery. No one could have blamed the girl for wearing McQueen or Dior to such a sparkling, glamorous event, but former PR girl Kate seems quite determined to telegraph a very specific message to her future subjects via her clothing choices: “I’m normal.”
Within 45 minutes of Kate wearing the full-length belted overcoat on Tuesday, it had sold out on Hobbs’s website.
While Hobbs was reveling in the attention on Monday, Oasis was more circumspect about its royal endorsement, only confirming that the dress was its own after provenance was confirmed by the Clarence House press office to The Daily Beast. A spokesman said, “It is not a current style. It is at least three years old.”
Similar belted dresses retail for under $100.
Unfortunately for Jesiré, the brand Kate wore to the Freud show, the Kate effect came a little too late. The company folded in August after 13 years, another victim of the British recession.
A few months earlier, an endorsement from Kate might have been enough to save the day. For the Kate effect is no flash in the pan.
After she wore a cream Reiss dress for her engagement photos, the brand’s annual profits doubled.
Pity poor Martyn Vines, former managing director of Jesiré, who said Kate “looked absolutely stunning. It was a wonderful feeling. I felt very proud but also tinged with a bit of sadness.”
Kate actually bought the Hobbs coat she wore on Sept. 22, 2011, during a shopping trip to London’s Sloane Square, where she was spotted by the blogger Social Beautify.
Kate paid full price for the coat, £369 (about $577), but today, before it sold out, the A-line coat was on sale for just £182 (about $284) on the Hobbs website.
Kate’s high-street habits are yet another illustration of her savvy wooing of the British public. Britain is still in the grip of a grinding recession, with GDP flatlining and austerity measures and government cutbacks biting hard.
Kate spent more than an hour talking to the public Tuesday, which had lined up just to see her and ask whether William had sent her Valentine’s Day flowers from the Falklands. She was overheard telling the head of the charity behind the Brink Bar, Action on Addiction, that she had indeed received a card and flowers from her husband that morning.
Young love, eh?