What Kate Middleton’s recent shift to power suits tells us about her royal role

Ever since Kate Middleton’s 2011 wedding to Prince William, fashion fans could consistently rely on tailored coat dresses, floral midi frocks and patterned blouses as part of her royal style repertoire — but September 2023 saw a seismic shift in her usual sartorial routine.

Enter the Princess of Wales’ pantsuit era.

While she wore dresses mixed with blazers and pants over the summer, September 8 — the first anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s death — was the last time the Princess of Wales, 41, donned a dress before kicking off a month-plus-long streak of blazers and trousers.

The royal wore 13 different pants looks before breaking her routine last Wednesday, choosing a cozy knit skirt set for two university visits.

The Princess of Wales has been swapping her skirts for tailored suits.
The princess often wears Zara’s affordable jackets.

These more corporate looks point to what many royal experts believe is a more “professional” approach to her royal role.

Royal historian Jessica Storoschuk tells Page Six Style that the late Queen Elizabeth’s 2022 death might have brought about the change.

Perhaps once King Charles III was crowned in May, the princess felt she had more freedom to dress in a different way, with the An Historian About Town blogger sharing that Her Majesty “rarely wore trouser suits for official engagements, with one of the only times being a 1970 tour to Canada.”

“As we are now firmly in the King’s reign, Catherine is now starting to establish herself in her new role as Princess of Wales,” Storoschuk adds. “Her trouser suits could be seen as a visual cue of her professional approach to her new position in the family.”

The royal wore an Alexander McQueen blazer to kick off the Rugby World Cup in September.
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Her beige trouser suit was maligned by plenty of royal fans.

Royal fashion fans have been debating the reasons behind the shift from floaty dresses and tailored coats to suits, with one Instagram user lamenting on a post from Royal Fashion Police that one “boring” beige suit the Princess of Wales wore in September gave off “‘I work the front desk of a lawfirm’ [sic] corporate” vibes.

The creator of the popular Instagram account, who prefers to remain anonymous, tells Page Six Style that among her community, “there was a sense of suspicion that Kate might be attempting to break away from the mold that had established her as a fashion icon.”

The social media creator adds that many “couldn’t help but wonder if the Waleses were steering the new generation of royals toward a more corporate image, reflected in Kate’s adoption of a more polished look and business suits.”

The Princess of Wales rocked cheerful yellow for World Mental Health Day.
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She wore another Zara style for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.
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Indeed, there was much rejoicing when Middleton rocked the aforementioned knit skirt set from Sézane last week, with fans commenting various versions of “finally!” on a post highlighting her autumnal outfit.

Susan Kelley, founder of fashion blog What Kate Wore, tells Page Six Style her readers haven’t been able to stop talking about the royal’s trousers, either.

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“It has been a hot topic, with speculation on why the princess was wearing trousers, and whether or not interest in her fashion and style helps her causes,” she says.

Kelley, who is also a professional journalist, notes that the royal’s more office-appropriate looks could impact the coverage the princess’ events get in the media.

She teamed trousers with a gray sweater vest in early October.
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Middleton wore a pinstriped Holland Cooper suit twice in October.
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“The reality is that what the Princess of Wales wears often directly impacts the level of exposure that day’s engagement will receive,” she tells us.

The royal style blogger continues that a buzzy outfit “can drive interest in the initiatives and charitable organizations she is affiliated with, there’s no doubt about that.”

Whether trouser suits are a passing whim or a more permanent shift in her royal wardrobe remains to be seen, since we’ve seen the princess go through other fashion phases (remember her 2022 monochromatic skirt set era?).

However, one thing about her style remains certain: people will be talking about it.