The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge demonstrate the new rules of dressing up

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Earthshot Prize Awards - PA
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Earthshot Prize Awards - PA

When the Duchess of Cambridge wore a lavender Alexander McQueen gown to a BAFTA event in Los Angeles in 2011, she was the toast of Hollywood.

That star power with which we would become so familiar over the course of the next decade ensured that she outshone every A-lister in the room. After the Royal Wedding, America was already besotted with ‘Princess Kate’, but her visit to the US with William that July cemented it.

Now Kate has proved that it’s a gown still worthy of a ‘wow’ moment, having chosen it for the inaugural Earthshot Prize Awards, which took place at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday night. The gown had been updated a little too - the white embellished belt of Kate’s 2011 look had been switched for the Jenny Packham 'Magic' belt. Kiki McDonough morganite earrings and Oscar de la Renta heels completed the ensemble.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - FilmMagic
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - FilmMagic

Of course, we expect Kate to look immaculate, she always does. More unexpected was William’s fashion moment: in a rare break from tradition, he wore a green velvet tuxedo jacket with a poloneck knit. It’s not the first time William has worn the jacket - a Reiss design, which he last wore in November 2019 - but teaming it with a poloneck is a new twist.

Wearing green (the colour) for a green (as in eco) night was rather literal dressing from William, but together, the couple looked sharp, modern and in keeping with the message of the evening, which was an important one for the Cambridges. The Earthshot Prize - which saw five environmental innovators awarded £1million to pursue their ideas - is the Duke’s brainchild.

Billed as the ‘Eco Oscars’, Sir David Attenborough, Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Clara Amfo also walked the green carpet, for which guests were instructed to ‘consider the environment’ when choosing their outfits.’ The result was more successful than the 2020 BAFTAs, when the Duchess was one of the only high profile guests to adhere to the ‘something old’ dress code.

How things have changed two years on. As we prepare for the first real party season since the pandemic, William and Kate have set an example for how we should approach dressing up in 2021 - with style, but also with the environment in mind. Here's how it's done:

Wear something old

Duchess of Cambridge - Getty Images
Duchess of Cambridge - Getty Images

This is a no-brainer, because living sustainably is no longer just a lifestyle choice, it’s a necessity - and the most sustainable way to dress is to wear something you already own, just like William and Kate. It’s kinder to the planet than a new buy from the most eco-friendly fashion designer.

If you are missing that vital piece in your wardrobe, consider something vintage or second-hand first, that way you prevent another garment from ending up in landfill. Emma Watson’s look was crafted by designer Harris Reed from ten dresses that had been found at Oxfam.

Renting an outfit, that can be worn then returned and worn by someone else, is also a preferable option.

Embrace colour (you too, gents)

Duke of Cambridge Daniel Craig - FilmMagic, PA
Duke of Cambridge Daniel Craig - FilmMagic, PA

The coloured suit is no longer just for the eccentric; William - along with Daniel Craig, who wore a bright pink velvet jacket by Anderson & Sheppard for the No Time to Die premiere last month - has proved that vibrant hues can be worn by every man, should he wish. ‘It’s also rather festive, after a year and a half of being stuck indoors,’ my colleague Stephen Doig points out. ‘If your mantlepiece is starting to fill up with Christmas invites, a glamorous velvet jacket in a rich tone is a surefire way to show you’re ready for cocktail hour.’

In terms of womenswear, the coloured suit remains a party season winner, fast earning its place as a modern classic alongside the little black dress. Just ask Emma Thompson, who wore a deep teal suit for the Earthshot Prize Awards. Bonus points if you can find one second-hand, as per above.

Tweak and alter

Duchess of Cambridge - Getty Images
Duchess of Cambridge - Getty Images

Working with what you already have doesn’t have to be boring. Kate made a much-loved 2011 evening gown look fresh for the Earthshot Prize Awards by switching the belt for another in her wardrobe.

It’s not the first time she has updated a gown before wearing it again. At the 2020 BAFTAs, Kate showed up the A-list when she was one of the few to adhere to the dress code, which stipulated that guests should wear something with ‘green credentials’. Kate wore an Alexander McQueen gown she already owned then too, having had the sleeves altered to give them a more structured appearance and a white underlay like the rest of the gown.

Ditch the tie (and bow-tie)

This is a divisive topic, and traditionalists will disagree, but after 18 months of WFH, flexi-working and Zoom meetings, the sight of a suit without a tie no longer looks like something’s missing. Just look at William with his poloneck. Our friends across the Channel have long been ahead of the curve on this - most TV news anchors wear suits without ties, and in this writer’s opinion at least, look better for it.

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