Kate Middleton’s Choice Of White Is A Fresh Return To Public Duty

By Vanessa Friedman
New York Times
Catherine, Princess of Wales, during Trooping the Colour. Photo / Getty Images

The Princess of Wales made her first public appearance since coming forward with her cancer diagnosis.

On Saturday morning Catherine, Princess of Wales, tiptoed back on to the public stage for the first time since announcing her cancer diagnosis last year in her signature colour-co-ordinated way, joining the rest of

She wore a white knee-length Jenny Packham dress with a black-and-white striped belt and a jaunty bow at the neck, topped off with a Phillip Treacy hat, angled just so.

The nautical theme was reflected in the navy dress with a sailor collar and white trim worn by Princess Charlotte (who also wore white shoes to go with her mother), along with the matching double-breasted navy suits with their gold buttons, white shirts and bright blue ties of Princes George and Louis, all of which made a neat Union Jack trio with Prince William’s bright red military uniform — which in turn matched that of Charles and Prince Edward.

As a family unit, on the balcony, it created the image of a tightly controlled, unmistakably harmonic, unified front for a photo op set to go around the country. Nothing anxiety-provoking to look at here, the picture seemed to say. It’s business as usual. Everything’s going to be fine.

Prince George of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte of Wales on the balcony during Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace this past weekend. Photo / Getty Images
Prince George of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales, Catherine, Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte of Wales on the balcony during Trooping the Colour at Buckingham Palace this past weekend. Photo / Getty Images

It was a trademark bit of image-making on the part of the Princess, also known as Kate, who is still in the process of recovery. Kate has always been finely attuned to the attention paid to what she wears as part of a family whose job it is to symbolise, rather than speak, and the communications opportunities embedded therein.

Since the beginning of her marriage, she has used her clothes to signify a neat compromise between tradition and modernisation. Her wardrobe seems often geared to telegraph a respectful sensitivity to what’s next, rather than, say, a royal in a gilded bubble, whether it’s mixing high street brands with high fashion, upcycling her gown multiple times, renting an evening dress or supporting British designers.

There’s no question she would be aware of the obsessive attention paid to her reappearance, especially given the somewhat vague information imparted about her condition (not to mention that of the King, who was also diagnosed with cancer), the rampant, often unhinged speculation her initial absence provoked, and the way her presence could be used to reassure — or not — a watching public. One still reeling from the departure of Prince Harry and Meghan and the shaming of Prince Andrew, nervous about the future of the monarchy that remains, and about to experience its own electoral upheaval. It was not a time to just throw on any old thing.

Instead Kate chose white, itself a colour rife with meaning — of new starts, rebirth, purification.

She chose Jenny Packham and Phillip Treacy, both brands she has often worn before, both tent poles of the British fashion establishment.

And she chose a dress that appeared to have been upcycled: worn first in 2023 at Buckingham Palace before Charles’ coronation, and now given a bit of a lift. After all, she has other things to think about right now than shopping. But dressing for purpose is also part of the job.

It seems like she is getting ready to do it again.

This article originally appeared in the New York Times.

Written by: Vanessa Friedman


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