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Kate at 40: The Duchess of Cambridge's most defining fashion moments

Kate at 40: The Duchess of Cambridge's most defining fashion moments

The "Kate effect"

Text: Kelly Lim

Image: Getty Images

As Kate Middleton celebrates her milestone 40th birthday, we take a look back at her most defining fashion moments over the years

A birthday to remember! To mark the Duchess of Cambridge's 40th birthday on Sunday, Kensington Palace has released a trio of gorgeous portraits of the royal, photographed by Italian photographer Paolo Roversi. Dressed in Alexander Mcqueen, and wearing jewels inherited from Princess Diana and borrowed from the Queen, Kate Middleton is a vision of elegance, with the black-and-white shots reminiscent of Cecil Beaton's stylised official portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

It's been just over 10 years since Kate wed Prince William in that show-stopping, Grace Kelly-inspired McQueen gown. Since then, the Duchess of Cambridge has made a name for herself as the defining royal trendsetter of the social media age, best recognised for her effortless polish––there isn't a public appearance where she doesn't look immaculately dressed––with the so-called "Kate effect" causing designs to sell out in minutes. Whether she's in preppy monochromatic ensembles (a style tip surely borrowed from the Queen) or glittering occasion wear, championing the high-street or homegrown talent, she's cultivated an image of style that strikes a balance between outdoorsy and official, via looks that exude an air of regal continuity. Her habit of repeating favourite designer looks has also added a conscious element to royal fashion, and is further proof of her eye for timelessly chic pieces. 

In celebration of the queen-consort-in-waiting's 40th birthday, we look back at some of her most defining fashion moments, from her red carpet moments to the most formal of royal occasions:

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December 2021: Kate stepped out in a cherry-red Catherine Walker coat dress, complete with an oversized festive bow for the Royal Christmas carol service in Westminster Abbey. 

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September 2021: For her first post-pandemic red carpet, the Duchess of Cambridge showed up in a custom Jenny Packham gown adorned in an endless cascade of shiny applications at the London premiere of No Time to Die.

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March 2020: As part of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's 2020 tour of Ireland, Kate payed tribute to the country in a green ruffled Falconetti dress by beloved British indie label, The Vampire's Wife.

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2019: The Duchess can sometimes be spotted in designs by storied European fashion houses, like this blush-toned Gucci frock with flowing sheer fabric for a gala dinner in aid of ‘Mentally Healthy Schools’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

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2019: The blouse to end all blouses? Kate's jewel-toned pussy-bow Gucci blouse broke new grounds for the Duchess and caused an online media frenzy after she wore it during a visit to the Henry Fawcett Childrens Centre. 

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2018: When Kate goes full duchess mode, she's often wearing custom confections by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen that exude regality. Worn with the Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara for the State Banquet, this pearlescent ruched blue gown is evidence of that. 

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August 2017: On the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's passing, the Duchess wore a bright green, tea-length dress by Prada adorned with red poppies––a traditional symbol of remembrance and respect to those who have died––in tribute to her late mother-in-law. The pussybow neckline of the frock was also a style favoured by Princess Diana during her lifetime.

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2016: Though uncharacteristically minimalist, this off-the-shoulder Barbara Casasola look cemented Kate's confidence in wearing and supporting emerging fashion talent. Paired with shiny Jimmy Choos, the moment also proved her sartorial coming-of-age. 

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2011: Glittering and beaming with pride, this red carpet look set the bar for the Duchess' evening wear moving forward. Worn the first time during the 10th Annual ARK Gala Dinner, this sequinned blush gown by Jenny Packham––the Southhampton-based designer is now a go-to for Kate's red carpet appearances––marked a dazzling moment at the time that introduced Kate to the world.

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2011: The now-iconic wedding dress marked Kate's union with Prince William and the United Kingdom as a whole. Crafted using a traditional 17th-century Irish technique called Carrickmacross, the dress sported various hidden symbols on the sleeves via embroidered roses, thistles, daffodils and shamrocks to represent the national emblem of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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