Kate’s Style: How Kate has changed the face of maternity fashion.

Over the last ten years the Duchess of Cambridge has become a true British style icon, influencing fashion the world over. And now, thanks to a flawlessly chic pregnancy, Kate’s has had a similar impact on maternity wear, setting the fashion agenda for mums-to be for years to come. A phenomena fashion critics have dubbed ‘The Duchess Effect’.

Here Caroline Jones, author of new Carlton book: Kate’s Style: Smart, Chic Fashion for a Royal Role Model, looks at five key ways in which Kate has rewritten maternity fashion rules…

Animal print is okay

They’re a bold choice for late-stage pregnancy and one many mums-to-be might avoid, but despite being eight months pregnant, canny Kate managed to look striking yet lady-like in this unusual black and white Dalmatian print Hobbs dress-coat for the Royal Princess Cruise Ship naming ceremony in June. Expect a million copy-Kate maternity prints in shops very soon.

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Hitch belts higher

Since she first started being photographed ten years ago, the Duchess of Cambridge has been a big fan of using belts to create a nipped-in waist on dresses and coats. While pregnant, Kate has cleverly switched from cinching belts at the waist to pulling them in just below the bust – forming a classic empire line shape that flatters her bump but still shows off her neat silhouette, as with this pale peach Jenny Packham lace dress and matching coat she wore on June 4th, for the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey.

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 Become a (coat) swinger

She’s always loved matching summer dresses and smart coats in the same hue for formal occasions, and Kate has simply tweaked this staple look to suit her pregnancy shape. Rather than opt for her usual highly fitted jackets – such as the red Alexandra McQueen one she wore to the Royal Jubliee River Pageant last year – she’s switched to a looser flowing, swing style like this Tara Jarmon peach coat she wore while visiting Naomi House Children’s Hospice on April 29th. This kind of coat doesn’t need to be buttoned-up, but still looks super-smart, gently skimming even the biggest baby bump.

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Dare to bare those legs

Part of Kate’s normal demure look is to favour skirts that falls just below the knee, but to avoid looking frumpy as her body shape’s changed, Kate has raised her usual hemline a few inches. By opting for a just-above-the-knee length she manages to emphasise her still-slender legs. The result is elegant and classy, even in this polka dot number costing just £38 from Topshop  that she wore to visit the Warner Bros Studios in April. Expectant mothers can expect this modest but feminine maternity style to become the fashion standard for years to come.

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Don’t ditch your heels

Many pregnant woman switch to flats but Kate shows you don’t have to if you choose carefully – just be sure they have a platform sole for hidden extra support, easy balance and less backache. Luckily for Kate, her all-time favourite nude LK Bennett Sledge pumps that she’s worn on dozens of previous occasions fit the bill perfectly, which meant she could slip them comfortably back on for a trip to Windsor Castle for the annual Scouting Parade in April.

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Caroline Jones is the author of Kate’s Style which is out now and available from http://www.carltonbooks.co.uk and all other booksellers

The Original Supermodel?

‘By far the best exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art I have seen’ The Guardian

‘The Pre-Raphaelites are revealed as the cutting edge of art’ The Times

With rave reviews like these for The Tate’s Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, we wanted to find out more about muse, icon and titian-haired ‘stunner’, Lizzie Siddal, from her biographer Lucinda Hawksley.

‘With the success of the Tate’s Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde exhibition, Lizzie Siddal and her fellow models and muses are once more back in the spotlight. As Lizzie’s biographer, I often ponder over what she would make of the cult that has grown up around her image and of the legend she has become. I imagine conversations with her, in which I try to explainabout the 21st-century obsession with so-called “celebrities” (most of whom will be forgotten about in a decade’s time), about the weirdness of current ideas of feminine beauty, and about why she remains such a popular figure, despite all that has changed since her lifetime.

Lizzie’s life was short and at times extremely harsh yet this strangely haunting woman has become not only the icon of an artistic movement, she also defines an era in history – unwittingly spawning what is still referred to as “the cult of the redhead”. Her looks challenged and changed the rigid codes of what was considered acceptable female beauty in mid-Victorian Britain. By doing so, she and her fellow models helped to change the very core of female history. Women began to realise that rules and laws were made to be questioned, challenged and often broken.

Ironically, one of the images most commonly associated with Lizzie’s life is Beata Beatrix, which was painted after her death. It was Dante Rossetti’s emotional response to Lizzie’s suicide: a husband working out his grief, guilt and numerous other complex emotions – all translated onto canvas. It is the one painting that Rossetti did of Lizzie while she was not posing in front of him and yet is is the one that most people associate with the woman who took her own life 150 years ago.

I often think of Lizzie in terms of the very firmly 20th-century icon, Marilyn Monroe. Both died young, both still remain icons. If she had lived to grow old and less ethereal, if she had lived a full and happy life to a ripe old age, would Lizzie still be considered an artistic icon today? There were scores of Pre-Raphaelite models, but if you asked someone today to name one of them, they would almost invariably respond with the name “Lizzie Siddal”. Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death, while still at the height of her beauty, has made her far more famous today than her French contemporary – still very much alive – Brigitte Bardot.

Despite all her activism and political savvy, Bardot is far more likely to make the news because she has “lost her looks” than because of her work in the field of animal rights. Whenever I see Bardot mentioned it has nothing to do with her animal rights work, it is is because some sensationalist photographer has taken a picture of her daring to looking her age. In the eyes of the world’s media, Bardot needs to be despised because she has committed the terrible sin of growing older and no longer being “a sex kitten”. Marilyn Monroe and Lizzie Siddal remain icons precisely because they died young. They have never lost the allure of the young and beautiful – and deeply damaged.

This year, 2012, marked the 150th anniversary of Lizzie Siddal’s death. Unable to cope with the stillbirth of her daughter, and perhaps knowing she was pregnant again, Lizzie took an overdose of laudanum and died at the age of 32. Ironically, for a time when infant mortality meant that 1 in 3 babies died in infancy (in London), medical understanding of bereavement and grief was almost non existent. Post-natal depression, along with all other forms of depression, was censured simply as “insanity” and treated with harsh cruelty instead of understanding. The grief experienced by a bereaved mother was dismissed just as summarily, women were expected to “get over it” and have another baby as soon as possible. No effort was taken at all to understand what might be happening in the mind of a woman who had nurtured and then given birth to a dead baby.

When Lizzie’s daughter was born dead, it marked the beginning of the end for the model and aspiring artist. One of the most poignant stories I discovered when researching Lizzie’s life was that related by Georgiana Burne-Jones, who recorded that when she and Ned went to visit Lizzie shortly after the tragedy, Lizzie was rocking an empty cradle as though her daughter was sleeping inside and told them not to wake the baby.

I thought of that story in February this year, as a small group of us stood in Highgate Cemetery beside the family grave of the Rossettis – in which Lizzie’s body was interred, despite the fact that none of the family ever approved of her. (Dante Rossetti, by the way, is not buried with them. He left strict instructions at the end of his life that he was not to be buried in Highgate – perhaps fearful of being placed in the grave he had desecrated in order to retrieve the manuscript of his poems, seven years after the death of his wife. So, Lizzie lies there amongst all her disapproving in-laws, without her husband.)

On the 150th anniversary of Lizzie’s death, the cemetery was fittingly beautiful in a blanket of snow under a sky so blue it looked likeBotticelli could have painted it. At the side of the grave, Jan Marsh read some of Christina Rossetti’s poetry, John Waites read poems by Dante Rossetti and I read a couple of poems by Lizzie. It was very emotional and a fitting memorial for a woman whose image still remains such an important part of our cultural history. I like to think that had she been standing behind us, watching us remember her, she would have smiled in that simple way that Rossetti occasionally captured, and perhaps twirled a lock of her famous copper-coloured hair between her fingers.’

Lucinda Hawksley is author of Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, Katey: The Life and Loves of Dickens’s Artist Daughter and, most recently, Charles Dickens about her great-great-great grandfather, Charles Dickens. See Lucinda discussing Dickens and Parliament at Portcullis House on the 21st November http://goo.gl/CfUAD

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 Follow Lucinda on Twitter – @lucindahawksley

Lucinda’s piece is reproduced with kind permission from www.madameguillotine.org.uk

See more about the paintings and Lizzie in this Art Fund video by Lucinda here.

For more information on the Pre Raphaelite exhibition at the Tate click here.

Dressing to Impress

This week’s guest blogger is the author of A Well-Dressed Lady’s Pocket Guide, Karen Homer. So, whether you’re a lover of an LBD, or more of a fan of this winter’s embellished trend, she’s here to offer her advice for looking like the belle of the (Christmas) ball…

As the Christmas party season approaches, invitations (hopefully) start pinging into your inbox and the office Christmas extravaganza is finally agreed upon, there is only one thing left to decide: what to wear? Whether you like to make a bold fashion statement with your party wear or prefer to slip quietly and elegantly through a champagne-fuelled throng of guests, there is plenty on offer this winter and if you choose carefully, there’s no reason not to be impeccably well-dressed whatever the occasion.

May your days be berry and bright…

Old-school Hollywood glamour and ladylike finesse were popular on the catwalks, with plenty of designers opting for elegant dresses in autumnal mulberry hues ranging from deep wine-red to stately purple. If you’re looking for a new colour to add to your wardrobe this is a sophisticated palette from which to choose, rich with shades that suit all complexions. Shape-wise, curves are popular this year so if you are genetically blessed with an hourglass figure, this is the season to show it off – high street stores like Zara are a good bet for a shapely party dress for a reasonable price. Always remember that the best-looking dresses, whilst flattering the figure, skim rather than cling.

Classic Chic

Traditionalists will be pleased that the Little Black Dress is firmly back on the map – choose a classic Audrey Hepburn style cocktail frock and it will last you for many a party season to come. And with an accent on accessories, with trends including eye-catching feather trims and bold costume jewellery, it is a viable option – and suitably in keeping with the budget-conscious times – to reinvent last year’s dress into something fashion forward. Lastly the Yves St Laurent-style glamour of the women’s tuxedo is also seeing a revival, so lovers of the trouser suit can bypass wearing a dress altogether.

Office to party transformations…

For many women, parties happen after work and changing for them is a hurried, office-bathroom affair. If this is the situation you find yourself in, it’s amazing what a pair of killer heels and a piece of bold jewellery will do for a simple shift dress. Or, with a nod to the trend for colourful prints, changing your work-day top for a Prada-style psychedelic blouse is enough to make an impression, even if teamed with a simple pencil skirt. A slick of lipstick (and the belief that you look wonderful) and you’re good to go! It’s always better to focus on one simple change than to try and force yourself into an over-the-top party dress that you feel self-conscious in. Never forget, the truly well-dressed woman is the one who feels comfortable in what she is wearing and, of course, in her own skin.

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By Karen Homer, author of A Well-Dressed Lady’s Pocket Guide.