Kate Middleton: A life in style
Kate photographed on her gap year. Image via Schweizer
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born in Reading to her parents Michael and Caroline Middleton, owners of the hugely lucrative mail order business Party Pieces.
After a brief spell attending nursery in Amman, Jordan where her father worked for British Airways, Kate returned to Berkshire aged four where she was enrolled in St Andrew’s School.
She's photographed above looking every inch the student during her gap year aged 18, where she travelled to Florence. Unwittingly the following year, she followed in the footsteps of her future husband when she enrolled on the Raleigh International Programme in Chili. William had completed his time there just weeks before Kate arrived.
While we're unlikely to catch Kate in a baggy roll-neck today, her signature minimal makeup and dark long hair were clearly already her go-to look.
A St Andrew’s sensation
In 2001, Kate enrolled at the prestigious University of St Andrew’s in Scotland where she studied History of Art. It was here that she first met Prince William, as they both lived in the university’s St Salvator’s Hall. She's photographed above outside her college, wearing an uncharacteristically formal two-piece skirt suit.
On meeting the prince for the first time, Kate said during their engagement interviews; “Well I actually think I went bright red when I met you and sort of scuttled off, feeling very shy about meeting you. It took a bit of time for us to get to know each other but we became very close friends."
Kate apparently first grabbed William’s attention when she modelled for a charity fashion show, wearing a now infamous sheer dress.
The dress was designed by Catherine's fellow university student, Charlotte Todd. Todd spent just £30 on the dress, but thanks to its famous model, it's now worth an unbelievable £10,000.
The prince and I
Dancing the night away. Image via Rex Features
The couple moved off campus together in their second year, to a small flat in the centre of town where they paid £100 per week and shared cleaning duties. This was the most normal life a royal had ever had, and bullet-proof glass, bomb-proof door, intricate laser security system aside, the pair lived like any other students.
In the photograph above, Kate wears a simple yet stylish LBD as the couple dances together at a University Gala Dinner back in 2004.
The relationship soon came under pressure, however, as the paparazzi had caught onto their relationship. Once the couple left university, and the rules imposed on the press around photographing William as a student were lifted, Kate was hounded by the world's media.
Lawyers from the Middleton family, Prince William, and Prince Charles all threatened legal action if the press did not desist. Eventually, the pressure became too much for the young couple, and they split in April 2007.
The single girl
Images via In Style
The relationship may have ended, but the press's fascination with Kate—and exactly what Kate was wearing—did not. She became an infamous regular at high-end London clubs such as Mahiki and Boujis, often partying until the early hours with her sister Pippa.
Above, Kate wears an uncharacteristically glitzy outfit for a roller disco party and pairs a mini dress with an oversized handbag on her way home from a night out.
These stylish outfits radiate youth and the carefree attitude that Kate enjoyed during those single years. The outfits are a far cry from anything the Duchess would be seen in today.
Images via Pinterest
Finally reunited, Kate was able to publically watch Prince William graduate from the RAF at Lincolnshire in April 2008, wearing a stylish white coat. It was her first public appearance since their breakup, and a high-profile one at that.
She looked equally beautiful sporting this pink Daniella Issa Helayelboth dress (left) to the Boodles Boxing Ball. Not for the first or last time, the princess proved that whether ball or blustery British day, she could master dressing for any occasion.
Kate was back in the public eye for good, and she seemed to relish the challenge, with her ranking in the sartorial stakes only climbing higher with each public appearance.
A royal engagement
Image via Forbes
In 2010, the couple announced their engagement to the world. William proposed using the engagement ring of his late mother, Princess Diana, and Kate carefully selected a jewel blue dress to match the stone.
The style, designed by Issa London immediately sold out, and other stores set to work creating replicas of the dress.
The rumour mill was now turning to predict Kate's ultimate fashion moment: the royal wedding dress.
The big day
Image via Pop Sugar
After weeks of speculation, spawning countless fashion think-pieces, bookies favourites and rumours of a Diana-look-a-like style, Kate's final choice was unanimously applauded by fashion critics and the British public alike.
Wearing a custom Alexander McQueen gown with a pearl tiara and lace-trimmed veil, Kate's dress has gone down in history as one of the all-time best royal wedding looks.
The Duchess spent both of her pregnancies in a combination of designer and high street looks.
Her pregnancy style managed to be at once both regally polished and playful. In the photographs above, for example, she combines classic royal cuts with more youthful prints to develop her own signature look.
A yummy mummy
Images via (L-R) Huffington Post and Pinterest
People across the world were amazed when Kate emerged from the hospital after the births of George and Charlotte already looking flawless.
She opted for simply patterned shift dresses each time, for effortless style. Both times the styles were custom created by one of her favourite British designers, Jenny Packham.
The perfect princess
Images via (L-R) Access Hollywood and Pop Sugar
Today Kate is known the world over as a royal winner in the style stakes. Wherever she visits with the prince, she is always sure to tailor her look to the occasion, whether that means wearing a stetson in Calgary or ball gowns for the BAFTAs red carpet.
The international applause for Kate's sense of style doesn't seem like it's fading anytime soon. Vanity Fair named the princess the best-dressed woman in the world in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 and she continues to top lists today.