Kate Middleton’s Alessandra Rich dresses get bad reviews
The reviews have not been kind.
“I don’t like her dress sense anymore.” “Looks like she’s wearing her mother’s dress.” “I don’t like the ’80s style…wish she’d gone for something more upscale and modern.” And in response to that: “The whole outfit is a bit ‘Christmas tree’…good advice for her and the girls of York would be to stay away from frills, bows, rouches [sic] and puffs…”
The subject in question was Kate Middleton at Wimbledon this weekend, and the object of such disdain was not Kate herself (nearly every commenter on this royal-style account post gave a caveat such as “She would be beautiful in a paper bag but…”) but the Alessandra Rich polka dot, navy and white peplum dress she wore to present tournament winner Novak Djokovic with his trophy.
It was actually the second dress Alessandra Rich wore at Wimbledon this year. A few days earlier, she wore another polka-dot silk crepe dress in a brighter blue that had received an equally rude reception. Below the image on another royal style account, for every “so perfect!” there was a “his stylist should be fired!” This dress is a hell NO”, and “This dress belongs to a fire. A common consensus has formed around the idea that the dress prematurely aged 40-year-old Kate. “It needs to modernize in a big way. Tends to look like a 60-year-old woman,” one commenter concluded.
The irony of that last statement is that Alessandra Rich is actually one of the youngest and coolest designers in Kate’s rotation. Italian-born but London-based, self-taught Rich fell into design after making her own wedding dress and founded her eponymous label in 2010. A list of celebrity fans – Rihanna, Beyoncé, Meryl Streep – flocked to her Dynasty-esque designs, but there’s no denying that Kate is the brand’s biggest fan.
In fact, Kate wears Alessandra Rich looks so often that if she were Meghan Markle, the comment sections would undoubtedly accuse her of being involved in some nefarious, undisclosed brand sponsorship. And the exorbitant price of these dresses, usually in the thousands of pounds, would come up far more frequently as an example of royal excess and tone deafness given Britain’s cost of living crisis.
As far as we know, Kate’s first Alessandra Rich dress was the white-collared dark blue polka dot dress (different from the Wimbledon numbers, to be clear) that she wore in Prince Charles’ birthday photo in 2018. Yes, it was indeed the same dress that Abigail Spencer wore to Meghan and Harry’s wedding. (We won’t get into “Who wore it best” nonsense here, thanks.)
Over the next four years, Kate amassed a collection of Alessandra Rich dresses to rival her hoard of formal frock coats. There was the festive red dress for her Mary Berry Christmas TV special in 2019; the deeply controversial and wildly patterned trefoil green dress for her visit to Ireland in early 2020; the black and white ruffled collar number she wore to take George and Charlotte to a Christmas pantomime in December 2020; the blue polka dot pleated skirt (very different from the other blue polka dot pleated dresses, duh) at Wimbledon in 2021; the plaid dress she wore to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum.
We are up to six, if you count correctly. Thoughts and prayers for old favorites like Alexander McQueen and LK Bennett at this difficult time.
For the past four months alone, she’s worn a black polka-dot number in Prince Philip’s service; a hugely controversial floating yellow situation to close out his equally controversial Caribbean tour with William; and a cream and brown polka dot dress at Ascot, which the internet immediately compared to Julia Roberts in A pretty woman. Kate wears these looks often – one of the dresses we saw at Wimbledon was actually worn less than a month ago at a Platinum Jubilee street party, which has to be the most royal rotation record short.
The thing these dresses all have in common, other than the fact that they’re universally pleated and v-neck? People either love them (us!) or hate them with a passion almost unmatched in royal observation (which is saying something.) So why can’t Kate quit those divisive dresses? For someone who doesn’t court controversy and generally plays it safe, Kate’s commitment to this designer is fascinating and nods to the complicated equation of dressing while being royal.
You see, Kate’s fondness for Alessandra Rich coincides with the arrival of her current stylist, Natasha Archer, who has been widely credited with rewarding Kate with her first sartorial covers of sheath dresses and nude pumps, and having her thrust into the relatively more adventurous world of slacks, pussy-bow blouses and, of course, those ’80s dresses. to run.)
We think they keep coming back to these dresses over and over again because they’ve hit a sweet spot for the things Kate is trying to achieve with her wardrobe and her image, knowing that every little thing she door will be analyzed until the last hook closure. British designer? Check. Dressed up without being too formal? Check. Classic silhouettes (even if some circumvent the 80s trend more than others)? Check. Nods to the outfits Princess Diana wore while accelerating her wave of massive public goodwill? Check, check and check.
It’s no coincidence that Rich said she was directly inspired by the collections that Catherine Walker (another Kate favorite) designed with Princess Diana in mind. These dresses are reminiscent of William and Harry’s mother at her 80s best, especially at a time when she was still in the royal fold. It’s not uncommon to have Diana on your style Pinterest board (join the club, TBH), but in Kate’s case, those nods lead to endless positive press and an emotional tug on the heart of the audience that she wouldn’t try with words.
There’s a powerful nostalgia factor with these dresses: not just when it comes to Diana, but also Kate’s own childhood. For all we know, they might remind her more of the peplums her own mother wore than a mother-in-law she’s never met. More broadly, they reflect the perceived prosperity and stability of Ye Olde Misty Days of the 1980s. At a time when monarchy seems like a more tenuous proposition than it has been since Charles I lost his mind, you can see why Kate and her team might want to play semiotic mind games with us.
Or, you know, she looks great in a nipped-waist dress and will continue to wear them, bad reviews be damned.