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How Kate Middleton’s New Uniform Takes Style Cues From Hillary Clinton

Kate Middleton has passed several milestones in her public life in recent months, notably acquiring the new title of Princess of Wales following Queen Elizabeth II’s death last September in recognition of her new status as queen-in-waiting.

Aside from a new title, Kate has started 2023 with a new core work project advancing public understanding of the importance of early years childhood development. At a recent event promoting this project, titled “Shaping Us,” the princess wore a striking red pantsuit, an accessory that has become a favorite fashion staple of the royal’s working wardrobe.

Kate’s new pantsuit uniform allies her to another notable female public figure, and perhaps unlikely style muse, Hillary Clinton, who adopted the use of pantsuits in the 1990s as an “anti-distraction technique,” to keep the focus on what she was saying, rather than what she was wearing.

Kate Middleton photographed wearing an Alexander McQueen pantsuit to an early years roundtable event, June 16, 2022. And (inset) Hillary Clinton photographed October 9, 2016. Kate has adopted a pantsuit uniform for many of her early years engagements, following Clinton who used the clothing as an “anti-distraction technique.”
Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Kate’s bold red ensemble worn on Monday was created by the design house that made her wedding dress 11 years ago, Alexander McQueen.

McQueen have designed a number of the princess’ pantsuits which she has worn increasingly since the early months of 2022. The first appearance of a McQueen white pantsuit was for an engagement at a school during William and Kate’s tour of the Caribbean last March. Since then, the princess has worn the style in four other color variations; black, pink, purple and navy.

Though statement enough pieces to translate into eveningwear, Kate has reserved the majority of her pantsuit fashion moments for her daytime engagements, almost exclusively those working with The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which her “Shaping Us” campaign has been launched through.

“We’ve seen a huge shift in the Princess of Wales’s work and presence within the royal family, from cutting ribbons to funding and supporting early childhood development research,” royal fashion expert Christine Ross previously told Newsweek.

“The ascent into pantsuits seems to follow her development into a very-involved working royal. We often see these pantsuits on more business-formal events, where her outfit may fit in better with the people she is meeting.”

Kate Middleton Alexander McQueen Pantsuits
Kate Middleton photographed wearing variations of Alexander McQueen pantsuits in 2022 and 2023.
Samir Hussein – Pool/WireImage/Eddie Mulholland – WPA Pool/Getty Images/Chris Jackson – WPA Pool/Getty Images

Kate is not the first and only royal to be a fan of the classic pant suit. Sister-in-law Meghan Markle has worn a number to high-profile events, including an all-white double-breasted variation by the designer of her wedding dress, Givenchy, to the opening events of the 2022 Invictus Games. Back in 2018, Meghan also wore the sharply tailored McQueen pantsuit now loved by Kate, in a black variation to the Endeavour Fund Awards with Prince Harry.

Princess Anne, King Charles III‘s sister, has also been a long-time fan of the pantsuit, wearing early variations in the 1970s and still debuting styles on occasion to date.

Queen Elizabeth II, famously, was not often seen in trousers unless they happened to be equestrian jodhpurs. A notable exception occurred in 2003 when the monarch was photographed leaving a London hospital after knee surgery wearing a chic grey pantsuit accessorized with her trademark pearls and a Hermes scarf.

Another royal who had a number of fashion forward pantsuit moments was Kate’s mother-in-law, Princess Diana.

Aside from the royals, Kate joins a number of high-profile and celebrity fans of the pantsuit which include Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway and Michelle Obama.

The most famous former First Lady to have popularized the pantsuit, and who is perhaps credited with helping it achieve the prominence in women’s wardrobes that it has today, is Hillary Clinton.

In her 2017 memoir What Happened? Clinton recounts that she first selected a pantsuit as her de facto uniform first and foremost because she liked them: “They make me feel professional and ready to go,” she wrote.

“Plus, they helped me avoid the peril of being photographed up my skirt while sitting on a stage or climbing stairs, both of which happened to me as First Lady.”

“A uniform was also an anti-distraction technique,” she continued. “Since there wasn’t much to say or report on what I wore, maybe people would focus on what I was saying instead.”

Queen Elizabeth II and Hillary Clinton Pantsuits
Queen Elizabeth II (L) seen wearing a rare pantsuit, January 14, 2003. And Hillary Clinton (R) photographed wearing a pantsuit as Secretary of State, November 7, 2010.
Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/SCOTT BARBOUR/AFP via Getty Images

Clinton was famously painted wearing a classic black pantsuit in her official portrait as First Lady for the White House Historical Association.

For Kate, wearing her own uniform pantsuits to engagements where the focus is on her early years project, may in some way be an effort, like Clinton, to ensure focus in on her work rather than her fashion.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek’s The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.

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