When the Duchess of Cambridge refreshed one of her signature Emilia Wickstead fit-and-flare dresses with an of-the-moment Aspinal box bag back in October, it seemed like a happily fashion-forward, post maternity leave coincidence.
But then there was Kate’s foray into the Hepburn trouser trend in the form of a tailored navy pair by Jigsaw (apart from skinny jeans, she’s rarely been photographed in trousers before) which she’s now worn twice.
Then came a polka dot tea dress, a fabulous caped Mulberry coat, a Gucci pussy-bow blouse and a haul of on-point new accessories to update cleverly-chosen old favourites.
In recent months, there’s no doubt that Kate has upped her fashion game and naturally the industry rumour mill fast turned to who might be responsible for the subtle yet significant shift in her look. With the duchess’s usual PA/ wardrobe adviser, Natasha Archer, on maternity leave, the presence of a smart new strategist with impeccable understanding of the balance between the requirements of Royal protocol and exerting fashion influence was palpable.
For years, Virginia (known as Ginnie) Chadwyck-Healey, formerly at Vogue and now running her own consultancy, VCH Style, has been an obvious candidate for helping Kate if she ever needed a fashion insider to help steer her style-wise. They are old friends from university and Ginnie attended the Royal wedding in 2011 (an experience she wrote about for The Telegraph last year) wearing a pair of nude heels similar to those which later became synonymous with Kate’s own look.
But it wasn’t until the duchess visited the Royal Opera House in January this year that I guessed Kate was now almost certainly working with Ginnie. Debuting a new pair of Rupert Sanderson heels, they were remarkably similar to the Sanderson style which Ginnie had chosen as an essential element of her post-Vogue wardrobe in a piece I had commissioned her to write for The Sunday Telegraph’s Stella magazine about the style lessons she had learned from leaving Vogue and moving to the country. This weekend, it was finally reported that Kate has enlisted Ginnie as her new stylist.
Ginnie is an inspired choice for Kate, who has- understandably- been reluctant in the past to fully embrace the opportunity which she has to become a style icon, a status which may sound attractive but is realistically fraught with pitfalls for a future Queen with a lifetime of fame ahead. Instead, she has honed a careful, elegant look which means she is just stylish enough without looking like a slave to her wardrobe. But at times she has perhaps erred a little too far into safe territory with wedges or formal coats which are more glum than glam.
Ginnie, who lives in Berkshire, is uniquely placed to offer a sprinkle of modernity. She knows what will play as well with the Home Counties crowd as the front row.
While none of the duchess's new outfits have been of the scare-the-horses variety, for the first time I have heard my fashion colleagues say they would actually like to wear what Kate’s wearing- quite a feat amongst the notoriously hard-to-please editor set. I even had a go myself, doing a budget version of her Gucci blouse take on the purple trend.
Ginnie won’t be pushing Kate into outre pieces which detract too much from her work, but it does feel like she has imbued the Duchess with a renewed sense of confidence.
Both women are at similar stages of their lives; Ginnie navigated going back to work at Vogue after having her daughters, so will have been well placed to assist Kate in finding her mojo as she juggles raising three children with ever-increasing royal responsibilities. I can’t wait to see what they style up together next.