When the Duchess of Cambridge makes her first public appearance since the announcement of her pregnancy next week – attending a reception celebrating World Mental Health Day at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday – most of us will pay at least a passing interest in what she’s wearing.
But for a community of dedicated women dotted across the globe, whatever outfit she chooses will prompt the start of a slavish search to find the perfect “copyKate” look.
As soon as the first pictures land, they will begin scouring eBay, swapping links to high street shops and even start saving so that they can invest in the exact items the Duchess wears. Welcome to the rather odd world of the repli-Kates.
“I began repliKating [sic; apologies] shortly after William and Kate got engaged. I found a version of her engagement ring and wore it while I watched the royal wedding,” remembers Katie Kingston, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mother and former maths teacher from Canada who shows off her Duchess-matching style on her Instagram account @katecopieskate and proudly owns 25 items worn by the Duchess.
“My first repli-Kating was for my wedding, only months after William and Kate’s,” says 29-year-old Rachael, a teacher from Australia who runs @cambridgemums with her friend Brooke, 26. “I repliKated Kate’s hairstyle and bouquet.”
It’s not just on special occasions, though, that the repliKate crowd derive inspiration from the Duchess. For many of them, her elegant style and poised presentation at public engagements appear to inform every single wardrobe choice.
“The style of the Duchess of Cambridge was really a legitimisation of my personal style that was not always apparent with the changing nature of trends,” explains Mallory Bowling, a 29-year-old lawyer from the US, who recently posted an image of herself wearing the same Alice Temperley blouse which the Duchess wore for an appearance on BBC Radio 1 earlier this year.
“It was a way that I could channel the clothes I really felt comfortable in – Breton stripes, coloured denim, elegant dresses, understated embellished blouses – with Kate serving as an inspiration for how to source items I could not always find on the high street.”
“I love how she has made it more popular to dress in a more sophisticated way than you will often see with other celebrities,” enthuses Stephanie, a 27-year-old operations manager who showcases her finds on @budget_duchess.
“Hers is the type of style that I want to encourage my daughter to wear, and show her it is possible to dress appropriately without looking stuffy or frumpy.”
If this all sounds rather evangelical, well, that’s because it is. This week, the repliKate “family”, as some of them refer to themselves, was thrown into disarray when several of its members’ Instagram accounts were closed without warning or explanation.
Hackers, Instagram algorithms and even interventions from Kensington Palace officials have all been mooted as possible causes for what they dubbed their persecution.
While the Duchess herself has never directly commented on the craze her style has prompted amongst women who, on the whole, are young wives and mothers like herself, she can’t be unaware of the “Kate effect” which she sparks, whereby whatever clothes she wears sell out within hours of her being seen wearing them.
“We’ve been inundated with orders and our website has now crashed,” designer Anita Dongre told the Daily Telegraph when Kate wore one of her dresses during a tour to India last year. Incidentally, Rachael now owns the same dress and recently advised the Duchess, in case she should be secretly spying on her army of repliKaters, that it makes an excellent maternity option with the belt removed.
While sometimes the Duchess seems to play the game, wearing pieces which are affordable and still in stock, she has lately preferred to commission bespoke items or order directly from her favourite designers, ahead of looks being widely available to buy – see the Erdem, Emilia Wickstead and Markus Lupfer outfits which she debuted during her recent tour to Germany and Poland.
Not that that will stop the repliKates. For them, the thrill comes from scouring shops to find similar but affordable versions of the Duchess’s outfits as well as the real thing. “I probably spend about half an hour each day scouring eBay and hoping to get lucky,” says Brooke.
“My favourite find ever has been a tartan cape from Zara. Kate wore it a few years ago while out and about when pregnant with George. I finally found one on eBay recently and bought it straight away! I can’t believe I own it, it has become a wardrobe staple for winter.”
“My best find would have to be the DVF Ikat print dress [which Kate wore in Australia in 2014],” says Katie. “I found it for sale, in my size, on an obscure website… I had been looking for it for ages, and then I came across a girl selling hers, brand new, with tags still on! I was so pleased!” When longed-for discoveries such as this occur, congratulatory comments pour in from other repliKaters.
“Other repliKating women will often sell items to others because we know it’s coming from or going to a loving home,” suggests Rachael.
“My favourite Kate purchase would have to be the Zimmermann Day Roamer Dress. I saw Kate in Manly [in Sydney] when she wore it and spent the next six weeks stalking the website until it was available for purchase. Whenever I wear it I feel like a Duchess!”
“Some people think my hobby is silly and a waste of time and money,” says Katie, without irony. “But everyone has their own interests. I love fashion and so I choose to follow and copy someone I find fashionable and iconic. Not everyone has the same tastes, but when your mentor does have the same taste as you, it’s so much more enjoyable to watch them in the spotlight.”
It’s not just Kate who is getting the repli-treatment from the world’s royal style fans. “I love how she has been dressing Princess Charlotte, and I have tried a few repliCharlottes for my daughter,” says Stephanie. “Although not part of the Royal Family, I adore Pippa Middleton’s style and have done a few repliPippas as well.”
“We’ve bought lots of Prince George’s pieces for our boys, particularly cute knits and polo shirts,” say Rachael and Brooke. “We often get comments about how sweet their outfits are – it’s not as common for mothers here to dress their boys in cardigans and long socks with shorts.”
Meanwhile, Mallory is attempting to coin the term “repliMeghan” – and awaiting the arrival of the burgundy leather biker jacket by Mackage, which Markle wore to the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games last week.
Meghan-matchers? Re-Markles? Whatever they want to call themselves, expect to see another community of royal emulators flourish if the actress’s engagement to Prince Harry is announced, as expected, in coming months. Whether a little healthy competition will prompt the Duchess to take her style up a notch, though, remains to be seen.
The Telegraph, London