Chic or too safe? USA TODAY fashion reporters tackle the issue of Kate Middleton's status as a style icon? She's seen here in London, left, on Oct. 8, and at LAX, right, in 2011. (Photo: Getty Images/AP)
At this point, Kate Middleton, aka Her Royal Highness the Duchess of
Cambridge, has been photographed enough for style-watchers all over the
world to have a pretty good grasp on her aesthetic and sense of style.
But, has all that wedge-wearing and hair-tossing made her iconic? USA
TODAY's Olivia Barker and Arienne Thompson go head-to-head to answer one simple question: Is Kate a style icon?
Pretty girl with access to some great designers? Yes. Style icon? Not
so much. She certainly helped breathe some new life into the royal
family post-Diana, but unlike her oh-so-stylish late mother-in-law, the
Duchess of Cambridge rarely excites when it comes to her sartorial
Olivia's take: She may not stretch the seams of
fashion like that other iconic British Kate, Ms. Moss. But Duchess Kate
certainly sets a sterling standard for style .
If there's one area where Kate knocks it out of the park nearly every
time, it's her hair. Those cascading chestnut locks are always perfectly
curled, and they have a healthy sheen that would make even Rapunzel
jealous. But there's one pet peeve: She cannot keep her hands out of her
Olivia: Could there be more captivating chestnut
curls than Kate's? Blown out with just the right amount of bounce, the
duchess' magnetic mane makes her a modern Breck girl. Wearing her locks
long and loose, she keeps her look youthful.
Kate has the figure and height to pull off just about any look she
likes, so it's a shame that, for the most part, she turns up in dresses
that are flattering and pretty, but rarely very exciting. Imagine if she
had Jennifer Lopez's look-at-me panache or even Angelina Jolie's
smoldering glamour. How exciting the royal style watch would become!
Instead, Kate, in all of her McQueen and Packham and Reiss glory, could
be even prettier if she took more risks and had a little bit more fun
with fashion. Sure, she looked perfectly fine in a girly oxblood Paule
Ka skirt suit during an official appearance in London last week, but
where's the excitement?
Olivia: They flutter. They flatter.
They cinch right where they should - at Kate's enviably tiny waist.
Details (subtle asymmetry, exposed zippers) add interest and edge. The
above-the-knee hems give just enough of a gander at Kate's other asset:
her shapely stems. The colors are pretty without being predictable. In a
word, the duchess' wardrobe, including the Roksanda Ilincic Peridot
dress in which she greeted Los Angeles, is stacked with gems. (And yes,
she regularly recycles her frocks. But when she does, this ambassador of
austerity smartly switches up her hair, accessories and shoes.)
By now, we all know exactly what shoes are lurking in the duchess'
closet. From Stuart Weitzman wedges to simple LK Bennett platform pumps,
she is the most staid in her choice of footwear. I look forward to the
day when we get to see her in a marvelous stiletto or a trendy peeptoe
bootie. At this point, I'll even take a studded flat! Anything to break
up the monotony.
Olivia: Audrey is known for her ballet
flats; Kate will be ever-connected to her similarly classic pumps. And
in both instances, classic does not equal boring. Kate's almond toes are
on-trend. The colors are chic, not corporate. The skinny stiletto heels
tart them up ever so slightly (and appropriately).
It should come as no surprise that Kate is not a
statement-necklace-and-designer-bag kind of girl. She sticks to simple
jewelry that often complements her large sapphire engagement ring, and
when we see her with any kind of purse, it's almost always a dainty
evening clutch. She could certainly gain some style points with an
interesting belt or a cool ring, or even a friendship bracelet or two
like her bro-in-law Harry. Anything!
Olivia: When your
engagement ring is one of the world's most famous baubles, there's no
need to layer on competing sparkle. Kate wisely keeps the jewelry focus
on her regal sapphire rock. And when it comes to her bags, yes, Kate
typically stays in the neutral zone, but she often adds contrast in the
form of texture.
beauty regimen does little to enhance her natural beauty, as she relies
too much on heavy eyeliner and mascara that detract from her pretty blue
eyes. And then, there's the nude tights! Free your legs and invest in
some quality self-tanner, Kate -- please!
perhaps an indefensible position: Kate's pantyhose are so invisible, so
undetectable, that it almost doesn't matter if she's wearing them or
not. For someone glad-handing all day, sheers serve a purpose. And
guess what? Jackie wore them. So there.