How Kate Middleton's Recent Fashion Choices 'Signifies a New Confidence'

As Kate Middleton gets ready to celebrate 10 years as a member of the royal family, one author explains why the Duchess of Cambridge is making style headlines now more than ever before.

"I think she has become a lot more confidant," Bethan Holt, author of The Duchess of Cambridge: A Decade of Modern Royal Style, says in the first issue of PEOPLE Royals. "She started off quite tentatively finding her way and very conscious of her place in the family and I think as she has taken on more responsibility, you really see that in her clothing."

According to Holt, who also writes for the U.K's Daily Telegraph, Kate's clothing budget may have increased over the years but her overall style has simply gone up a notch. "She's always been very ladylike, elegant and put-together, but she has really polished up her appearance over the last three years."

It was after having Prince Louis in 2018 that Holt says Kate really started to take small but noticeable style risks. Arriving at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to open a new photography center in October 2018, Kate wore a striking look by the British-based designer Erdem. Her checked midi-length boucle tweed dress had a slight off-the-shoulder neckline and featured crystal and pearl buttons. With her signature bouncy blowout, she accessorized the chic look with a cluster of sparkly brooches and sky-high red velvet heels.

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Earlier that year, there had been subtle signs that Kate was on a style mission. At Louis' christening in July, she wore an oversized embellished hatband by the British milliner Jane Taylor that sparked the beginnings of a millinery trend. "It was on the Prada catwalk a few months later," says Holt, adding that while the padded hatband was divisive at first, it became her signature and much-copied look. "She's worn velvet ones, Zara ones — she's really made it her own."

In the coming months, Kate continued to debut a new, more fashion-forward, polished look, wearing trousers (a first!) on numerous occasions, favoring up-and-coming designers and choosing bold pieces from luxe labels. Visiting a children's center in Lambeth, London, in March 2019, she wore a vibrant lilac pussy-bow Gucci blouse, teamed with black wide-legged trousers and a matching lilac top handle bag from Aspinal London, a professional but glamorous look not seen before.

Over the years, Kate has often adopting a high-low approach to royal dressing. On an official visit to Ireland with Prince William last year, she wowed in a luxe sequin cocktail dress from The Vampires Wife and the following day wore a white Reiss coat, that she had kept in her closet for over 13 years.

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"That was a real stroke of genius," says Holt, who says the secret to Kate's sartorial success is to look appropriately regal but never above her position. "The Reiss coat was a reminder of the girl that she once was, before she had all these responsibilities and it was a really good example that clothes aren't just clothes, they are telling a story."

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