Home FashionLadies Style From subtle references and royal family nods to secret messages, InStyle unpacks Kate Middleton’s Trooping the Colour outfit with royal style expert and author Elizabeth Holmes.

From subtle references and royal family nods to secret messages, InStyle unpacks Kate Middleton’s Trooping the Colour outfit with royal style expert and author Elizabeth Holmes.

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Unpacking the Princess of Wales's stylish return to royal life.

After months of speculation, the Princess of Wales’s momentous return to public life finally happened at Buckingham Palace’s annual Trooping the Color ceremony on June 16. It was her first royal engagement since announcing her cancer diagnosis in March, so all eyes were on the princess—and her fashion—this past weekend.

As a working royal and the future Queen of England, calling Kate Middleton’s wardrobe “carefully considered” would be an understatement. Every accessory is chosen with immense purpose, and no detail is left unattended. In fact, there’s often a special meaning attached to her outfits—whether she’s sending a message with color or paying homage to Princess Diana with jewelry—and 2024’s Trooping the Colour was no exception.

Arriving via carriage for the traditional balcony appearance, the princess donned an upcycled white Jenny Packham dress with a new belt and bow added to the original design. The choice to re-wear something, rather than debut a brand-new look, underscored the sense of stability felt with Middleton’s arrival, while tweaks to the look kept things interesting, according to So Many Thoughts writer and royal style expert Elizabeth Holmes.

From subtle references and royal family nods to secret messages, InStyle unpacks Kate Middleton's Trooping the Colour outfit with royal style expert and author Elizabeth Holmes.

The whole outfit was laced with references, offering royal watchers a chance to unpack the many connections associated with the look.

"It was remarkable to see the Princess of Wales in her return to public life wearing an outfit that felt both fresh, in a new and exciting way, and familiar, very quintessential Kate in a calming and reassuring way," says Holmes, adding that the outfit repeat was "cleverly restyled" into something entirely new.

From subtle references and royal family nods to secret messages, InStyle unpacks Kate Middleton's Trooping the Colour outfit with royal style expert and author Elizabeth Holmes.

First worn at a coronation reception for King Charles III, Middleton's dress acted as "a nod to King Charles III" and a striking representation of her personal style.

"Together, the dress plus the bow and the hat felt very Kate," she explains. "After all this time out of the public eye, that familiarity was needed and welcome."

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The graphic additions to the dress, which matched her daughter Charlotte's sailor ensemble with white detailing, suggest the color story was intentional, too.

"Catherine's look was giving major My Fair Lady vibes, which gave everyone—the fashion press included!—something fun to talk about beyond her health struggles," adds Holmes.

From subtle references and royal family nods to secret messages, InStyle unpacks Kate Middleton's Trooping the Colour outfit with royal style expert and author Elizabeth Holmes.

Her accessories also paid homage to members of the royal family. Middleton’s Cavolfiore cluster pearl earrings by Cassandra Goad, which she first wore to Prince Louis’s Christening in 2018 with a white Alexander McQueen number, made for a sweet nod to her son. And her color-coordinated Philip Treacy hat may have been a reference to Queen Elizabeth II.

"The new hat that she wore reminded me of a similar style she chose for the late Queen Elizabeth II's final Trooping the Colour in 2022," says Holmes.

From subtle references and royal family nods to secret messages, InStyle unpacks Kate Middleton's Trooping the Colour outfit with royal style expert and author Elizabeth Holmes.

The Irish Guards Regimental Brooch pinned to her white dress, on the other hand, alluded to her role as the colonel of the regiment, an appointment close to the princess’s heart. At last year’s Trooping the Colour, she wore an unexpected green shade to honor the Irish Guards, and she reportedly spent over $2,000 on drinks for the group to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year.

Overall, the fashion shared one key message with the public: Catherine's appearance marks a return to normalcy for the royal family.

"Stepping back, this all speaks to the remarkable power of her visual brand," says Holmes. "Since joining the royal family more than a decade ago, Kate has crafted an impressively consistent public presence."

If nothing else, this year's Trooping the Colour is a testament to her influence as a working royal and the power of her personal style.

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