London is swinging again thanks to bride- and princess-to-be Kate Middleton. Millions are hanging on her every move — where she shops, where she primps, what she eats and drinks.
LONDON — London is swinging again thanks to bride- and princess-to-be Kate Middleton. Millions are hanging on her every move — where she shops, where she primps, what she eats and drinks.
Although the couple live (part of the time) in a rented farmhouse in North Wales, Middleton and Prince William will probably move to London’s Kensington Palace at some point in the future. And Middleton certainly spends a lot of time in London — especially now that the wedding is a month away — mostly in the swish neighborhoods of South Kensington, Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Mayfair, all of which are in close proximity to Hyde Park and the Buckingham and Kensington palaces.
A “Sloane Ranger” through and through (in America, she would be a preppy — in the most traditional sense), she has cultivated an image that is anything but flashy. It’s a look of accessibility rather than high fashion (although that could well change after she becomes the ultimate “smug married,” as Bridget Jones might say).
Middleton, whose family owns a party-supply business, has been known to frequent chain stores and discount outlets. When it comes to dining, her choices are similarly un-exotic. She does enjoy a cocktail, frequenting clubs that cater to the “trustafarian” set. But although they may be referred to as private clubs, they aren’t really, meaning that you just have to look the part (or be a prince’s girlfriend) to get past the velvet rope.
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Here is a guide to some of her favorite hangouts.
Middleton has been called “the high street princess,” and by high street, we’re talking about the kind of mainstream chain stores you’d find in the mall. There are lots of high streets in London, but Middleton’s shopping strip of choice is King’s Road, which long ago kissed its punk and hippie roots goodbye and instead is a who’s who of contemporary British fashion boutiques, beginning at the Sloane Square end with Duke of York Square, and heading west all the way to the Bluebird Cafe.
Whistles, where she bought the scalloped-edge ivory blouse she wore in some of the engagement photos, is in a shopping complex fronting King’s Road. The brand is more sweet than sexy. . For spring, that means a smart-looking fluorescent pink knife-pleat skirt ($154), a black tie-shoulder jumpsuit ($406) and a lucky horse print blouse ($138).
Next door is L.K. Bennett, where the style icon in training goes for her sensible kitten heels. The round-toe, 2 ½-inch Sabira heels resemble Christian Louboutin’s Simple pumps but at a fraction of the price at $147. L.K. Bennett is reminiscent of Ann Taylor pre-makeover — lots of office-appropriate pencil skirts and feminine polka dot blouses (both $203), along with conservative silk jersey dresses ($300) and diamante clutch purses ($276).
Jigsaw London, at the west end of Duke of York Square, is where Middleton worked as an accessories buyer in 2007. It has the prettiness of J. Crew and the bohemian appeal of Anthropologie. For spring, that means $57 Breton stripe shirts, $80 T-shirts with silk rose appliqués, along with fluttery metallic floral dresses ($317) and some very cool-looking Hunter wellies with a distressed finish. (Although Middleton braves the elements in her trusty suede Aquatalia boots.) The rest of the accessories are somewhat lackluster, including fabric bead necklaces, raffia clutches and woven leather totes ($89 to $479).
Across the street is Reiss, where Middleton scored the sleek cream dress she wore in her engagement photos. It was an older style (the bride-to-be apparently raided her closet for the Mario Testino photo session, rather than going on a shopping spree), but the dress was reissued after the photos came out and customer demand surged. Reiss is similar to Club Monaco, with super-chic, modern clothes in the style of Celine and Jil Sander such as a fuchsia silk top with a fluid sleeve ($185), an A-line suede skirt ($365), royal blue silk trousers ($195) and asymmetrical cutout wedge sandals ($295).
Back down King’s Road at Sloane Square, Peter Jones is the Middleton family’s go-to department store. (In fact, when I was chatting with the saleswoman while buying my very own black feather royal fascinator headpiece, she informed me that Kate’s sister, Pippa, had been in the store just that morning.) The store, which feels like a Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s equivalent, features some of the same brands found on the high street, along with selected designers, including British accessories brand Mulberry. In January, Kate and her mother, Carole, were spotted browsing the post-holiday sales racks at the store, leading to speculation that the royal couple might have a small gift-registry at Peter Jones for close family and friends. (They issued a statement to the public asking for charitable donations in lieu of gifts.) If that’s true, surely they logged some time on the home accessories floor, checking out the Orla Kiely bed linens ($71 to $102), seven-day custom curtains, Nespresso coffee makers ($356) and Beatles throw pillows ($81). Something tells me Middleton won’t need any china, although commemorative royal wedding plates and tankards are for sale at the store.
An even bigger attraction is the hat department at Peter Jones, which stocks feathered and flowered styles by one of Middleton’s favorite milliners, Whiteley Fischer (about $290). You might remember that her famous jaunty black beret was by the hat manufacturer, which has been in business for 60 years.
Another source for Middleton’s extensive hat wardrobe is Philip Treacy, who will design wedding hats for members of the royal family. His salon is east of Sloane Square on Elizabeth Street, along a stretch of retail that could cater to a princess bride’s every need — Jenny Packham for dresses, Peggy Porschen for cakes, and Allegra Hicks for honeymoon beach cover-ups. At Treacy’s shop, floral headbands go from $487 to $1,300 and couture creations, such as the silver starburst hat in the window that was made for Grace Jones, can run well into the thousands.
A short walk north on Sloane Street toward Knightsbridge, and you’ll pass stationery and leather goods store Smythson, the source of Middleton’s leather-bound wedding diary, and upscale department store Harvey Nichols, where she has picked up those famously smoking-hot silk jersey plunge-front gowns by BCBG and Issa.
Beauchamp Place, a swanky street that’s just a few blocks down Brompton Road past Harrods, was one of Princess Diana’s stamping grounds and is a Kate Middleton hangout as well. In January, rumors started flying that British designer Bruce Oldfield was designing her wedding dress when Middleton was spotted coming out of his Beauchamp Place boutique with her mother and sister.
Though Oldfield, who designed the prime minister’s wife Samantha Cameron’s wedding dress, has been dismissed by many royal watchers as too old-school to be the dressmaker, his windows were full of styles suited to a young bride, including one slinky lace creation in Middleton’s signature body-conscious silhouette.
Middleton also loves a bargain, and on Kensington High Street just a few blocks away from Kensington Palace is TK Maxx, the British version of TJ Maxx. Middleton reportedly enjoys riffling through the racks of last season’s mirrored Lanvin sandals ($291 down from $991), Valentino tops ($242 from $731) and Alexander McQueen dresses ($761 from $2,567). Perhaps she can send a footman down to check out the latest “designer labels for less.” As if.