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Kate Middleton’s “iconic” dress was “highly provocative”

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One of the Princess of Wales’ most significant fashion moments has been reproduced for the final season of Netflix‘s hit royal drama, The Crownwith costume designers painstakingly recreating a dress that remains “highly provocative,” according to celebrity stylist.

Kate’s college days at St Andrew’s University in Scotland will feature in The Crown‘s sixth and final season, where (played by Meg Bellamy) her developing romance with Prince William (Ed McVey) will form a central storyline.

In new publicity images for the show’s last episodes, one depicts Bellamy as Kate recreating a student fashion show in 2002, for which she wore a daring sheer dress on the catwalk which revealed her underwear beneath.

The dress was designed by fashion student Charlotte Todd, originally intended as a skirt. The sheer knit garment and Kate’s appearance in it are reported to have drawn Prince William‘s attention during the event, and soon after the pair’s friendship developed into a relationship.

From left, Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton in “The Crown” 2023, and the real Kate photographed modeling a skirt turned into a dress by student designer, Charlotte Todd, at a 2002 fashion show held at St Andrew’s University, Scotland.
NETFLIX/BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking to Newsweek, royal fashion expert and celebrity stylist Miranda Holder noted that the dress still represents one of Kate’s most out of the box fashion moments.

“The iconic dress—or what little there was of it—has become a key piece of recent royal history as it was so pivotal to Kate and William’s romance,” she said.

“There is no doubt that the garment, which was originally intended to be worn as a skirt, was highly provocative, being made of sheer fabric and allowing Kate’s lingerie to show through and is therefore is aesthetically a million miles away from Kate’s polished, regal image these days.”

The skirt (turned dress) was designed by Todd as part of a collection she called “The Art of Seduction” and in 2011—the year William and Kate married—it sold at auction for £65,000 ($82,500).

Speaking to auctioneer Kerry Taylor at the time, Todd said: “If it is true that my design helped change the prince’s interest in Kate from platonic to romantic as has been reported, then I am pleased to have played a part—however minor. I never would have imagined as I sat knitting this piece that one day it would be so important.”

Read more about Kate Middleton and “The Crown”

In the development of Kate’s style from college student to queen in waiting, the dress forms a milestone, Holder reflected.

“Over the years, Kate has, as you would expect, had quite the style evolution, leaving her more casual and carefree student days long behind as she’s embraced more sophisticated designer looks in monochrome, adhered to the tricky royal style etiquette and still managed to become and international fashion icon along the way,” she said.

However, she added that the risk-taking side of Kate has not been retired for good. “Occasionally we get a glimpse of the previous, fun-loving Kate with an outfit that surprises us” she said, offering “the Catherine Walker ‘leg-revealing’ red ensemble” worn by the princess for the South Korean state visit in November as a “prime example.”

"The Crown" Prince William and Kate Middleton
Meg Bellamy as Kate Middleton (L) and Ed McVey as Prince William in season six of Netflix’s “The Crown,” 2023. The show’s final episodes will chart the prince and princess’ early relationship.
NETFLIX

The Crown‘s costume designers have won praise for their work on the first half of Season 6, released in November, in which they recreated a number of Princess Diana’s 1990s style moments.

However, when it comes to glimpses offered so far of Kate’s 2000s wardrobe, royal expert Christine Ross has voiced hesitation.

Speaking about Kate’s daring fashion show look, Ross told Newsweek that it was “almost too polished.”

“It doesn’t quite spark that same magic that we saw in this iconic noughties style moment,” she said. “The narrative has always been that William first noticed Kate as ‘more than a friend’ at this fashion show, but the historical photos show a young woman confidently having fun with her friends, whereas The Crown portrays quite a sexy image.”

“This is one of the more iconic fashion looks from Catherine’s university days on a mass-market point of view,” she said, before going on to add: “The recreation of Charlotte Todd’s dress will be familiar to many viewers of The Crown, but the series has failed to capture the youthful, casual confidence that Catherine carried in those early years.”

Newsweek approached Kensington Palace via email for comment.

The Crown Season 6 Part 2 will be available to stream on Netflix from December 14.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek‘s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on X (formerly Twitter) at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry, or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email royals@newsweek.com. We’d love to hear from you.