5 of Kate Middleton's Most Controversial Outfits, Ranked

Back when Kate was just a commoner, she tested noughties trends with the best of us. Who can forget the pics of her college-era super-low-rise jeans and spaghetti strap going-out tops or that time she wore neon Crocs? But ever since she became an official royal back in 2011, it’s been more skirt suits and demure headbands to boot. In fact, there are several trends she used to love that she has now ditched for good.

However, there are bound to be some controversial moments when the whole world watches your every style move and there are strict royal dressing rules. Even though Kate Middleton seems to navigate the nuances of outfit protocol with ease, she has had a few notable moments of setting the internet abuzz. While she definitely toes the line per the Queen’s specifications, there are a few instances where she lives a little (who can blame her?) as well as some circumstances where gossip simply couldn’t be avoided. Scroll down to check out the top five most controversial outfit moments, ranked from more subtle to full-blown scandal.

#5: Wedges


(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Kate: Lela Rose dress; Monsoon wedges

We recently admitted ourselves that wedges are polarizing, but our trend predictions say they're absolutely back in style. This is good news for Kate, who often wears a Stuart Weitzman cork pair for more casual events. The brand just re-released a very similar pair, for true Kate style stans who may want to cop the look.

However, it's been reported time and again that the Queen disapproves of wedge shoes, so it seems Kate's workaround is to simply avoid wearing them in the queen's presence. Wearing wedges aren't an official "no," but flouting the Queen's desires lands this outfit the number five spot on this list. 


More Wedge Looks, to the Queen's Dismay:
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On Kate: Stuart Weitzman wedges. 


On Kate: Monsoon wedges. 

#4: Dark Toenail Polish


(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Kate: Roland Mouret dress; Jimmy Choo heels; Beaut Jewelry earrings

The number four slot is less about Kate's outfit than it is about her beauty choices. For official British royal engagements, protocol is to wear nude nail polish, never any dark shades. The Queen herself only wears Essie's Ballet Slippers, according to the brand's about us page. However, when it comes to non-royal events, there is a tiny bit more flexibility in general when it comes to appearance. For a dinner hosted by The Thirty Club, Kate opted for a rich plum pedicure. Her cream outfit was lovely, but it was her toes that were the most talked about.


Another Rare Instance of Party Toes Out to Play:

On Kate: Preen dress; Prada shoes; Jerome C. Rousseau clutch

#3: Double Dress


(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Kate: Alexander McQueen gown 

For this year's National Portrait Gallery Gala, Kate Middleton stepped out in an Alexander McQueen dress that appeared to be the same pretty floral print as the dress she wore to the 2017 BAFTA's (pictured below). You might guess that this look earned itself a spot on this list because it's a faux pas to re-wear looks, but actually in royal world, it's encouraged to be an outfit repeater. Why you may ask? Wearing the same outfit multiple times projects a positive message of frugality. In fact, Kate does it all the time.

But isn't she gifted or loaned these dresses? There are lots of rules around if royals can accept gifts, so their clothing is largely paid for, just as if they were commoners. So when Kate stepped out in two different dresses that looked almost the same, it spurred a flurry of internet chatter about the frivolity of buying two super similar dresses. Because when you're royal, what part of your life isn't scrutinized, including how you spend your money? As a side note: Money to pay for Kate's clothes doesn't come from British taxpayers, in case you were wondering. Though, some pointed out Kate could have altered the sleeves, which would put her back in the favored frugal light. We may never know the truth, whether Kate wore two different dresses or just one altered dress, but either way, it was certainly controversial.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Kate: Alexander McQueen gown and clutch; Prada shoes

#2: Breaking "Black Dress Code" at the BAFTAs


(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Kate: Jenny Packham dress; Prada shoes; Pretty Ballerinas clutch

Almost every celebrity who took to the red carpet at last year's BAFTAs wore a black dress in honor of the Time's Up movement. Many wondered if Kate would support the cause with a black ensemble and called her out for showing up in a green Jenny Packham dress. However, those familiar with royal protocol know that they are forbidden from making political statements, including with their clothing. Some interpreted the dress's small black sash under the bust as a small nod of support. 


(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Kate: Alexander McQueen designed by Sarah Burton

It was just over eight years ago that Kate Middleton debuted her breathtaking Alexander McQueen wedding dress to the world. It was one of the most anticipated wedding dress debuts in recent memory and was instantly beloved by the public. Five years after Kate Middleton became a duchess, the dress came up in the news again, but this time for a much less joyful reason. In 2016, the head designer of Alexander McQueen was sued by a British bridal designer Christine Kendall of Hertfordshire for stealing and copying his designs. We're unsure of the legal battle's current status, but either way, it is without a doubt controversial for royals to be connected to any kind of scandal. 

Editor in Chief

Kat Collings has over 15 years of experience in the editorial fashion space, largely in digital publishing. She currently leads the vision for editorial content at WhoWhatWear.com as the site's editor in chief, having risen through the editorial ranks after joining the company in 2012. Collings is a Digiday Future Leader Awards nominee, was named Buzzfeed's best fashion Instagram accounts of the year, and is a member of the CFDA Awards Fashion Guild. Prior to Who What Wear, Collings worked on styling projects for brands such as Vogue, Teen Vogue, Lucky, and Oliver Peoples. She graduated from UCLA with a BA in communications and calls Los Angeles home.