The Duchess of Cambridge's style is often considered a little bland for the fashion crowd (too many Breton tops, coat dresses, and beige patent pumps for the street style set's liking). Given that she's representing the royal family on an international stage, she needs to look polished and select classic items that'll photograph well and won't date after several months. It's no easy task to tick all these boxes while also pleasing the fashion crowd. Kate does balance this with making more fashion-forward choices, wearing unexpected London Fashion Week designers such as Simone Rocha and Barbara Casasola, experimenting with new silhouettes, and subtly nodding toward the latest trends. Scroll below to see 20 times Kate Middleton didn't wear what we expected.
Style Notes: On the royal tour of Germany, Kate opted for a more fashion-forward outfit for her evening look, wearing an off-the-shoulder red maxi gown by Alexander McQueen. She also swapped her nude court shoes for a pair of scalloped stilettos by Prada and wore a pair of Simone Rocha tassel earrings.
Style Notes: Lilac is a notoriously tricky color to pull off, but this bold color move paid off for Kate on her royal tour in Germany, where she wore this elegant sleeved dress by Emilia Wickstead. It's appropriate but not too safe.
Style Notes: The Duchess of Cambridge always masters diplomatic dressing, wearing looks that celebrate British fashion and designers of her host nation. A trip to Paris only meant one thing: head-to-toe Chanel. If we were princesses, we would wear this fitted Chanel bouclé dress with a waist belt complete with the double-C logo and a classic quilted Chanel bag at all times.
Style Notes: Even the Duchess of Cambridge wasn't able to avoid the Gucci effect, as on a visit to the V&A she wore a Jackie O–style fitted dress with red-and-navy stripe detailing and attractive gold buttons. She was never going to wear the brand's tee, but we love how she supported Alessandro Michele by turning to Gucci.
Style Notes: The Duchess of Cambridge loves this Preen by Thornton Bregazzi dress so much that she also owns it in black. And we can totally see why, as this is an elegant, classic evening dress that she can wear for years—if not decades. However, the asymmetrical neckline and pleated skirt also make it a firm fashion-editor fave.
Style Notes: One of our all-time favorite DoC looks came during the Canadian royal tour in 2016. This yellow Jenny Packham tea dress caused quite a scene among military men when repeated gusts of wind kept creating a series of "Marilyn moments". We've never been more proud.
Style Notes: While many fashion experts are still skeptical about fascinators in general, you do have to admit there's something very current about the DoC's head-to-toe blush ensemble (from Alexander McQueen) at Pippa Middleton's wedding.
Style Notes: At an event at the Natural History Museum, Kate wore one of her most "fashion" looks to date. Not only did she sport a more daring off-the-shoulder silhouette with a fitted fluted skirt, but she also opted for a new industry name, Barbara Casasola, a Brazilian designer who presents at London Fashion Week.
Style Notes: This fluted green Dolce & Gabbana midi dress with a nipped-in waist and statement shoulders is demure and stately but also won Kate praise from the fashion crowd.
Style Notes: Reminding us of the good ol' times when K-Mids wore things we could afford, this was a major red carpet moment when the royal stepped out wearing a gown from Self-Portrait in 2016.
Style Notes: Here we have another example of Kate winning in a French designer, as on her royal tour of Canada she wore a knitted, cream-colored See by Chloé dress, which was on trend thanks to the ruffled piecrust-collar neckline.
Style Notes: Kate ticked plenty of boxes with this velvet dress by Erdem while on tour in Sweden. If the flocked finish and fluted sleeves weren't enough, it's also a super-chic example of maternity occasion dressing.
Style Notes: Alexander McQueen is always a strong choice for the DoC, and this floral gown on the BAFTA red carpet is no exception. Points for the off-the-shoulder cut.
Style Notes: Shirtdress? Check. Polka dots? Check. The Duchess made a smart fashion choice with this super-flattering Kate Spade New York dress.
Style Notes: Ask any cool Brit and they'll tell you the same thing: Trench coats are forever and are essential. A Burberry one makes the staple even more attractive.
Style Notes: Maybe it's the twilight, maybe it's the wine, and maybe it's the incredible sequined Jenny Packham gown, but this gala dinner look from Kate will forever be etched into the fashion history books.
Style Notes: In another stylish maternity moment, Kate ditched her buttoned-up coats and opted for this Orla Kiely floral-print dress instead, paired with her trademark nude pumps.
Style Notes: From Coco Chanel to Madonna, every fashion icon has to have their nautical fashion look down. This natty knitted Alexander McQueen number was Kate's take on a classic summer trend.
Style Notes: Possibly a favorite look from the DoC, this sky blue dress by Temperley London perfectly balances Kate's penchant for lace with a fashion-forward finish.
Want more? See Meghan Markle's style file for starters.