venerdì 20 gennaio 2017

Going to Great Lenghts to Obtain a RepliKate You Love

I'm sure it has happened to most of us replikaters to set our hearts on that particular item you just have to have! And since the early days of the Kate-mania, when replikates didn't sell out quite so fast and you could even get some great bargains, are long gone (heck, I got my Natalie clutch in the L.K. Bennett end of season sale months after Kate was first photographed carrying it. Current favourite Nina didn't make the winter sale but remains available at full price), nowadays a bit more sleuthing is usually required.

That's just what I set out to do when the Duchess was photographed going to church on the second Sunday of the year in a new piece by L.K. Bennett.

Twitter was awash with suggestions on Sunday afternoon as to which style exactly she was wearing, as there were several in the same print:

The main contenders were the "Sammi" blue silk scarf, which you can see in the tweet above, and the "Cami" printed bow blouse, although there were also a dress and even a skirt in the same print.

A close-up of the print:

Both the scarf and the shirt are 100% silk chiffon (the blouse, being very lightweight, is doubled at the front for modesty, which I've tried to show in the photo below). The print is described on the L.K. Bennett website as "a delicate dot print in hothouse hues", with a "seventies appeal that nods to AW16's retro revival".

This shows how sheer the back is. It's single-layer, as are the sleeves:

I thought the blouse would tie in very well with my existing working wardrobe, so set off looking for one in my size. I knew it wouldn't be easy as both the scarf and the blouse were sale items, already sold out online at L.K. Bennett when the IDs were confirmed.
After much messaging to and fro with some friends in the Kate community, I was able to locate one at Irish retailer Brown Thomas (remains available in UK size 16 at time of writing). The catch? Their shipping options are limited to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. With no way of having one forwarded to Italy, I continued with my search. 

I went over the list of L.K. Bennett European stockists with a fine tooth comb until I finally got lucky at Dutch department store de Bijenkorf. After all, what's the minor inconvenience of shopping at a Dutch-language-only website compared to getting the replikate item you're lusting after? Reduced from €235 to €115, there was just one remaining in my size (it remains available in EU size 38, equivalent to a UK 10), so I hurried to snap it up. De Bijenkorf is a chain of high-end department stores belonging to the same group that owns Selfridges and Brown Thomas, but they only offer shipping within the Netherlands and Belgium.

So, what's the resourceful replikater gotta do? Sign up for an account at FedEx Border Crossing, of course! It's one of very few parcel forwarding services that will provide you with a Belgian shipping address (this sort of service is usually limited to the US and UK, with few exceptions). By the way, a word of warning: I found the customer service at FedEx in this instance jokingly inefficient, although the actual shipping and delivery were fairly straightforward (took 3 working days from Belgium to Italy), with prices in line with companies that provide similar services (i.e.: not cheap! Shipping for the shirt was just under €50. I do wish stores would just provide worldwide shipping as standard, and we could get rid of the middleman!).

My experience at de Bijenkorf, on the other end, was superb: ordering was easy despite the language barrier and the shirt, shipped on Tuesday late evening, was delivered to my Brussels mailbox the following morning by 12 noon.

The blouse has branded mother of pearl buttons at the cuffs:

As you can see from the close-up, the fabric weave is quite visible, much like that of the "Addison" dress by the same brand. A label attached to the blouse explains that the garment has been digitally printed, "a process that involves the deposit of a pigment or dye onto the surface of the fabric". This makes the blouse rather delicate, as the yarns are liable to twist, showing the paler, non-dyed reverse, something that wouldn't happen with yarn-dyed fabrics. Again, it's the same technique used for the "Addison" dress.

Having seen the blouse in person, I'll admit I'm still very much on the fence as to whether Kate owns this or the scarf. Ultimately, after much comparing, I think she has the blouse: in real life the ties are very long, making the bow is very floppy when just hanging down, whereas in some of the pictures she seems to be wearing something that has quite a bit of volume to it. Then I came across this photo on WKW, and from that angle it looks decidedly like she's wearing the blouse, maybe with the bow tied double for added oomph. My conclusion is that the extra volume is probably due to the wind catching the bow, although we won't know for sure until she wears the garment again, which she hopefully will do in the future!

However, last night I came across an interesting viewpoint on Instagram: user sanddunesandpinetrees has come to the conclusion that Kate was wearing both items to church, and was photographed first without the scarf, then with it. I must say this latest theory would provide a very neat explanation for the visible differences in the pictures, so I like to think it may be correct!

So, what's your opinion on the matter? Do you think Kate has the scarf or the blouse, or indeed both? Did you get to buy either of them for your replikate collection?

giovedì 5 gennaio 2017

The Duchess Dictionary: Daffodil

The national flower of Wales, it's worn on St David's Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, on 1 March each year.
As Catherine will in due course become Princess of Wales, the daffodil was always bound to play a significant symbolic role in her style choices.
The lace on her wedding dress,  hand-made by the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace using the traditional Charrickmacross lace-making tecnique, details a rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock, the floral emblems of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively:

The main wedding cake, an eight-tiered creation by Fiona Cairns, featured those same four flowers rendered in sugar paste on the penultimate tier:

A daffodil also appeared in the bottom right-hand corner of the tins containing slices of the wedding cake that were given to guests:

On a visit to London department store Fortnum & Mason on St David's Day 2012 with the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall, Catherine wore a daffodil corsage as a nod to the occasion:

The three royal ladies were presented with daffodil bouquets. It's worth mentioning that the Duchess of Cornwall was also sporting a Welsh-related brooch, in the form of a diamond badge representing a leek, another well-known symbol of Wales:

For the Duchess's first-ever video message, recorded in April 2013 in support of children's hospices network EACH, of which she is patron, a large bunch of daffodils had pride of place on the side table, alongside one of the official wedding photos and a photo of the Queen Mother in a silver frame:

Incidentally, a daffodil also appears in the logo of cancer charity Marie Curie.

Attending the first garden party of the year at Buckingham Palace on 23 May 2013, it was reported that the Duchess got chatting to Marie Curie nurse Susan Bradley, who said afterwards: "She recognised my uniform and told me she has great admiration for the work the charity does, because our staff cared for her grandfather when he was terminally ill".

Prince George, who will of course one day become Prince of Wales in his own right, had none other than a daffodil named in his honour at the 2014 edition of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The new variety, aptly named "Georgie Boy" in honour of the little Prince, was unveiled by Walkers Bulbs and has white overlapping petals surrounding a bright yellow corona:

The Duchess Dictionary: Berkshire

The county of Catherine's birth, Berkshire is located in south-east England. It's a county of historic origin and has been known as the Royal County of Berkshire since at least the 19th century, due to the presence of Windsor Castle (Eton and the Ascot racecourse are also located within the county).

Berkshire shown within England.

The future Duchess of Cambridge was born on 9 January 1982 at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, as were both her siblings. At the time of Catherine's birth, her parents lived in a semi-detached Victorian house in Bradfield Southend, near Reading.

Baby Catherine was christened at St Andrew's Bradfield, near Reading, on 20 June 1982:

After a two-year stay in Jordan, where her parents worked for British Airways, Catherine was enrolled as a day pupil at St Andrew's School, near Pangbourne, Berkshire. St Andrew's is an independent, coeducational day and boarding preparatory school. Catherine's sister Pippa was also a pupil, as was in earlier years John Le Carré, the spy fiction writer. Fees nowadays start at £4,900 per term for Years 3 & 4 and go up to £5,400 per terms for Years 5 - 8. Catherine was a pupil there from 1986 to 1995.

School colours are green and white, and its motto is Altiora Petimus, or "We seek higher things". The school boasts a 54-acre park and is very big on sports and outdoor activities.
The undated photo below shows Catherine (front row, centre) and the rest of the school's hockey team:

During her time at Pangbourne, Kate appeared in a school production of My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle. A charming video of her singing in a cockney accent survives! Her co-star in the musical was Andrew Alexander, who went on to make acting his profession and has appeared in Downton Abbey as Sir John Bullock, a one-time love interest of Lady Rose.
Catherine returned to St Andrew's as a Duchess, on 25 November 2012, when she joined pupils for a day of activities (including a spot of hockey) to mark St Andrew's Day. It was her last public engagement before her first pregnancy was officially announced.

After attending girls' only Downe House School in Berkshire for just two terms as a day girl, Catherine moved on to Marlborough College, a co-ed school in Wiltshire, as a boarder.

At the time of the Royal Wedding, the couple's choice of anti-bullying charity Beatbullying as one of those guests and well-wishers could donate money to lead to widespread press reports claiming that Catherine's move to Marlborough had been due to bullying (Daily Telegraph article here; one of many Daily Mail articles here; Richard Palmer for the Daily Express article here).

Catherine's parents, Carole and Michael, who have lived for years in Bucklebury, Berkshire, bought a grand seven-bedroom Georgian mansion in the village in 2012, to afford them (and the Cambridges, who are frequent visitors) more privacy than their former, smaller property:


The Duchess Dictionary: Anmer Hall

The country residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Anmer was a wedding gift from the Queen. Located on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, it lies about 12 miles (19 km) from King's Lynn and a mere 2 miles (3.2 km) from the Queen's own residence at Sandringham House.

Anmer Hall is a 10-bedroom late-Georgian house and dates back to the 18th centrury, although it was perhaps built around an earlier core. It has two stories with attics and a red brick south-front (the one most often photographed) refaced in its current appearance around 1815. The house was registered as a Grade II*-listed building in 1984.

It is thought to have been the birthplace of Elizabethan Jesuit martyr St Henry Walpole. The house was added to the Sandringham estate in 1898 by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. It first served as the private residence of John Loader Maffey, 1st Baron Rugby and Governor-General of the Sudan; later it was leased to the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who made it their country home from 1972 to 1990. It was then privately rented, first by Hugh van Cutsem, a friend of the Prince of Wales and the father of William van Cutsem, a close friend of Prince William's and godfather to Prince George, then by James Everett, the owner of bespoke kitchen and timber company Norfolk Oak.


Previous residents:
John Loader Maffey, 1st Baron Rugby, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Hugh van Cutsem.

When the Queen decided to allocate Anmer to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the lease to the Everett family, which was due to expire in 2017, was terminated early to allow for refurbishments.

The redevelopment program, details of which were made public at the time of the planning application being submitted on behalf of the Queen to the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, cost an estimated £1.5 million and included the conversion of storage rooms into accomodation for the Duke and Duchess's police protection officers, a new roof and new kitchen, the re-routing of the driveway to create a larger parking area further away from prying eyes and extensive tree-planting, again to afford more privacy to the family.

Anmer Hall undergoing renovations in 2013.
Architect Charles Morris and interior designers Anne Allen and Ben Pentreath, who has worked for the likes of the Prince of Wales and Sarah Jessica Parker, supervised the building works. It has been reported that the dining room has been painted jewel green.
In April 2015, just before the birth of Princess Charlotte, speculation mounted that the Duchess was indeed pregnant with a baby girl when reports emerged that Oxford interior design company Annie Sloan had delivered three pink paint samples to Anmer Hall.
The samples were reportedly "Antoinette", described as a soft pale pink inspired by the decorative pieces and interiors of 18th century France, "Emile", a warm soft aubergine colour with pink red undertones, and "Henrietta", a beautiful rich complex pink with a hint of lilac:
Left to right: Antoinette, Emile and Henrietta.

In Autumn 2015 the Department of Transport agreed to the Duke and Duchess's request to ban aircraft from flying within 1.5 miles of the house "in view of the need for security for the royal family". All aircraft, including drones, are included in the ban, except for emergency services aircraft, such as Prince William's employer, East Anglian Air Ambulance, reports the Daily Mail.
Also exempt are any helicopters and planes flown by members of the Royal Family or by guests of the Royal Family who have permission to land.

In December 2016, speculation started to mount as to whether the Duke and Duchess were about to leave Anmer Hall as their main family home in favour of a permanent move to London. This would mean that Kensington Palace would become, once again, their full-time base, while Anmer would serve as a country house. The move is anticipated as the Duke and Duchess are upping their royal duties, while Prince George is expected to start school in London (possibly at Wetherby pre-prep, where his father and uncle Harry were pupils). Only time will tell!

mercoledì 4 gennaio 2017

Kate Loves: Sapphires

When you mention sapphires, the one that comes instantly to mind (well, to the royal watcher's mind, at any rate!) is the iconic engagement ring that now sparkles on Catherine's hand, and that once belonged to her late mother-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales.

Feautring a 12ct oval blue Ceylon sapphire stone surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds and mounted in 18ct white gold, it was purchased in 1981 by the Prince of Wales at a cost of £28,000 (although reports differ, and some think it was in fact the Queen who footed the bill) and is now thought to be worth more than £300,000, due to its impressive royal legacy.
Diana's selection of this ring was unusual. It was neither custom-made nor a family heirloom and was, at the time of her engagement to Charles, featured in the jeweller's catalogue and available to anyone for purchase.

Jewellery historian Leslie Field, author of The Queen's Jewels, stated: "She [Diana] had obviously already said she would like a sapphire; she had half a dozen rings [to select from]  and she chose this one purely because she liked it. Somebody came up with the story that she immediately went for the biggest, but I asked her and she told me it definitely wasn't the biggest, she simply thought it was very beautiful".

It is a piece by Garrard & Co. Limited, Crown Jewellers from 1843 to 2007 and nowadays holders of a Royal Warrant for the Prince of Wales.

Garrard's connections with Royal Weddings dates way back to 1840, when Prince Albert commissioned the London firm to create a sapphire and diamond cluster brooch as a wedding gift to his future wife, Queen Victoria. The Queen was delighted with her present, and wore the brooch pinned to her wedding dress, as shown in this portrait by Winterhalter:

Incidentally, sapphires seem to be a rather popular choice with British royal brides: besides Princess Diana, the Queen Mother also had a sapphire engagement ring (although she switched to a pearl and diamond one in later years), as did Princess Anne, who received sapphire and diamond engagement rings from both Mark Phillips (below left) and Timothy Laurence (right):

Following the death of Princess Diana, her sons selected mementoes from their late mother's possessions. It was widely reported in the press that Harry chose the engagement ring, while William opted for Diana's yellow gold Cartier watch. Eventually the brothers swapped mementoes and in October 2010 William took the priceless ring with him to Kenya, ready to pop the question.
didn't really plan it that far in advance, like I just knew I wanted it to feel comfortable where I did it and I wanted it to mean something, other than just the act of getting engaged. She understands what it means to me being in Africa, and my love of conservation
One imagines he carried a similar box in his rucksack:

I didn't really plan it that far in advance, like I just knew I wanted it to feel comfortable where I did it and I wanted it to mean something, other than just the act of getting engaged. She understands what it means to me being in Africa, and my love of conservation.
The ring was reportedly resized just before the wedding by Crown jewellers G. Collins & Sons with the addition of two tiny platinum beads to the inside, to make it a UK size I (US size 4 3/4).

During the enagement interview, Prince William talked briefly about the ring and said: "It is very special to me. It was my way of making sure my mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement, and the fact we are going to spend the rest of our lives together", while Catherine said: "It's beautiful. I just hope to look after it. It's very, very special".

And of course she was right. As far as engagement rings go, I don't think it gets any more iconic than this!

The style is, unsurprisingly, very widely replikated! By far the best one I've come across so far (and, believe me, I've looked!) is this one from Aliexpress. A bit pricey, but gets discounted quite frequently, so check back if you're interested - I recommend waiting for Chinese New Year at the end of January if you'd like to order, as Aliexpress sellers usually have big promotions going on. Even at full retail price, I'd say it's worth every penny.

Slightly smaller than Kate's ring (the 'sapphire is approx. 9 x 7 mm), which makes it a more believable size even for us mere commoners, it features 14 clear crystals surrounding the central stone, the same number as the original. I've had it for about 18 months and the metal is still in absolutely perfect condition and has not tarnished at all, even with frequent wears, so definitely a recommended purchase!

I also have the platinum-plated "Regal" ring from Marks & Spencer. This particular style is sold out now, but very similar rings remain available.

I wouldn't recommend them, though, based on my experience with the "Regal" (shown below left in both pictures): the metal has tarnished quite visibly and the crystal is a very dark midnight blue with not much sparkle to it. It's also visibly rounder than its Aliexpress counterpart.

For the engagement press conference, Kate paired the ring with subtle sapphire jewellery: a necklace and earring set of sapphires, diamonds and 18ct yellow gold, part of the Cabochon by the Yard collection by Elsa Peretti for Tiffany & Co. The exact style Kate wears is now discontinued:

While the necklace has only made that single appearance so far, the earrings have been worn on a number of other occasions (what's even better, you can now grab yourself a replikate in my Etsy shop! 😀):

Currently in Catherine's jewellery box is another pair of sapphire earrings, which are thought to be a modified version of a pair owned by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Diana had some fabulous sapphires in her personal collection, including a stunning Asprey parure which was a wedding present from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia:

The Princess wore the necklace and earrings quite frequently in the early years of her marriage, and occasionally the bracelet, but had the ring and watch remodeled and used the stones to create new pieces, including a pair of double-drop sapphire and diamond cluster earrings (shown below right. Note that the stone from the ring was reset as the centrepiece of a new choker):


Diana, however, also had another pair of very similar double-drop earrings, which are thought to be the ones remodeled for Kate. According to Leslie Field, these are different from the single-cluster and double-cluster earrings which were created from the strap of the Saudi gift watch. In this earrings, the top sapphire is surrounded by 8 diamonds and the bottom sapphire is surrounded by 9 diamonds, with a single brilliant-cut diamond connecting clusters. These sapphires are cabochons, not faceted stones:

Catherine first wore her sapphire and diamond earrings to a service of thanksgiving for Prince Philip's 90th birthday in June 2011:

Her pair features a cabochon sapphire surrounded by a cluster of nine diamonds and suspended from a single diamond on top. The editor at Diana's Jewels notices "that there are extra prongs around the sapphire to match the prongs on her engagement ring.  The one on Diana's only has four visible prongs".
Since their first appearance, the earrings have been worn at numerous occasions throughout the years:

Worn only once so far is a glamorous pair of sapphire and diamond fringe earrings which belonged to the Queen Mother and was loaned to Kate for an appearance at the 100 Women in Hedge Funds gala at the Victoria & Albert Museum in October 2015:

The Queen's Jewel Vault has a bit more info on this piece, although not much is known about the history and provenance of this earrings.

Of course we can look forward to Kate wearing many more stunning sapphire pieces over the years to come, there's no shortage of them in the royal vaults, as illustrated below by the Queen wearing three different sets - and while there's only one sapphire tiara currently in use, there are many more earrings, bracelets and brooches to chose from!