Kate Middleton loves a bargain, and on Kensington High Street just a few… (Chris Jackson / For The Times )
Reporting from 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 likely 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.
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.
Middleton and her family have been loyal clients of celebrity hairdresser Richard Ward for years (the TV personality issued a "news statement" on his website congratulating the happy couple and confirmed it was one of his stylists who "enhanced Kate's look" for the engagement press day). The hairstylist's salon in the new, pedestrian-friendly outdoor mall at Duke of York Square is certainly luxe, with its own boutique, cappuccino bar and Philippe Starck mirrors at every stylist station.
The clientele is decidedly upscale — think camel coats, jeans tucked into riding boots and Tod's handbags. A blow-dry will set you back $105 at current exchange. But for those soft Middleton waves, it might just be worth it. An hour-long "Velvet Hands" manicure costs $114. And for polish, only OPI's pale pink Princesses Rule will do.
Whistles, where she bought the scalloped-edge ivory blouse she wore in some of the engagement photos, is in the same shopping complex, fronting King's Road. The brand is a bit like Madewell, not sexy but sweet. 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, 21/2 -inch Sabira heels resemble Christian Louboutin's Simple pumps but at a fraction of the price, just $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).