Royal Fashion Rules Kate Middleton Has Been Caught Breaking

During her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II was known for breaking and reinventing royal fashion, creating new style rules, and coming up with quite a few clothing hacks to keep her wardrobe up to par at all times. She formally pioneered a fashion protocol that all other royal women were to abide by, but how often did her code actually prove tried and true? As royal expert Victoria Arbiter revealed to Express, royal women having to wear tights with every outfit was "the only hard, steadfast rule" that the Queen enforced more than anything else. As for the Queen's other rules, many were just guidelines or traditions followed for centuries. 

Interestingly, royals like Kate Middleton have found themselves breaking these fashion laws on numerous occasions throughout the years. Since Middleton first stepped into the limelight in 2002 when she began dating Prince William, it was clear that she had a very strong grasp on her own sense of style and outward representation, so taking some rule-breaking risks in the name of fashion was certainly always on the table for her.

So, what exactly were some of Kate Middleton's most iconic fashion infringements? Here, we're taking a closer look at some famous instances when she simply turned a blind eye to royal fashion protocol.

Wearing fur trim

700 years ago, King Edward III created the Fur Act of 1337, which prevents royals from wearing any type of fur in their ensembles. Although the rule still remains intact, many royals, including Queen Elizabeth II herself, have broken it time and time again. 

In Kate Middleton's case, she has caused quite a bit of controversy not only for disobeying the Fur Act of 1337, but also for donning fur that was apparently real on several occasions. In 2016, it was reported by E! News that she was under close scrutiny from PETA after wearing a pair of possum-lined gloves during a royal family skiing trip. "If the gloves are indeed made of real fur, we'll be contacting Kate, who we imagine is unaware that possums killed for their fur are often caught in bone-crushing steel-jaw traps,' Mimi Bekhechi, director of PETA U.K., disclosed via a statement. 

However, this wasn't the first time PETA had something to say in regard to Middleton wearing fur. In 2012, after being falsely accused by PETA of wearing a fur-lined coat, Middleton's communications team had to come forward in her defense, stating that her coat was made entirely of faux fur. It appears that when it comes to The Princess of Wales, sticking to King Edward III's fashion rule might be the better option.

Wearing the same color as Queen Elizabeth II

In a 2022 interview with Insider, Meghan Markle revealed that she typically wore neutral colors during her time with the royal family because she did not want to "embarrass them" or upstage the queen. "To my understanding, you can't ever wear the same color as Her Majesty if there's a group event," Markle shared. "But then you also should never be wearing the same color as one of the other more senior members of the family." For Markle, avoiding bright colors altogether was the safest bet.

On the other hand, Kate Middleton has elected to be a bit more risky and bold with her color choices, so much so that she has actually found herself wearing the same color as the Queen in more than one instance. One such occasion was at the 2019 Royal Ascot, where Middleton was adorned in a light baby blue dress and hat — the same color as the Queen's suit of choice. Additionally, they both wore red in 2006 at the Sovereign's Parade at the Royal Military Academy (which was forgiven because they were different shades of red) and blue again twice in 2014 and 2018 at Trooping the Colour.

Rocking colored nail polish

When it comes to nails, royal women don't exactly have the most freedom. "It needs to be skin coloured so hot red and bright pink, for example, are not correct, especially for official occasions and particularly during mourning," etiquette and protocol consultant William Hanson tells The Sun. "So it's either translucent or dusky pink — so that would basically be the colour of your nails so it looks natural." However, when Kate Middleton stepped out on Easter in 2023, the public was in for a royal shock.

Along with Middleton's vibrant and bold electric blue blazer dress, her nails were lacquered brightly with a powerful statement shade of red. Many commended the rule-bending fashion choice, but it wasn't without notice that this may, in fact, have something to do with Queen Elizabeth II's Easter 2023 absence after her passing in 2022. It's no secret that the Queen wasn't a fan of bright nail polish, as she found it to be too distracting, so muted shades were the typical go-to around her. Middleton's bright manicure may now be the first of many with the Queen no longer in reign.

Letting her hair down on her wedding day

For the past 350 years, it has been a royal tradition and protocol for women to wear their hair in an updo on their wedding day. The first person in that timeframe to break this protocol? None other than Kate Middleton. "Royal sources tell me that the royals indicated very strongly to Kate that they would prefer her to wear her hair up for this very special occasion," royal reporter Ashley Pearson shared (via Hello!). Instead, Middleton sported a stunning half-up-half-down style that earned the approval of millions tuning in that day to catch a glimpse of the royal wedding.

After the Princess of Wales married Prince William, many royals still stuck to the time-old hair-up tradition, but Middleton did manage to inspire one to follow in her footsteps. In 2020, Princess Beatrice married Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a restricted service (due to COVID-19 regulations at the time) at the All Saints Chapel in Windsor Great Park. Though the princess paid homage to her grandmother, the Queen, by wearing one of her gowns, it appeared that she also incorporated a nod toward Kate Middleton by wearing her hair in a similar style as Middleton's half-up-half-down do.

Donning skirts that fall above the knee

As reported by royal correspondent Katie Nicholls via Glamour in 2014, Queen Elizabeth II apparently had some major concerns about the length of Kate Middleton's skirt choices in the past. Though scandalous is the last thing anyone might think about Middleton's skirt and dress lengths, the Queen reportedly felt as if they were a tad too revealing. Middleton was due to embark on an Australian tour in the spring of 2014, and it's said that the Queen herself had to step in to enforce some strict protocols for how long her skirts should and shouldn't be on the trip.

But even after Middleton's strict 2014 makeover, it seems she once again decided to ignore the Queen's request and go back to wearing skirts that fall above the knee. One notable example is when Middleton visited the 2017 Exhibition Road Quarter at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Rocking a breathtaking Gucci tweed mini dress that fell at least several inches above the knee, it's clear that Middleton wasn't afraid to toss aside her grandmother-in-law's wishes and dress in the name of fashion.

Wearing black when she's not in mourning

For royals, wearing black after the passing of another royal is typical mourning attire. In fact, they take this rule quite seriously after a harsh lesson that Queen Elizabeth II learned herself after the death of her father. "When Queen Elizabeth's flight landed in England after the death of her father, her dresser realized they hadn't packed a black mourning outfit for the new mourning Queen to be received by her ministers," jewellerybox marketing manager Daena Borrowman explained to Express. "Ever since then, Royal Family members have to compulsorily pack a black outfit when traveling."

So, when Middleton selected a black suit for an appearance at England's Natural History Museum, it came as a bit of a surprise to the public. Since she was stepping in front of the camera to announce the grand title winner of the 56th Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, this was a rather risky choice for a royal who wasn't in mourning. 

Choosing not to have weights sewn into her dresses

Time and time again over the years, Kate Middleton has been photographed having what many call a very "Marilyn Monroe moment" as her dress gets caught in the wind, flying up and revealing a decent portion of her thighs — a major royal etiquette no-no. These instances began happening all the way back in 2011, when Middleton arrived at an airport in a thin yellow frock so light and delicate that the wind on the runway seemed to whisk it right away.

It is well known that the Queen would have small curtain weights sewn into the underside of her dresses to prevent incidents like this from happening, so many began to question why Middleton didn't follow suit. "The Queen is fed up that Kate hasn't heeded advice to have her hems weighted to prevent her skirts flying up," one Buckingham Palace source disclosed to the Daily Star. And it appears Middleton still hasn't learned her lesson. In 2020, almost ten years after the first flying-skirt incident, it happened yet again during London's Royal Foundation Mental Health in Education Conference, when her tweed skirt flew up as she stepped out of the car.

Wearing open-toed shoes

Notably, the Queen had very strong preferences for which shoes were and were not appropriate for royal women to wear. When it came to open-toed shoes, they were seen as too revealing. "Open-toed shoes are considered informal footwear and inappropriate for formal occasions," etiquette expert William Hanson shared with Harper's Bazaar regarding the royal viewpoint of this style. In fact, guests who attended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding were asked not to wear open-toed shoes, and those who did were criticized for being disrespectful.

While this isn't a rule that Kate Middleton breaks often, she has, on several occasions, done so. A fan of Jimmy Choo, Middleton has sported a large number of the high-profile designer's shoes, including numerous strappy, open-toed styles. Since the Princess of Wales' Choos lean more on the glam side, she often wears them to more glitzy and gilded Hollywood affairs or film awards. There has been no reported word on what the Queen had to say about Middleton's toe-revealing styles, but it doesn't seem coincidental that she never chose to wear them to events that Her Majesty would be attending.

Showing up to events in shorts

According to traditional royal protocol, dressing young boys in shorts is considered to distinguish them from middle-class boys who would typically wear trousers. "The modern habit of upper class families choosing to dress their boys in shorts will deliberately hark back to a bygone age," William Hanson tells Harper's Bazaar. "The British upper set are always keen to hold on to tradition, and this one also silently marks them out from 'the rest.'"

If wearing shorts is a tradition reserved for young royal boys, why has Kate Middleton broken protocol by showing up to different events in shorts? Daena Borrowman reveals that it likely has to do with putting on an image for the public. "There are dozens of somewhat outdated royal protocols in place to guide working royals about dressing for 'the job,'" she explains to Express. "However, royal women are choosing their outfits to keep up with the times, in order to appear more relatable to the public." Borrowman continues by sharing that when Middleton switches out her typically formal attire for shorts and polos, she is sending a subliminal message to the public.

Carrying large handbags

In 2017, Meghan Markle made headlines when she accessorized an outfit for an appearance with a large tote bag instead of a clutch. Due to an interview that William Hanson did with the Daily Mail, people mistakenly thought Markle was breaking royal fashion protocol. In the interview, Hanson declared that Kate Middleton always donned a small clutch in her hand at events in order to deter unwelcome handshakes; it is royal protocol for members of the royal family not to accept handshakes unless they initiate them first. However, royal expert Victoria Arbiter later explained to Insider that there is no official royal protocol regarding purses or handbags.

Even though carrying a small clutch isn't exactly a rule, the tradition can be traced all the way back to Princess Diana, who often carried one to cover her chest when stepping out of cars. So, when Kate Middleton appeared at the 2016 Wimbledon women's semi-finals adorned with a large, white Victoria Beckham Quincy bag, she seemingly broke tradition for not only herself, but Princess Diana, too.

Not wearing tights at all times

According to Victoria Arbiter, out of all of the royal fashion protocols, women wearing tights with every outfit was the one rule the Queen enforced the most while she was alive. "You never see a royal without their nude stockings," Arbiter told Insider. But shortly after Meghan Markle sparked controversy for complementing an outfit with a tote bag instead of a clutch, she found herself making headlines again when her and Prince Harry's engagement photos were released. The culprit this time? Not wearing tights with her engagement ensemble.

Nevertheless, Markle was not the first royal to make a splash for disobeying the Queen's rule. Though Kate Middleton takes the pantyhose protocol quite seriously and is almost never seen without them, her efforts to appear more relatable to the public often involve tossing aside some of her more "stiff" articles of clothing by swapping tights and skirts for shorts and sneakers. But even when Middleton is attending a more formal event, she has been known to forgo the stockings every now and then. For example, shortly after announcing her second pregnancy, Middleton stepped out in a striking pale blue Jenny Packham dress as she seemingly omitted stockings altogether, showing off her legs.

Going against the Queen's no wedge request

Although there are no "official" rules pertaining to shoes in the royal family, most people who were around the Queen when she was alive knew that following her preferences for style was an important way to show respect. When the subject of shoes was on the table, Queen Elizabeth II was not shy about expressing which ones she did and did not care for. "The Queen isn't a fan of wedged shoes," a royal source reported to Vanity Fair in 2015. "She really doesn't like them and it's well known among the women in the family."

Regardless, it's apparent that Kate Middleton is, in fact, a fan of a good wedge, as she's been seen rocking them on numerous occasions. What was Middleton's way around this when the Queen was alive? Well, it appears that Middleton felt that what the Queen didn't know wouldn't hurt her, so anytime she wanted to sport a comfy pair of wedges, she would simply do so at events that the Queen was not attending.

Taking off her jacket in public

Kate Middleton has undoubtedly followed in the footsteps of the royals who came before her in the fashion department. Queen Elizabeth II broke rules by wearing fur, and Princess Diana wore black when she wasn't in mourning and chose not to sport hats and gloves even when protocol required her to. In the royal family, it is believed that members will begin to bend and break rules to forge new ones when they feel it's time to prove themselves ready to take the lead.

When Middleton began taking her jacket off in public around 2021, it caught the eye of several etiquette experts. Typically, it is customary for royals to keep their jackets on through the entirety of an event, whether indoors or outdoors. "Once inside [the Imperial War Museum], Kate took off her coat," royal style writer Elizabeth Holmes wrote on Instagram regarding an event Middleton attended in 2021 (via Express). "Which should not be a big deal, it's a very common thing for everyone everywhere to do. But this is the Royal Family we are talking about, and they don't typically 'disrobe' (aka take off their coats) in public."