The Most Inappropriate Outfits Kate Middleton Has Worn

We all have some semblance of a dress code we have to follow, whether that means wearing a suit and tie to work or not wearing white pants after Labor Day. But the royal family? They have to follow some very strict rules when it comes to their attire — especially Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Middleton's position as the (likely) future queen consort and mother of princes and a princess means that she can't just wear whatever she wants. She's subject to a stringent royal dress code that includes certain hem lengths, hats and gloves on formal occasions, and tiaras only after 6 p.m. (one of many strict rules royals must follow when wearing tiaras).

Considering she gets photographed almost every time she steps outside, it makes sense that Kate Middleton is bound to be caught in a dress code slip-up every once in a while. But while us normal folks can get away with poor choices of attire, the duchess' fashion gaffes have caused considerable controversy. From wearing the same dress more than once (gasp!) to rocking short shorts for charity, here are some of the most inappropriate outfits Kate Middleton has ever worn.

Kate Middleton wore this lilac dress multiple times

Almost every princess has an iconic dress — Disney's Elsa rocks her ice-blue sheath, Belle dances in her yellow ball gown, and Tiana marries her prince in a green wedding dress. Kate Middleton? She has her lilac Roksanda Ilinčić dress. There's nothing inappropriate about the dress itself with its demure hemline, flattering gathered fabric, and romantic hue. However, the fact that Middleton has worn it at several public events does break an unspoken rule of fashion for both royals and celebrities. According to Elle, the duchess first wore her lilac dress at an event in California in 2011, and then again at the UK's Creative Industries Reception in 2012. She even wore the same dress in a chic beige color during her trip to Australia in 2014 (via Elle). 

Has Middleton's obsession with the dress had an effect on its sales? Maybe. In 2011, she wore a Reiss dress to an event, and according to Express, David Reiss, the founder and managing director of Reiss, said, "The surge in web traffic following the release of these images of her wearing the dress caused our website to crash." We wonder if her favorite lilac dress is sold out now...

Kate Middleton repped the wrong country with this inappropriate outfit in 2012

Back in 2012, Kate Middleton and her husband, Prince William, paid a visit to the Solomon Islands, an island chain near Papua New Guinea. During the visit, Middleton wore a dress that made headlines for all the wrong reasons. What was wrong with her dress? It wasn't too short, too revealing, or even unflattering. It was just a simple sundress that was made in a different country. The duke and duchess were supposed to wear handmade, traditional Solomon Islands clothing for the event, but, according to the Daily Mail, an aid accidentally laid out a dress made in the Cook Islands instead. 

The mistake, which became known as one of the most inappropriate royal outfits, created quite a ruckus with the Solomon Islands, leading the small country's government to write a strongly worded statement expressing its distaste. In response, a spokesperson of the British government said, "The Duchess wore the dress because she believed it to be from the Solomon Islands government and thought it would be an appropriate gesture. Had she known it were from the Cook Islands it would not have been worn and she feels bad about the confusion."

Kate Middleton showed her knees at the queen's birthday event in 2016

How can anyone avoid breaking the rules if the rules keep changing? Kate Middleton fell victim to ever-changing rules at an event in 2016. She wore a custom Catherine Walker dress to the queen's 90th birthday service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The dress in question was powder blue with ivory lace applique trailing down its front. Though it was flattering, modest with long sleeves and a high neckline, and paired with a kicky white hat, the dress exposed Middleton's knees. Gasp!

Why are the duchess' knees so terrible to behold? The queen herself reportedly enacted a new longer hemline rule in the winter of 2014. According to the Daily Mail, the queen ordered Middleton to pack day dresses with lower hemlines and a carefully selected cache of jewels from Her Majesty's personal collection for her trip to Australia that summer. Apparently, the longer hemline order stuck around, but hopefully, for Kate's sake, so did the royal family jewels.

Kate Middleton's floaty dress got a little too floaty

As any dress-wearing human can attest, sometimes the wind is not a friend. Unfortunately for Kate Middleton, a photographer was on the scene when the wind took her dress for a ride. Middleton and her husband visited Australia in 2014 for a royal tour, stopping off at the lovely Blue Mountains for a photo-op. It was then that, according to News.com.au, a gust of wind from an ascending helicopter blew up Middleton's dress and exposed her, um, royal backside. 

Luckily, British and Australian news agencies refused to publish the pictures of Kate and her embarrassing moment. Unluckily, the photos made it overseas to Germany where Bidle.de, a German tabloid, published them with the (translated) caption, "Photos show our favourite Duchess Kate, 32, in the Australian Blue Mountains. The rotor blades of the royal helicopter swirl the air so that Kate's summer dress blew up — giving a clear view of her beautiful bum!" Not cool, Germany. Not cool.

Kate Middleton once wore a see-through dress for charity

Though it might feel like Kate Middleton has always been a royal, there was a time before she was the Duchess of Cambridge. Back in those days, she was just like any other girl, going to school, making friends, and walking in charity fashion shows wearing see-through dresses. Yes, that actually happened. Back in 2002, Middleton walked in the Don't Walk charity fashion show, rocking a see-through designer dress by Charlotte Todd (via E! News). The body-hugging, nylon-like dress revealed only a black bra and underwear set — definitely not palace-approved. 

Her future husband Prince William didn't seem to mind. He was sitting front row during the fashion show. Discussing their relationship in 2010, he told ABC News, "When I first met Kate I knew there was something very special about her. I knew there was possibly something that I wanted to explore there." Did her bare-all dress have something to do with the prince's infatuation? Who knows for sure... but it certainly didn't hurt.

Kate Middleton forgot to get a pedicure for this 2016 event

We've all been there — we're ready to go for a big event with dress, hair, and shoes all set, and then we realize we forgot all about a pedicure. Luckily for us average people, forgetting a little toe nail polish isn't the end of the world. Kate Middleton is not a normal person. She visited India and Bhutan with Prince William in April of 2016. As reported by the Daily Mail, one stop along their route was the Gandhi Smiriti museum where, as per local custom, Middleton took off her shoes to reveal un-pedicured feet. The duchess' feet caused quite a stir as the royals are known for never having a hair, or nail, out of place.

The incident also called Middleton's foot health was into question. Dave Wein, a podiatrist at Carnation Footcare, told the Daily Mail, "There looks like there may be some rubbing or even the start of a corn on the little toe. You can also see the fourth and fifth toes deviate towards the centre of the foot." He went on to explain that the issue is common in women who frequently wear high heels, like Middleton.

In 2016, Kate Middleton got cozy in real fur and faced criticism

Everyone knows that wearing real fur isn't necessarily popular these days. But if you're a public figure, wearing fur can be downright controversial. Kate Middleton took a family ski trip in 2016 that quickly turned into a PR nightmare — all because she wore possum fur-lined Restelli Guanti gloves. PETA U.K. was quick to criticize the duchess for her fur pas. 

Mimi Bekhechi, the director of PETA U.K., said in a statement to E! News, "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." Bekhechi added, "Since so many humane, warm and fashionable fabrics are readily available, there's no need to wear fur ­possum or otherwise." Yikes. Middleton is definitely not the first royal to wear fur (Queen Elizabeth herself was known to wear leopard coats). But, after all this drama, she might be the last.

Kate Middleton stole the show in a scarlet dress

According to royal dress code, as noted by BBC News, the queen wears bright colors to make sure she stands out, even in a crowd. But what happens when another member of the royal family also shows up in a bold hue? Kate Middleton found out firsthand after she wore a bright red Alexander McQueen dress to the queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Though Middleton looked gorgeous, especially since she completed the look with a red Sylvia Fletcher hat and a tartan scarf, people were not pleased that she stole the show. 

The Daily Mail called her outfit "inappropriate," and went on to remark that reality TV stars Kim Kardashian and Tulisa Contostavlos both wore sleeveless versions of the same dress, insinuating that it's not a good thing for a royal to be associated with such people. The Daily Mail might have a point. It doesn't seem like a good idea to outshine the queen. She is, after all, the queen.

Kate Middleton rocks skinny jeans, but is that inappropriate for a royal?

It's hard to imagine a time before skinny jeans. But, for Kate Middleton, skintight pants might be forever in the past. The Duchess of Cambridge does have a penchant for skinny jeans, as she wears them seemingly at casual events every chance she gets. Middleton even chose to wear skinny jeans for her first appearance since quarantining for the COVID-19 pandemic began (via Elle). Her love of skinny jeans was even cited by the Daily Mail as a reason why British researchers are worried about possible circulatory complications from frequently wearing tight pants.

But what does the royal dress code say about skintight denim? For casual wear, it's best for ladies to don a dress, skirt, or tailored trousers paired with a cardigan or jacket. "Many places will not allow jeans as they are still seen as very casual wear, so it is better to play safe for both sexes," said Diana Mather of The English Manner etiquette consultancy, as noted by BBC News. Seems we might have seen the last of Kate Middleton's skinny jeans.

Kate Middleton wore some seriously short shorts in 2008

It's very rare to see Kate Middleton in anything but timeless, chic, and elegant attire — except when she's rocking neon short shorts! Back in 2008, before she was officially a royal, Middleton helped organize the Day-Glo Midnight Roller Disco charity event. The event was a success for two reasons: one, it raised $200,000 for a ward of a children's hospital, and two, it gave the world photos of the future duchess in yellow hot pants, a sparkly green halter top, pink leg warmers, and pink roller skates.

Where was her husband-to-be during her disco romp? Prince William was off working as a full-time RAF helicopter search and rescue pilot, leaving Kate to have her fun and raise some money, too. The Daily Mail called her disco look "inelegant" and reported that Buckingham Palace sources felt "appalled" by her "most unladylike display." While there is a strict dress code even for casual situations, we feel one of Middleton's old friends said it best when they said, according to the Daily Mail, "What do they want her to do — sit at home every evening watching television just because her prince is away?"

Outfits featuring these shoes are reportedly deemed inappropriate by the queen

One royal setback is having to spend a lot of time in heels. Ouch. Kate Middleton seemed to have found a workaround, though, in the form of chic wedges. Take, for example, her tour of Australia and New Zealand in the spring of 2014. There was hardly a day when Middleton wasn't walking around in wedges. She seemed to favor one stylish pair in particular, Stuart Weitzman Corkswoon Pumps in navy suede with a cork heel, as she wore them several times throughout the tour, as reported by E! News.

But Middleton's beloved wedges have disappeared. Her Majesty the Queen might have something to do with it. As Vanity Fair reported in 2015, a royal source said, "The Queen isn't a fan of wedged shoes," noting, "She really doesn't like them and it's well known among the women in the family." What the queen wants the queen gets. Middleton has switched up her footwear to feature timeless — and still somewhat comfortable — low-heeled pumps.

Kate Middleton wore trousers, an unusual choice for a royal

While women donning menswear is decidedly "in" right now, it's a big no-no for royals like Kate Middleton. The Duchess of Cambridge broke royal dress code when she wore trousers to a meeting with the finalists for her Hold Still photo project in October of 2020, according to Elle. Middleton wore tailored black trousers that she completed with a white top, bright red coat, sensible heels, and, of course, a mask. This isn't the first time she's worn a pants instead of a skirt. Middleton also wore one to an interview with a British broadcaster for the Pride of Britain Awards in London as well as a pink suit to an appearance with Prince William. Her sister-in-law Meghan Markle is also known to favor slacks and pantsuits. 

However stylish these pants may be, they are still in contradiction with Queen Elizabeth's royal dress code preferences. A People article in 2018 interviewed a royal source regarding the pant problem. The source revealed that "the Queen prefers women in dresses or skirts rather than trouser suits."

Kate Middleton's wedding dress sparked some drama

Absolutely no one can argue that Kate Middleton looked anything other than stunning, elegant, and definitely royal in her wedding dress, which marked on of the most expensive outfits Kate Middleton has ever worn. However, in 2016, a very un-royal scandal came to light surrounding the famed Alexander McQueen bridal gown. According to WWD, The Sunday Times reported that another bridal designer named Christine Kendall filed a breach of copyright claim at London's Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in 2016. The claim alleged that Kendall's dress designs were "unfairly taken and copied" by Alexander McQueen to make Middleton's gown.

A spokeswoman from Alexander McQueen responded to the allegations, saying that they were "nonsense" and that the McQueen designer responsible for the dress "never saw any of Ms. Kendall's designs or sketches and did not know of Ms. Kendall before Ms. Kendall got in touch with us — some 13 months after the wedding." The spokesperson noted, "We do not know why Ms. Kendall has raised this again, but there are no if's, buts or maybes here: This claim is ridiculous." Despite the drama, Kate Middleton has continued to wear Alexander McQueen pieces proudly.

Kate Middleton dressed too "dreary" in India

Staying "appropriate" according to royal standards is akin to walking a tightrope — one must find a perfect balance without falling too far one way or the other, like Kate Middleton did when she and Prince William went to India and Bhutan in 2016. Usually when Middleton's outfits are called into question it's because they were too revealing, too modern, or too casual, but her clothing in India was touted as the opposite: too boring. 

As reported by the Independent, royal fans were very disappointed by Middleton's wardrobe during her trip. They were hoping for colorful, fun, and otherwise entertaining style, but what they got were outfits that were described as "dreary," lacking "pizazz," and "dowdy." Apparently Middleton's wardrobe team even took loud, modern designs from fashion big-wigs like Alexander McQueen and altered them to be more subtle and demure. The Independent went on to write that "whoever is advising the Duchess of Cambridge should be sacked." Poor Kate can't win.