The Duchess of Cambridge and Family Refine the Art of Pantone Politics


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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, on Wednesday as they arrived at Berlin Tegel Airport.

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Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The second European outreach tour by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which took place this week in Poland and Germany, was notable for a number of reasons.

First was the trip’s success as what German newspapers called “die royale Charme-Offensive,” a.k.a. the use of the “New Gen” royals as envoys to reassure Europeans that just because Britain is leaving the European Union, it doesn’t mean everyone can’t be friends. Second was the fact that — unlike the first tour, to France — the young family went en bloc, with Prince George, 3, and Princess Charlotte, 2, joining their parents. And third was the canny use of the family’s clothing to present a coordinated picture of friendship and cultural awareness.

A color-coordinated picture, to be exact.

Diplomats and politicians using their wardrobes as vehicles of communication is increasingly part of the job these days — we expect it, they plan for it. Traditionally, though, the focus has been on what women wear, and largely what spouses of leaders wear, in part because they tend to be cast in a role that demands their clothes do the speaking for them.

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The duchess wore a Jenny Packham dress in Heidelberg, Germany on Thursday.

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Pool photo by Marijan Murat

Originally, that took the form of support for home industry (like wearing creations by designers from your country, the better to get their names known round the world). Later, it evolved into cross-border symbolism: wearing the styles of designers from the country being visited, or who were born in the country being visiting and who later moved to your country, thus serving notice that you cared about the host country’s creative community. Either way, the thought process was revealed by the inevitable question, “Who are you wearing?”

Now, however, we seem to have reached something of a new stage.

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The duchess wore a dress by the Polish designer Gosia Baczynska on Monday in Warsaw.

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Radek Pietruszka/European Pressphoto Agency

The duchess — the former Kate Middleton — has employed both of the above tactics quite effectively on official trips to India, Canada and the United States, and did so again this time around, wearing British names such as Alexander McQueen, Catherine Walker and Jenny Packham, and Gosia Baczynska, a Polish designer, to a party in honor of the Queen’s birthday in Warsaw; Markus Lupfer, a German-born designer now working in London, to a reception in Berlin; and Hugo Boss, to compete in a rowing race in Heidelberg, Germany. But it was the two moments of arrival in each country, when the Cambridges deplaned en masse and in theme, that made the most impact.

Why was that? Well, because they got the whole family involved!

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The duchess wore a dress by Markus Lupfer, a German-born designer now based in London, to a reception in Berlin on Thursday.

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Pool photo by Sean Gallup

Landing in Warsaw, for example, they were a symphony in (mostly) red and white, Poland’s national colors: the duchess in white Alexander McQueen; the duke in a navy suit, white shirt and red tie; Princess Charlotte in a red-and-white smocked dress and red shoes; Prince George in a red-and-blue check shirt and navy shorts.

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The duchess wore an Alexander McQueen skirt suit in Warsaw on July 17.

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Pool photo by Arthur Edwards

And that highly visual entrance was followed by a similarly choreographed arrival in Berlin, with the duchess in a Prussian blue — or Berlin blue — coat and dress by Catherine Walker, Prince William in a matching tie, Princess Charlotte in a blue-and-white floral dress, and Prince George in a matching light-blue shirt and again (navy) shorts.

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