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The 'Kate Effect': Australia feels the royal force of fashion

By Max Foster, CNN
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
This $325 Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress sold out just eight minutes after pictures of Kate wearing it last week in Australia popped up online. This $325 Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress sold out just eight minutes after pictures of Kate wearing it last week in Australia popped up online.
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11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
11 of Kate's sell-out ensembles
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The "Kate effect" sees everything that the Duchess of Cambridge wears sell out
  • The website What Kate Wore identifies her outfits within minutes of her appearances
  • She is known for championing high-street labels, and wearing garments more than once
  • Now Prince George seems to have the same fashion pull

Sydney, Australia (CNN) -- It's an awkward reality of royal reporting that we're also in the fashion business. To be perfectly frank I've no expertise nor credibility in this area but I do what I can by forwarding on any details I get from the palace. I also lean heavily on those who know what they're talking about.

I'm certainly not dismissive. The "Kate effect" is a widely accepted phenomenon in the fashion business. The Duchess of Cambridge isn't known for high fashion; in fact she often wears high-street outfits that might even be -- gasp! -- out of season. But, when they're available, they'll sell out within hours of her wearing them, guaranteed.

2012: The Kate effect' on fashion

On tours like this one in Australia, there are new outfits appearing every day. When they're in the vaguely affordable bracket -- such as the $325 Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress worn last week -- then it's spending spree time for her fans.

Fashion detectives

Central to this phenomenon is an intrepid troupe of digital fashion scouts who identify and source Kate's outfits within minutes of them appearing in public. Chief scout would be Susan Kelley, best known by her Twitter handle: @WhatKateWore.

The Duchess has been wedded to her favorite wedge heels in even the most inappropriate situations.
Rebecca English, royal correspondent for the Daily Mail

Kelley was also the first to spot a potential challenger to Kate's royal fashion crown. Cue "The George Effect."

"Having one's child wearing the identical sweater a real-life Prince is wearing? That has a lot of cachet. Especially when it's something you can find at your local Baby Gap store," says Kelley.

During George's main public engagement at Government House in Wellington, he was dressed in a pair of "sailboat smocked dungarees" by the British designer Rachel Riley. They were an instant sell-out in the smaller sizes.

Susan Kelley says: "There is also the allure that comes with scarcity. If there is such a thing as the anti-Kardashian baby then Prince George is it. He is not paraded out and about, his parents are not making deals to sell rights to photographs of him, he is very much protected behind the proverbial Palace walls. Nor is he seen wearing something new every time he is in public.

"The Duchess has done the same thing with his wardrobe she does with her own: repeating and recycling outfits. While the Prince has worn some more upscale items, designer duds for the sandbox set if you will, he has also worn those pieces more than once. His little cardigan with the soldiers on the front? Seen at least twice on the tour. His blue dungarees with the sailboat? Worn twice. I don't believe the Duchess has any intention of turning him into a clotheshorse."

Having one's child wearing the identical sweater a real-life Prince is wearing? That has a lot of cachet.
Susan Kelley, of What Kate Wore website

Practical fashion?

Kate certainly has a more relaxed sartorial approach than her regal predecessors. "This hasn't been a vintage tour as far as royal fashion goes," says Rebecca English, royal correspondent for the UK's Daily Mail newspaper. "But then, given the more casual nature of the trip, it hasn't leant itself to it either."

So far in Australia, the talk has been more about Kate's shoes than her outfits, says English: "Particularly the fact that the Duchess has been wedded to her favorite wedge heels in even the most inappropriate situations.

"She wore five inch Russell and Bromley 'Corkswoon' wedges to walk around a mountain ledge with a stomach-churning 300-foot sheer drop in the Blue Mountains, and on the world famous surf beach at Manly she doggedly kept on her four inch Stuart Weizmann 'Minx' heels as she walked across the sand - even though her most senior aide had kicked hers off."

Who knew the subtle sacrifices a duchess makes in the name of fashion? Or, indeed, that I would be reporting on it?

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