- Associated Press - Monday, July 11, 2011

Even in a town where celebrity-studded awards shows are commonplace, it was the most anticipated event of the season.

It wasn’t Prince William’s match at the charity polo game Saturday. It wasn’t the visit to Los Angeles’ Skid Row on Sunday.

It was the unveiling of the Duchess of Cambridge’s travel wardrobe.

Much expectation followed the young royal couple as they took their first state trip to Canada and the United States, with royal-watchers wondering how they would handle themselves, celebrity-hounds delighting over the mix of real and Hollywood royalty, and fashion observers waiting for new looks from a duchess whose picks can clear stockrooms within hours of an appearance.

To many, the former Kate Middleton’s sartorial choices in California hit just the right notes _ even though she didn’t pack any surprises.

She brought all feminine looks, among them: a pleated lilac floor-length gown designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, a vibrant green Diane von Furstenberg shift with a waist-tie, and a silver silk dress with hand-painted flowers by British designer Jenny Packham.

“It’s like our first ladies,” said Kate Betts, a contributor editor for Time magazine and the author of “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style.” “We’re always going to think of them as role models _ people we look to as some kind of example, either by the way they dress or the way they speak.”

The duchess eschewed bright colors and bold prints even in sunny Southern California, though she donned the floral Packham for a charity polo match in Santa Barbara.

That designer also made a yellow silk dress that the duchess wore in Canada. But Kate is known for repeats: She prefers drapey dresses by the Brazilian designer Issa; the cream Reiss dress she wore in her engagement photo showed up again in Canada; and her nude-colored leather pumps and straw box-clutch from British upscale fashion brand LK Bennett were frequent sights during the 11-day trip.

“She’s repeating things to make sure people understand she’s not overspending in this very difficult economic moment,” Betts said. “It’s very age-appropriate. She’s what, 29? People that age don’t have thousands of pairs of shoes. It’s not something someone that age does or cares about.”

For the celebrity-studded black-tie BAFTA dinner Saturday, where the royal couple were the honored guests, she wore the McQueen gown and a pair of Jimmy Choos platform sandals.

Avril Graham, a fellow Brit and executive fashion and beauty editor for Harper’s Bazaar, said she wasn’t surprised that Burton, who made Kate’s two dresses on her wedding day, was responsible for the BAFTA gown.

Graham said its simplicity and bejeweled waistband recalled Kate’s wedding reception dress. She praised the duchess for resisting “the temptation to overdress, over-glitz a la Hollywood red-carpet glam.”

Betts also declared it a hit, saying that the duchess stuck to her usual “easy and fluid” style.

“It was fluid and beautiful, almost like a T-shirt. It had a very American feeling to it,” she said. “When I looked at what the celebrities were wearing at the event, it seemed too uptight and over-done and over-styled compared to her.”

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