Happy New Year everyone! We thought we could kick off the new year with a post discussing how we ID all those pieces Meghan (and Kate) wear. We invited Susan Kelley, Founder of What Kate Wore, to join in on this special post.
“The Susans” give the inside scoop on how to ID Kate and Meghan’s fashion —
If there is one question we at What Meghan Wore get asked more than any other, it is this: “How do you do it?” Meaning, of course, how do we identify what Kate and Meghan are wearing so quickly, and how the fashion identifying process works. I sat down with the two experts in this field, Susan Kelley, What Kate Wore’s founder and editor-in-chief, and Susan Courter, founder and editor-in-chief of What Meghan Wore, to give a little insight.
Rachel Burchfield, What Meghan Wore Editor: Tell us your process for IDing looks. What are the tricks of the trade?
Susan Kelley: One of the easiest ways to gather information is to follow royal reporters on Twitter. Kensington Palace will often tell one or two of them who the primary designer is that the Duchess is wearing, such as the coat brand or dress brand, and they share this on Twitter. Occasionally they will provide a hat designer’s name, but they do not provide information on accessories, jewelry, that sort of thing. That can make it very easy to go to a designer’s site and find the item.
But if that information isn’t provided or you are looking for other items, like shoes or handbags, the most important thing is to know the brands the Duchess favors. She sticks to a core group of designers for most engagements, particularly accessories; shoes frequently come from Gianvito Rossi, Emmy London, and a few other labels. Her handbag game has been upped recently with the addition of new brands, but she will return to her favorite styles again and again.
If the Palace doesn’t release information, or if it is a “private engagement” like the annual Christmas walk to church, watching Prince William play polo, or many other functions, then there’s a search ahead. Again, it pays to know the core cadre of designers and retailers she is most likely to wear and to think about the type of engagement she is attending. If it is a black-tie event, her go-to designers are Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham, and Erdem. If it is a standard daywear situation, we look for brands like Massimo Dutti, Sandro, Boden, Zara, Catherine Walker, LK Bennett, and many others.
A group of us who have become friends over the years have a private group where we knock around ideas about specific items and styles. Often, several heads looking at a mystery item can come up with the ID that we have individually missed.
The specific search terms you use can be very important in searching for an item. Things as simple as using the word “check” as opposed to “plaid” can make a big difference. Doing a search on the Google U.K. site instead of the U.S. site can make a difference. When looking for styles worn by the Cambridge children, I often use Google Spain. Another tip: eBay seller CopyKate has an incredible talent for finding items that have all of us flummoxed.
Below, a tweet from What Kate Wore thanking eBay seller CopyKate for her find of a Boden cardigan worn by Kate for an event in November, 2020.
Susan Courter: In Meghan’s case, it’s very much the same process as Susan Kelley shared. When Meghan was a working royal, a few royal reporters would tweet the information within seconds of her stepping out for an engagement, again, because someone on her staff tell them the designers or brands she was wearing. That’s when I go to work on finding out the exact item she has on from those brands. My go-to is also Google images, using specific key words to find the item. When you’ve done it for so long, you get a knack for the right set of key words to use in searching.
Rebecca English, a member of the Royal Rota, tweets information on Meghan’s outfit worn during the couple’s visit to Ireland, July 2018.
Another example of when Rebecca English provided information on one of Kate’s dresses worn for the Queen’s Sovereigns’ luncheon, May 2012 — from What Kate Wore.
As Susan Kelley said, we also have a group of friends that shares information with one another for Meghan. I have a list I use on Twitter of people that are good at IDing items which has proven very helpful. I can quickly click on the list with the accounts I’ve included and sometimes the information will pop-up. There’s a lot of little things going on behind the scenes and it’s all moving very, very fast.
I’d also like to add that we both try to be sure to give credit in our posts to the person or source that ID’d a piece first, that is, if we haven’t ID’d it ourselves. It’s basically this unwritten blogger etiquette rule so to speak. In cases where it’s a repeat item that Kate or Meghan has worn, then we don’t necessarily credit anyone, it’s just mute at that point. Another scenario would be if we all recognize or find the designer piece on our own and share the info at the same time – we’re all doing the same frantic searching and this happens often.
Various tweets and posts from What Meghan Wore giving thanks and credit to those who helped ID a number of pieces over the years.
Over on What Kate Wore, a post in which Susan Kelley gives thanks for the help in identifying pieces Kate wore while in India, April 2016.
I do find myself jumping down the internet search rabbit hole on and off looking for a piece. Sometimes I’m just stumped and can’t find it. Occasionally it’s sheer luck and you stumble upon the item or something else leads you to it. If I’m not sure, I’ll reach out to the brand for confirmation. For this, you can’t just go to customer service, you have to reach out to the company’s key people. We have specific people we know at some companies who we can contact directly and they will confirm if it is one of their pieces, or sometimes they will just email us immediately.
One example of “sheer luck” — the night before Meghan and Harry’s engagement in Cardiff, UK, I did some research on local clothing companies and designers in Cardiff. I found Hiut denim and said to Susan Kelley, “I bet she wears a pair of jeans from this company for the engagement tomorrow!” Low and behold, I was right! —
We have had, on a couple of occasions, instances where a brand will claim it’s one of their items, and come to find out later that’s not the case. This can be a little frustrating as it can cause confusion for followers. However, Susan Kelley and I have always had the policy that if we ID something and it’s wrong, we will correct it in the post, put a note, draw a strike through the sentence, and indicate at the top that the post is updated. We try not to hide it and we own up to our mistakes, which is the right way to handle it.
Susan Kelley and I both feel the same way: It’s more important to get it right than being first out the gate with IDs. People want to know, particularly if they’re buying the piece, and you want to be sure you’re providing them with the correct item. I think about the person on the other end – the fan, the admirer – and want to give them the best quality information. We also know that those who are wanting to purchase a piece that may be reasonably priced, a chance to grab one as stock may be low.
Below, images of Meghan and Kate at the Royal Foundation Youth Forum, February 2018 and the items they wore.
Meghan wore Jason Wu’s Crepe Back Satin Belted Wrap Dress with shoes from Aquazurra – the ‘Casablanca’ pumps in black suede, $750. Her earrings appeared to be a pair of black enameled gold-tone hoop earrings by Isabel Marant (as Meghan’s Mirror suggested). While Kate was in a Seraphine royal blue tailored maternity dress, $155 and a pair of Jimmy Choo ‘Georgia’ pumps (similar here). Kate had worn the shoes previously making them fairly easy to identify. She also carried a clutch from Stuart Weitzman.
Meghan’s jewelry can sometimes be a challenge to ID. Photographers are dealing with various lighting, a lot of flashes going off all at once and getting just the right angle for their shot. We’re sifting through many many hi-res images a lot of times looking for that “magic shot” giving us clear details. Below is one example.
In January 2018, while visiting Brixton, UK, Meghan wore a bar ring which was originally thought to have been from Zofia Day. After sifting through photos one day, Susan Courter found that Meghan was wearing the same bar ring in December 2014 while on the USO Tour. Upon further research, she found that the ring is the Adina Reyter Pavé Flat Bar Ring, $725.
RB: How do you do it so quickly?
SK: There are times I just have a gut feeling that a certain piece is by a specific designer and I will get lucky. Or I may recognize designs I have seen in runway collections or previews shared by designers and retailers. I study those quite a bit. But there are also many instances when I do not even have to look for the piece because others will have it identified within minutes and shared that info on social media. There is a group of very sharp, savvy royal fashion watchers on Twitter who identify things incredibly fast. Many follow the fashions of multiple European royals and they’re very familiar with the latest styles and designers. They will have something IDed and posted on Twitter before I have even started to search, and they’re very generous in sharing that information.
And, as Susan Courter said, I am also very cautious about posting IDs, and use an old maxim I would tell staff when managing television newsrooms: it is better to be late and great than first and worst. That rings particularly true these days because of the way information is amplified on social media. An incorrect ID can be posted that then gets picked up by other media and the wrong information can be disseminated.
Below, Susan Courter’s tweet from her personal account in April 2016 showing her eagle-eye skills in action when she spotted Kate’s Really Wild leather vest and that her boots were actually Penelope Chilvers worn for the couple’s hike up to Tiger’s Nest in Bhutan. A great example of how fast everything happens on Twitter when identifying pieces and where errors happen just as quickly.
SC: Sometimes within minutes we can have something, which is helpful. I’m not so concerned about getting credit – as we’ve said, I’m more interested in getting it right. It’s not a contest. Bottomline, it’s not rocket science, it’s all just good researching methods.
Below, Meghan is shown out in Toronto, February 2017. What were originally thought to have been the Adidas Gazelle sneakers in black suede (some outlets reported navy suede), upon closer look, Susan Courter identified that the sneakers Meghan wore are actually the Adidas Gazelle Original Snake-Embossed Sneaker in black and crystal white leather.
RB: What Kate Wore has been around since March 2011 – nearly 10 years! (What Meghan Wore began in October 2016.) What sparked your interest in doing this?
SK: It arose out of starting What Kate Wore and the desire to do more than just show photos of events, to write about the individual items but also look at the wardrobe as a whole.
What Kate Wore’s early social media presence and first blog post in March 2011. (Clockwise: WhatKateWore.com March 2011, WKW Twitter, WKW Facebook posts – March 2011 and June 2011, WKW Instagram April 2012)
SC: I had been talking about starting a blog for quite some time. Susan Kelley and I had many conversations about it and she would always encourage me to give it a go. I was going to create more of a variety blog covering DIY, fashion, makeup and more. When the rumors started to swirl around Meghan and Harry dating in the Fall, 2016, I knew in an instance that they were meant to be. My husband and I were already fans of the show Suits and loved Meghan’s character Rachel Zane on the show. Having followed Meghan a bit and knowing her background, I knew that she and Harry were a perfect fit. I approached Susan Kelley with the idea of going with What Meghan Wore and felt it was only right that I get her ‘ok’ on the use of the name. I quickly jumped and grabbed the social media accounts and domain. At the time, Susan wasn’t so sure about Harry and Meghan and the relationship being long lasting. It took about year for her to jump on board and give me a hand with it all.
Below, What Meghan Wore’s early social media and blog presences. (Clockwise: @whatmegwore Twitter – November 2016, What Meghan Wore Facebook – November and December 2016, WMW Instagram February 2017 and WhatMeghanWore.net December 2017)
RB: What is the relationship between the two sites?
SC: We are sister sites. Susan Kelley is the mother of all royal sites and coined the term “What So and So Wore.” It’s really like a family tree – these are two royal women – Duchesses – and we saw it as something that could take off side by side. After what happened last year, when Harry and Meghan stepped back, the two sites became more separate because What Meghan Wore doesn’t really have the royal element involved in it. We felt that was the best direction.
RB: Is IDing looks a skill anyone can learn?
SK: If someone has an interest in it and likes doing it, certainly they can learn. But it can take immense patience and it also requires attention to detail. I enjoy IDing pieces and find it very relaxing at times, even when faced with really challenging garments.
Editor’s Note: Susan Kelley coined the genius phrase “UFOs” – no, not the flying object in the sky, but “Unidentified Fashion Objects.” Brilliant.
SK: It is interesting that there are still items worn by the Duchess that remain UFO, despite all the hi-res photos, endless online searches and discussion among ourselves. It may sound counterintuitive, but I like that there are still mystery pieces.
SC: You know, if only we could look into our fashion crystal balls and see exactly what she wore! I think if someone who really loves fashion and has the time, they can figure out to how to ID pieces. It can be frustrating at times and that’s when you do have to walk away, then come back to it. Bottomline, it’s just good researching methods.
I learned a lot from Susan Kelley – she is my mentor. She taught me everything I know about blogging and I’ve learned even more along the way on my own. I was already good at IDing piece as I’m very detail oriented and a wiz with researching. I’ve also taught Susan, too – I have a heavy graphics background and a background in the jewelry industry; I worked at Tiffany and Co. for several years, so I’m pretty good with IDing jewelry and finer things. Susan and I lean on one another often.
One example of an item we were not able to confirm the ID of is this bracelet Meghan wore in February 2018. It remains in the “UFO” pile.
Another example of a piece that was difficult to identify is a pair of earrings worn by Kate for the same event.
In an update to the What Kate Wore’s February 28, 2018 post, “Kate in Séraphine for Royal Foundation Forum – UPDATED“, Susan Kelley notes the following with regards to the earrings —
UPDATE MAR 4: It looks like the earrings could well be part of a Cartier set given to the Queen by her parents in 1945. Royal Order of Splendor noted on Twitter that “The Duchess of Cambridge’s earrings are interesting. There’s at least one (maybe 2) pair of earrings from the Queen that sorta look like this, but never a good enough shot to see detail for proper comparison.” The set includes the Sapphire and Ruby Flower Spray Brooch. Below, the brooch compared to Kate’s earrings.”
RB: Has it gotten easier or harder to do your work via Zoom because of COVID? And Susan Courter, has it gotten harder to do your work since Meghan is no longer a working royal?
SK: In some ways it has become easier, as the Duchess of Cambridge has repeated quite a few items she has worn previously when doing video calls. They’re almost all instantly recognizable. In other ways it is more difficult because you don’t have hi-resolution photos that allow you to zoom in and get a good look at the earrings she is wearing, for example. The images can be very muddy, making the task of identifying pieces almost impossible.
SC: Absolutely, my job has gotten harder over the last year. We don’t have as much access to hi-resolution images from our photo agencies anymore. That said, once you start to see who Meghan gravitates towards and learn her style, you can ID things pretty quickly. It has been a lot harder not knowing when events are, or knowing last minute and having it be a surprise [as opposed to when she was a working royal and events were announced in advance]. We have to go to work searching for what she might be wearing, which makes it a lot harder. It can take days before anything ever gets IDed and the piece just sits in the UFO pile.
Back in July 2020, Susan Courter identified a famous watch seen on Meghan while spotted out in Los Angeles.