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Kate Middleton, fashion icon in waiting [Updated]

November 16, 2010 | 11:44 am

KateFinally, Prince William and Kate Middleton are engaged after eight years of courtship. He proposed in Kenya with his mother's sapphire-and-diamond engagement ring. Seems a bit eerie to me, because Diana's marriage was ultimately an unhappy one. But it is a phenomenal sparkler. Middleton wore sapphire blue (an Issa dress perhaps?) for the press conference to announce the engagement, as Diana did in 1981.

Still, when it comes to style, the two women are quite different. When I think of Diana, I remember how much I emulated her fashion sense, even when I was a teen. The seamed stockings with the bows in the back, the frilly blouses, sexy monochrome suits, turquoise eyeliner, jeans and driving moccasins worn without socks. I devoured it all.

When I think of Kate Middleton, I think of ... a white coat. Middleton is definitely from the less-is-more school of fashion. Her makeup usually looks natural, and I don't believe I've ever spotted her in a recognizable piece of designer clothing. In fact, her look thus far seems designed to be non-objectionable. Nothing too aggressive, too sexy or indeed too fashiony, despite the fact that she has worked as an accessories buyer at the British chain Jigsaw, and was reportedly offered a public relations job with Tom Ford.

She loves white, having worn a white bikini, white jeans, a white miniskirt and that white coat on numerous occasions. (A subtle reminder to her beau that she wanted to be a bride, perhaps?) But seriously, it takes guts -- and a great bod, which she has -- to wear white.Diana

She often wears short skirts with boots to show off her long legs, and she favors body-conscious dresses. (She wore a plunging pink silk gown to something called the Boodles Boxing Ball.) All of this suggests that her wedding dress will be decidedly more low-key than Diana's height-of-the-'80s lace confection by British designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. Perhaps Middleton will turn to British designer Alice Temperley, whose style tends toward retro-romantic, but without the frills.

[For the record, updated at 12:31 p.m.: An earlier version of this post gave the incorrect designer of Princess Diana's wedding gown. The gown was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel.]

Of course, now that Michelle Obama has broken the unspoken rule that stately spouses must dress only in designer clothes from their own countries, it's not inconceivable that Middleton could shop for a wedding gown outside of Britain. 

Vera Wang might be a good match. Her gowns are often understated. Then there's Tom Ford. (The Texan-turned-English haberdasher is set to launch his long-awaited women's line this spring.) Making a dress for Middleton would be quite a feather in his cap.

The wedding dress is a big deal, yes, but Middleton's style may still evolve in later years. Diana's did. It wasn't until after she was married that she became a global style icon.

Whatever happens, you know we'll be watching.

-- Booth Moore

Top photo: Prince William and Kate Middleton in London Tuesday. After much speculation, the couple announced their engagment Tuesday. Photo: Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Bottom photo: Prince Charles and Princess Diana on Feb. 24, 1981, the day their engagement was announced. Credit:  EPA/STR