Ever since Kate Middleton's engagement to Prince William was announced we've scrutinized every sartorial choice she's made. Without a doubt, she knocked it out of the park on her wedding day, looking flawless in Sarah Burton for McQueen. But beyond the big day, the Duchess of Cambridge tends to play it safe--conservative, appropriate, accessible. She wears high street pieces that are figure flattering in solid colors, and more often than not, she pairs her simple dresses and jeans with those LK Bennett wedges. "Conservative, appropriate and accessible" aren't exactly the descriptors we'd use to describe many of the stylish ladies we fawn over on Fashionista. We're always hoping the Duchess will take a little risk and prove us wrong today she did, wowing in a shimmering Jenny Packham gown at the 10th Annual ARK Gala Dinner at Kensington Palace.
The Duchess may dress down in wedges and Zara when she's out running errands, but she's proving event after formal event now that she can gussy up with the best of them--Michelle Obama included. Take a look at her style evolution since her engagement was officially announced.
Blue Issa Dress: This simple but elegant silk wrap dress may have made the biggest impact of all in terms of sales--both of the actual Issa dress and innumerable knock-offs. In this instance, Kate knew her face--and outfit--would be everywhere and thus stepped it up, but still stayed pretty safe.
Cream Reiss Dress: Ah, the start of Kate's public love affair with Reiss. The cream Reiss dress that Kate chose for her and William's Testino-shot official engagement photo was seasons old and came from her own closet. She obviously cared about looking nice for the photo, but not enough to spring for a new dress or borrow one.
Luisa Spagnoli Suit: Kate channeled Jackie O in this matchy red suit, which she wore to launch a fund raising campaign at her alma mater St. Andrew's back in February. The look was cute but conservative and she kept it practical and warm with black tights, boots gloves and a turtleneck.
Sophie Cranston Coat: Kate wore this very church and holiday-appropriate outfit to a wedding in January. The chic hat and matching clutch and shoes are nice, well thought-out touches. It also helped fuel rumors that Cranston might be designing the royal dress. #nicetry.
Burberry Coat: Kate had one of few major designer moments in this cute Burberry trench coat with a girly flair at the bottom.
Blue Zara: Dressed down in an $89 Zara dress the day after the wedding. It goes without saying, she's also wearing her favorite LK Bennett wedges.
More Reiss, this time a camel bandage dress: The two first ladies of style meet. Kate wears a $340 Reiss dress that sells out instantly. And that is not an easy color to pull off.
Reiss again: Pitch perfect in all white and acorn-ish fascinator at the Derby Festival at Epsom Downs Racecourse on June 4.
Jenny Packham gown: One of Kate's absolute best looks to date. Her shoes and clutch are both by LK Bennett. And our friends at Racked noticed that it can be yours for 30% off--$3,515 down from $5,015 on mytheresa.com.