How the British royals are creating trends in childrenswear

Ahead of the arrival of royal Baby Sussex, Vogue takes a look inside the wardrobe of the Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children: from heritage pieces to hand-me-downs, and the sell-out “Cambridge effect” for the brands they wear

When Prince George made his first official engagement in New Zealand in 2014, all eyes were on what the eight-month-old future king of the United Kingdom was wearing. (Until then, he had only been seen in personal images shared by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the introductory hospital steps shot.) The outfit in question—a pair of sailboat dungarees by British childrenswear designer Rachel Riley—sold out within hours of the Prince wearing it. “The interest was extraordinary,” Riley tells Vogue.

The dungarees are part of the brand’s Heritage collection, and reflect the traditional styles chosen for Prince George and his younger siblings. “The clothes we make are timeless,” explains Riley, “[they] have longevity.” At Princess Charlotte’s christening in 2015, Prince George wore a white and red shorts set by Riley that closely resembled the outfit his father, Prince William, wore in 1984 when he first went to meet the newly-born Prince Harry at hospital. Riley adds that all the outfit selections for the Cambridge’s children are carefully considered; so no doubt they were aware of this mirroring in style.

Similar historic echoes can also be seen in Prince Louis’s wardrobe—the youngest Cambridge wore a white and blue one-piece by La Coqueta last year, reminiscent of the one worn by his father when he was a baby. Comparisons have been drawn between Princess Charlotte’s floral dresses and those worn by the Queen and Princess Anne when they were children. And heritage pieces have made reappearances, too—see Prince George at the 2015 Trooping of the Colour in the same blue romper his father wore 30 years earlier.

As their mother, Kate Middleton, has become known for re-wearing her favourite outfits, the royal children are often seen in near-identical outfits to those they’ve worn before, too. Think of Prince George’s signature white shirt with blue piping, or Princess Charlotte’s penchant for classic Peter Pan-collars. And then there’s the age-old tradition of hand-me-downs. Princess Charlotte was photographed twice last year in her older brother’s blue cardigan by Spanish brand Fina Ejerique.

Royal commentators have suggested the subtle outfits chosen for the children—a capsule wardrobe if you will—are to draw attention away from what the youngsters’ are wearing and to present the Cambridges as a “normal” family.

Despite the Kate Middleton and Prince William’s best efforts, there is undoubtedly a huge amount of interest in what the children are wearing. The almost immediate sell-out phenomenon after the children have been pictured has been dubbed “the Cambridge effect”. According to consultancy firm Brand Finance, in 2015, Prince George (then aged two) and Princess Charlotte’s (born in May of that year) annual contribution to the UK economy was valued at £76 million and £101 million respectively; a projected value of £2.4billion and £3.2billion in their lifetime. Prince Louis, is expected to give the national economy an equally huge boost.

Amaia Kids—the London-based label behind the bridesmaid and pageboy outfits for Princess Eugenie’s wedding last October—has seen the Cambridge effect first hand. Both Prince George and Princess Charlotte regularly wear the brand, with many of the items—including the blue cardigan George wore to visit his newborn sister in hospital—quickly snapped up by customers after a royal debut. Co-founder Amaia Arrieta says the royal impact goes beyond sell-outs of single pieces. “It’s reputation,” she tells Vogue. “You get onto the radar of many people who would have never heard of you before.” The designer agrees that the Cambridges have inspired a revival of traditional styles in childrenswear too. “There has been a comeback. The [royal children] always look so sweet and well put together.”

Like their parents, the children have more formal outfits for official events, and an off-duty wardrobe for downtime. “William and Kate are dressing them more casually when not in the public eye,” notes royal fashion expert Michael Talboys. “Little by little, they’re loosening it a bit.” Most recently, Prince George was pictured in a khaki fleece, jeans and Nike trainers during a family day out at an equestrian event in Norfolk, while Princess Charlotte wore a blue puffer jacket and checked skirt. This relaxing of dress codes is reminiscent of Prince William and Prince Harry’s own childhood—the pair were often spotted in striped T-shirts and shorts when not at official engagements.

It remains to be seen how the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will dress their first child, due in just a few weeks, particularly following suggestions the baby will be raised gender neutral. “It will be interesting to see what he or she wears. I think that it will be quite different,” speculates Talboys, who says the clothes may be “more Americanised”, in contrast to the formal British styles seen on the Cambridge children. Whatever the case, Baby Sussex’s clothes are likely to set just as many—if not more—trends, as his or her royal cousins. Parents be poised to purchase that first-seen babygrow.

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Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in Windsor Great Park

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Princess Anne and Prince Charles laughing together in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Scotland

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Prince William looking at a TV camera during a photo-call with his parents in the gardens of Kensington Palace, London

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Prince William on his first day at nursery school

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Prince William with Prince Harry at Kensington Palace

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge attend a Plunket Play Group at Government House

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Princess Charlotte and Prince George with Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as they arrive at the Chapel Royal, St James's Palace,

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Bridesmaid Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and pageboy Prince George of Cambridge wave off Britain's Princess Eugenie of York and Jack Brooksbank at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge attend a children's party for Military families during the Royal Tour of Canada

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Princess Charlotte of Cambridge arrives at Berlin military airport during an official visit to Poland and Germany

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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour parade.

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Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge depart Victoria

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge arrives with Prince George and Princess Charlotte at the Lindo Wing after Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to their son at St Mary's Hospital

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Prince William leaves St Mary's Hospital after visiting his newborn brother, Prince Harry

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The Christening of Princess Charlotte at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Britain

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales holds young Prince William on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following the Trooping the Colour ceremony

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Prince George of Cambridge and father Prince William, Duke of Cambridge are seen during the annual Trooping The Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade

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Princess Diana Holding Her Baby Son, Prince William, At Kensington Palace

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Britain's Prince George is held by his father Prince William as his mother Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge

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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Prince George, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge

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