'Kate-alikes': Would-be princesses find a new muse in Kate Middleton

(Photo Illustration By Allison Ghaman/the Washington Post; Photo By Chris Jackson)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

IN LONDON "Why are you here?" James Pryce asks, meaning here beneath my scissors, not h ere in this world.

Pryce is the stylist who cuts Kate Middleton's hair. He coaxed it into its glossy bounce for her official engagement photos and, he now confides, will also style it for the royal wedding on April 29. He's young, stubbly and scruffy, a slouchy cool that makes one think that Kate must be cool and edgy, too.

Without waiting for an answer, Pryce points to the copy of Hello! sitting on his work stand at the Richard Ward salon in Sloane Square. It features radiant Kate. "Because of her?"

Pryce is ever discreet about their relationship, but the Kate-alikes know where their muse gets her hair cut, just as they know where she buys her clothes or stops for a drink. They make reasonably priced appointments - 90 quid, could be steeper - at the posh salon, tripping in with visions of Kate. ("Loads," hisses a dishy shampoo assistant. "Loads of them come here.")

Princess Di was cloistered in the royal life at the age of 19; her public never knew the pre-royal version. But Middleton, 29, has been in the public eye for nearly a decade. She has shopped among us. In unprecedented ways, women with purchasing power can assemble all of the physical trappings of Kate, as if she were a paint-by-numbers princess. She brings her fans back to that Cinderella land they inhabited as girls.

She wears enormous hats.

The Kate-alikes are seeking . . . what, exactly? Not whatever they were seeking from 1980 Diana, with her shy smile and the gorgeous eyes that always seemed on the verge of crying.

Kate Middleton is a princess icon and all that it entails (the ball gowns, the title, the William), but she is also a style icon. She is also - with her bootstrap parents and her college education and her snagging the man who seemed unwilling to commit - a sort of uber-aspirational modern-woman icon. The kind who could appear in a flirty sundress on the cover of Self, if only she would deign to pose for them: "Kate Middleton says, 'You can land your prince, too!' "

In short: Yes. We, the Kate-alikes, are here because of her.

Lords of the ring

"My first thought?" Jason Holt tilts his head and thoughtfully bites his lip. "My first thought when I saw that ring was, 'Yippeeeeeee!' "

Holt runs Holts Lapidary in London's jewelry district. His shop specializes in selling non-diamond gemstones; on his wall there is a plaque certifying his membership to the Freedom of the Mystery of Goldsmiths of the City of London.

Middleton's sapphire engagement ring - the one surrounded by diamonds, the one that used to belong to Diana - has been very good for business.


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