Not for the first time, my inner green-eyed monster reared up last week at the sight of the Duchess of Cambridge.
That ever-bouncy blow-dry. That dreamy shade of brunette, oh so elegantly highlighted. And skin as smooth as gold-top Duchy milk (does Kate even have pores?), with smoulderingly smokey make-up.
Why doesn’t my brown hair look that way, I found myself muttering. And how does she get her skin — the same shade as mine — to look not sallow, but dewy?
Kate Middleton revealed her new look lighter hair look which is the envy of many while filming in the Hintze Hall at the Natural History Museum in London ahead of the virtual awards ceremony for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Before her experience at the popular salon, Claire’s hair was short and dark (left) and after (right)she looked the spitting image of the Duchess of Cambridge. Claire’s blazer, £250, trousers, £120, reiss.com; top, £20.30, karenmillen.com; earrings, £145, aureejewellery.com.
The truth, of course, is that Kate has a crack squad of trusted professionals who will have prepared her when she announced the winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum last week.
But there is one man who is perhaps more associated with Kate’s fabulous appearance than any other: hairdresser Richard Ward. He’s been in charge of Kate’s locks since before her marriage to Prince William (he also styles the rest of the Middleton family) and it is he who masterminded her much-imitated blow-dry.
So could Richard’s team work their magic and give me the ultimate Kate-Over …
ROLLERS GALORE AND 15 FEET OF EXTENSIONS
One can only wonder what Kate, her sister Pippa and their mother Carole have chatted about while getting their hair washed at the Richard Ward salon, just off London’s King’s Road. If shampoo bottles could talk, I find myself thinking …
The salon is, understandably, protective of their most famous client, at times positively coy about the dark arts they employ to create that famous follicular va va voom.
As she sat in the chair having the full works done to perfect the Kate Middleton ‘do, Claire thought of the conversations the Duchess, her sister Pippa and mother Carole may have when they go to the same salon. Pictured, Claire having her highlights applied
First up, the hair stylists tackled Claire’s darker hair, applying lots of colour to remove the darker tones and infuse a rich lighter colour similar to Kate’s (pictured)
It seems, though, that Richard advises all his clients to use vitamin supplements to give hair an ‘inner’ glow and strength, as well as going easy on the hair straighteners.
‘The key to a great long hair look is making sure it is in optimum condition. When hair is healthy its cuticles lie flat and it reflects light and shines,’ Richard tells me.
‘I advise all my clients to take vitamin supplements and use styling equipment that creates minimal damage. Think of how you’d treat your favourite cashmere jumper, then treat your hair the same.’
As for Kate’s slightly blonder update, it’s clear Richard is not afraid to make changes to even the most beloved of hair-dos.
‘Mixing it up is important. People think long hair can’t be versatile, but a subtle seasonal change of tone can really make an impact. And experimenting with layers and long/side fringes means you can be a “long hair girl” at heart, but still have a nod to the catwalks.’
To achieve a proper Kate-Over, I must first address my colour. Back in 2011, when she married Prince William, we shared similarly dark brown hair. Today, though, she’s updated her look, softening and lightening in a flattering way; plumping for a lighter brown with almost golden streaks through it — a shade some call ‘bronde’.
When speaking to Richard Ward, the hairdresser who created Kate’s enviable hairstyle, he told Claire he advises all his clients to take supplements to help their hair and to use styling products which create minimal damage
As part of the long process, Claire had several large rollers on the top of her head to create the bouncy wave look while lots of people worked around her to create the ideal style (pictured)
So how can I go lighter without looking brassy? Richard and colourist Thomas Simons inspect my brown do, which looks rather flat beside Kate’s. ‘Your hair colour isn’t actually that dissimilar from hers,’ Thomas tells me.
‘She’s definitely had it taken a bit lighter recently, so we’ll just do the same for you. Some lighter highlights through the top of the hair, which will give a bit of variation and brighten it up. Just something gentle and soft, no harsh bleach. Don’t worry, we’re not turning you blonde!’
He uses this lighter shade to scatter highlights through my hair, then wraps each section in foil. Finally, he takes a darker shade that’s similar to my natural colour and gives the roots a bit of a touch up to get rid of the odd grey that’s peeking through.
With my colour sorted, it’s time to work on the length and volume.
For that, Richard sets his extensions technician Danielle Modlock to work, using Great Lengths real hair extensions to give me that Kate bounce.
Does the Duchess use them? They couldn’t possibly comment, unfortunately — and as I am to discover, you’d need a microscope to establish whether she does, as Richard ensures Danielle dyes my extensions to perfectly match the colour of my newly coloured hair.
After they perfected her hair colour, 15ft-worth of extensions (pictured being applied) were applied to her hair and were exactly matched to the tones the colour specialist had applied to her natural hair
To create the signature Kate bounce, Richard asked his extensions technician Danielle Modlock to work on Claire’s hair, using Great Lengths real hair extensions (pictured)
‘These extensions use a strip of medical grade adhesive to bond them to your natural hair,’ explains Danielle. ‘We take two extensions at a time and sandwich a section of your natural hair between them. They put minimal pressure on your own hair and sit perfectly flat against your head.
‘The hair itself can be reused for up to a year but, as your natural hair grows out and, over time, the adhesive needs replacing, we suggest they’re removed and moved up the hair every six weeks or so.’
In total, Danielle uses 15 of the inch-wide extensions. Each is 12 in long. A total of 180 in — an extraordinary 15 ft! — of new hair take me to Kate’s below shoulder length.
I’ve got the colour and the volume. Now, vitally, I need the bounce.
Richard guides stylist Tommy Cracknell, who first sprays my whole head with volumising spray: ‘As well as giving extra volume, it prevents static, and gives the style a bit of grip,’ he explains.
Then, he sets the entire centre section of my hair around large velcro rollers, giving me a sort of mohican of rollers from back to front — which, it seems, is the secret to Kate’s bouncy castle-esque curls.
‘This will give volume to the crown and that sweeping curve she has at the front,’ he promises.
The extensions they used to create the bounce are bonded to the natural locks and put minimal pressure on the hair to reduce damage and sit perfectly flat against the head. Pictured, a lighter highlight is added to Claire’s dark hair
To create a bit of variation through the hair and brighten it, the colourist adds some lighter highlights through the top, withno harsh bleach. Pictured, Claire’s lighter highlights drying
While the hair is setting around the rollers, Tommy blow dries the rest of my hair, running the nozzle of the hair dryer along the length from root to tip so that the natural hair and the extensions sit perfectly together and have a gorgeous glossy shine.
Finally, he takes a heated tong and works through my hair a section at a time, spritzing it with hair lacquer before winding it around the tong, so that the large waves roll away from my face.
So that’s how she does it.
NINE EYESHADOWS FOR A SMOKING HOT LOOK
Kate’s make-up is always all about the eyes — but her look on Monday was smokier and sexier than we’ve ever seen her.
While Kate is known for doing her own make-up, there’s one man who certainly knows what it takes to get that Royal polish. Celebrity make-up artist Desmond Grundy looks after Zara Phillips, as well as celebrities such as Monica Bellucci and Helena Christensen.
So can he make me dazzle like a Duchess? Desmond gathers together 18 different products — including nine eyeshadows — to continue my Kate-Over.
‘This is very definitely a more sophisticated look for Kate,’ Desmond tells me. ‘It’s a real step up from her usual natural, outdoorsy look.
A total of 180 extensions, which are 15 inch-wide and 12in long, were used to help recreate the much-loved look Kate sported earlier in the week. Pictured, Claire gets her hair washed before all the treatments
‘While she’s stuck to the same sort of palette that suits her colouring — bronzes and browns — and the dark liner that she’s always worn to emphasise her eyes, it’s been amped up, with a smoky, smudgy eye that’s complemented by a berry shade on the lips.’
To recreate Kate’s look on me, he started with the base — a blend of Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue and Pixi Beauty Balm. ‘Kate’s got great skin, so she doesn’t need a heavy foundation, and so I imagine she uses these sort of lighter, more sheer bases,’ says Desmond.
For the eyes, he used the Mac Semi Sweet Times Nine palette, a collection of nine eyeshadows that span pale neutrals to dark browns and a black.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Kate used the same one, the colours are so similar,’ Desmond suggests.
Then, a smudge of black eyeliner around the top and bottom lids, and lashings of black mascara.
After a bit of skilfully-applied bronzer, blusher and highlighter ‘to emphasise those cheekbones’, and a combination of berry-shaded lip stains and glosses to give me the perfect royal pout, I’m almost complete …
THE FINAL TOUCH — A CHIC TUXEDO
Natasha Archer has been Kate’s stylist since 2014. So valued is she that she was awarded a Royal Victorian Order last year for her services to the Royal Family. Typically, Natasha will assess forthcoming trends and discuss any potential styles or prints with Kate, before approaching designers.
Last, but certainly not least, Claire paired her new hair with a chic tuxedo, just like that worn by the Duchess earlier this week (pictured)
So when Kate wears a tuxedo for the first time, as she did on Monday when she wore one by Alexander McQueen, there’s a good chance that Natasha was involved.
And it’s a pitch perfect choice, says the Mail’s assistant style editor, Amy Kester: ‘This was a particularly chic outfit for her. Tailored to perfection, this suit worked wonders.
‘The tuxedo jacket is a classic style and the slightly puffed shoulders, a growing trend this year, gave it a slight edge and flattered her slender frame.’
My version is from Reiss, with satin trims. The shoulder detail helps to make my waist look dainty — although, admittedly, not quite as dainty as Kate’s.
CLAIRE’S blazer, £250, trousers, £120, reiss.com; top, £20.30, karenmillen.com; earrings, £145, aureejewellery.com.