Kate Middleton has become a style icon with cloths selling out quickly, every time she wears something from the high street.
But one fan has taken following her fashion to a new level, styling her whole wardrobe to match the Duchess of Cambridge’s outfits since seeing the royal couple’s 2010 engagement interview on TV.
Julie James’ love for the Duchess of Cambridge started when her police detective husband, Freddie, 49, pointed out the similarities between her own engagement ring and Kate’s – a stunning sapphire, passed down from Princess Diana.
Julie, 37, from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, said: ‘My husband, Freddie, had given me a sapphire engagement ring – not as big as Kate’s but very similar – and when we saw that TV interview he said, “It looks just like yours.” I thought that was so endearing.’
For that interview, the bride-to-be wore a stunning royal blue Issa wrap dress, which instantly sold out in the UK.
Back then, Julie, who now works for a community centre in her local town, was working for the American fashion chain Banana Republic.
The moment the shop put a blue wrap dress – which looked just like Kate’s – in the window, Julie snapped it up, taking advantage of her 50 per cent staff discount.
‘I think the dress went on sale for around $119 (£90) and because I had my discount, I was able to copy Kate’s look on a budget,’ Julie added.
‘I had been looking for a style muse and as soon as I saw Kate in that dress, I knew I had found one.’
This was the start of her ‘repliKate’ wardrobe, which Julie has recently been expanding to include outfits inspired by the latest glamorous addition to the Royal Family, Meghan Markle.
She said: ‘I spend around $2,000 a year (£1,510) on clothes, but I don’t spend more because I dress like Kate or Meghan, as these are items I wear every day.
‘Kate’s look suits my own body shape better than Meghan’s, which is very Californian, but I worked in LA for 10 years, so I know that look well and I have been expanding my Meghan-inspired outfits.’
But Julie remains besotted by Kate’s classic elegance, which reminds her of the former American first lady, Jackie Kennedy – wife of the late President John F Kennedy.
With four distinct seasons in Nebraska, like there are in Britain, Julie has become adept at finding cheaper versions of the amazing outfits Kate steps out in to suit the spring, summer, autumn and winter weather.
And last year, she started an Instagram account called @jules_the_duchessofbudget dedicated solely to pictures of her dressed like the Duchess of Cambridge.
‘I ride horses and had taken a nasty fall and dislocated my shoulder so I was off work, bored and in pain and decided it would be fun to set up the account and share my tips on finding affordable versions of the pieces Kate wears,’ said Julie.
‘I posted a few pictures and was surprised – and delighted – to find there is a whole community of lovely ladies all over America doing exactly the same thing as me, so I was not, as I had thought, alone.’
And Julie’s repliKate pictures have sparked yet another new venture – a podcast called We’ll Never Be Royal, which she co-hosts with fellow royal fashion follower, Kristin Contino, who she met through her Instagram account.
‘We met because of our mutual love of royal fashion. She lives in Philadelphia and although we’ve never met in person, we clicked right away, and we are now planning on getting together, face to face, this spring,’ added Julie.
As Kate has matured – having three children and now approaching 40 – Julie has seen her style change, with hemlines dropping and a more elegant look coming in.
‘I think she has really started to come into her own, especially since the birth of Prince Louis,’ said Julie. ‘She’s not playing it so safe, we’re seeing a lot less of her going back to that wardrobe staple of wedge shoes, jeans, a stripped top and a classic blazer.
‘And the Erdem Tweed dress she wore when she visited the Victoria & Albert museum in London last Fall was the most gorgeous dress I have ever seen.’
Julie has not found a bargain version of that particular designer dress yet, but she does have a tweed number in her repliKate wardrobe that she said she would keep if she had to give all the others away.
‘Kate wore an Alexander McQueen Black Watch tartan dress during a school visit and ended up playing field hockey in it, wearing her heels,’ she reminisced. ‘It had a lovely pleated skirt. It’s a dress she’s now worn a few times.’
Dressing like a duchess on a budget feels great, according to Julie.
She continued: ‘My husband loves it and I do too because it does make me feel that little bit more special and more confident.
‘I’m not sure anyone else notices my outfit might be a replica of a Kate or Meghan one but they do notice that I have dressed nicely and am feeling good about myself.
‘Like most of us, I’ll never be part of the Royal family, but this is fun. It feels special when I do dress up and I think anything that gives a woman a little extra confidence about herself is something absolutely worth doing.’