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Kate shopping in London last December. (Rex Features/AP Images)

Fashion trendsetter or follower, Kate Middleton’s every shopping venture is widely reported, every purchase infinitely scrutinized.

Take last Monday evening. The Duchess went into a Topshop, like millions of other women, and bought stuff – more than £100 worth of stuff – two skirts and a pair of earrings.

But what made bigger headlines was what she didn’t buy.

The Duchess apparently hesitated over a pair of inexpensive earrings, which she handed back to the cashier at the last minute.

“That extra £8.50 obviously seemed just a little too decadent,” opined the Daily Mail.

Fashion and gossip sites offered ever minute detail about the Duchess’s shopping outing. For example, even though the High Street Topshop in Kensington is Kate’s local branch, she’d apparently never been there before. The staff apparently played it cool while she was there, but afterwards made an announcement about the royal visitor. Kate paid in cash, but seemed to have lots of credit cards. You get the idea.

Numerous media outlets also reported that a blogger named Ashlin, who apparently has her own site (which seemed not to be working), just happened to be standing right behind Kate in the checkout line.

“I was so starstruck,” Ashlin is quoted as saying,”that I was shaking, and I had to ask myself, ‘Am I alive?’.”

Much of the information about Kate that appeared in the media apparently came via Ashlin, and the stories generally chalked it up to a fortunate coincidence for the royal fan without a last name. It all sounds a little fishy — perhaps some investigative fashion reporters will look into it.

In other fashion-related stories about Kate Middleton:

• Kate may do her shopping off the rack, but apparently Vogue is still dying to put the Duchess on its cover. The New York Post’s Page Six reported that editor Anna Wintour has been trying to get photographer Mario Testino to intercede with Kate on the magazine’s behalf.

“Anna has been speaking to Mario about winning over Kate,” a “source” reportedly told Page Six. “She is really pressing him to shoot Kate for the cover.”

Wintour is known to be a big fan of the Duchess, and Testino shot the royal couple’s official wedding photos. But another source told Page Six that even with the Testino connection, a cover shoot might not happen. “The Palace must approve it, and they are very protective of Kate,” said the source.

• The Duchess should avoid Vogue and Anna Wintour “like the plague,” says journalist Cristina Odone in The Telegraph. “It would be the first step towards cheapening her special brand,” Odone writes. Kate shouldn’t “play the fashionistas’ frivolous game,” a mistake, she says, the late Princess Diana made when she agreed to a “Faustian pact” with magazines like Vogue and “quickly slipped from Princess of Wales to being fashion fodder.”

It’s okay for Pippa to be on the cover of The Tatler “as a means of self-promotion,” Odone says, pointing out that Pippa is an entrepreneur. “That option is simply not open to a future Queen. Leave Pippa to deal with the glossies, Your Royal Highness – you’ve got history to make.”

• Speaking of the two sisters and fashion, Pippa and Kate showed up at a wedding in the Wiltshire town of Wilton last weekend, and, no surprise, the focus was on what they wore. Pippa was outfitted in a silk floral pattern dress by Project D and a leather headpiece by Gina Foster. Kate wore a red lace dress that was at first reported by some papers to be by Erdem but later appeared to be by Collette Dinnigan. There were apparently also disagreements over who designed Kate’s red pumps, with some outlets saying they were by L.K. Bennett and others going for Prada. We may need some more investigative fashion reporting here also. But everyone seemed to agree that the Middleton sisters looked lovely. (via

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By Paul Hechinger