Sartorially speaking, 2011 has been the year of the Duchess of Cambridge. But it was Sophie, Countess of Wessex who caught the eye of hellomagazine.com's discerning readers at Zara Phillips' recent wedding.Her impeccable appearance in a chic Bruce Oldfield dress, matching jacket and statement Jane Taylor hat, prompted you to crown Sophie the most elegant guest and also won praise from fashion commentators.She beat formidable fashionista Kate by 1195 votes, and her convincing victory marked the complete transformation of the royal family's surprising new style icon. With the attention of the press focused on younger members of the Windsor clan, the Countess' makeover has largely gone unnoticed.
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But in recent months, the 46-year-old has blossomed from being a supporting player into a stunning principal. Her outfit at Zara's Scottish celebration was flawless, as was the pale pink ensemble she wore to the Trooping of the Colour in June. And she is not afraid to be bold with her choices – the scarlet Bruce Oldfield gown she selected for a glittering reception the night before William and Kate's wedding sealed her credentials as a true fashion contender. And it's not just Sophie's wardrobe that has been overhauled. The mother-of-two has taken to wearing her hair longer and blonder, and her complexion is glowing with a radiance that defies her years.She is also looking noticeably trimmer, having dropped a dress size after reportedly employing a personal trainer. While some commentators speculate that her image overhaul is so that she can keep up with the younger royals, those who know her say Sophie is far too confident in herself, and her position in the family, to indulge in petty rivalries.
Laura B, owner of the eponymous salon in London, who has been dressing the Countess since 2003, told HELLO! magazine this week: "She's always been interested in fashion but I think she has grown into herself." "She's looking fantastic at the moment, very chic."She describes Sophie's signature style as "very classic with a modern twist.""She's very instantaneous – you can see when she likes something and then she'll go with it. She's not shy about making her mind up – she knows what she wants."Clearly Kate is not the only royal to watch this year.