Duchess Kate sparks baby boom and maternity fashion makeover

Life in royal circles hasn't been the same since the engagement announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton on Nov. 16, 2010. The blue Issa dress became an immediate sold-out item. Now a maternity version is available. (Getty Images)

This 'Kate Effect' thing is reaching the wacky level -- hitting both the bedroom and the closets of Britain.

The Clearblue company, which manufactures home fertility monitors and test stick packs in the UK, says it has seen its sales jump 60 per cent since Will and Kate announced in early December that their bun was in the oven.

"We’ve never seen an increase like this before," said Clearblue UK brand manager Hugh Ayling. "We were pretty stunned when the stats came in and we wondered why it was. Then we worked it back and saw the spike came after Kate made her announcement.

"It would seem that women are trying for a baby in the hope of experiencing their pregnancy alongside Kate."

DressTo be fair, at least some of the credit/blame for this boom is shared with some non-Kate-ish events, like the feel-good experience of the London Olympics and the publication of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

And now that the baby bump is all the rage, the Kate wannabes can join the maternity fashion hunt, opening up a whole new category for some of the duchess's designers.

Now for sale -- and get 'em while they're hot -- Issa has come out with the maternity version (right) of the dress Kate wore when the couple announced their engagement in November 2010. The price has risen a bit since then (plus the extra material) -- $827.


Charles subway
Charles and Camilla try out the train from Farringdon to King's Cross on Wednesday, a one-stop, three-minute journey. The London Underground is marking 150 years of operation. (Getty Images)

Now, there's a sight you might never see again ... Prince Charles riding the subway (or Underground, as they say in London).

Given that the only other time he reportedly was on a subway car was 1979, the chances of another royal commuter ride are pretty remote.

Charles and Camilla got the VIP commuter experience on Wednesday as they took a token ride on the transit system that is celebrating 150 years. Arriving by limo to Farringdon Station, they were given an Oyster travel card with $16 credit (destined for the shelves of the Royal Collection).

CamillaAfter some instruction on how to swipe a card, Charles cleared the barrier with Camilla right behind, boarding one of the brand new Bombardier cars that was, according to the Daily Mail with sarcastic zeal, "unusually clean." And, wonder of wonders, there was no waiting on the platform.

Regular commuters, caught by surprise with the appearance of the extra passengers, were kept at a safe distance in the other cars, doing their normal run-for-a-seat routine.

Charles and Camilla, of course, had their choice of seats in the first car -- where transit officials and the media gathered -- and seemed to enjoy their three-minute journey to King's Cross. "Just one stop?" Charles asked when the train pulled into the station.

Charles was last a passenger on the Tube in 1979 when he opened the Charing Cross station, but fortunately his wife has had considerably more experience with the form of travel.

At King's Cross, the couple stopped at Platform 9&3/4 (above), named in honour of the departure point for the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter books.

Then it was back up to street level, a tour of the station, and into their waiting Bentley, where the seats are a little more comfy.





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Hogwarts Express in King's Cross as mentioned by Rowling. Nice dress from Issa.

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