Major newspapers and blogs online have been abuzz again on the new Duchess of Cambridge's style. Since the recent New York and London fashion weeks started, she has been credited with popularising a conservative yet feminine classicism on runways. Catherine Middleton seems to have set off real sparks in the industry since her engagement to Prince William. Few women have been simultaneously praised as the second coming of a fashion messiah and denigrated as a sartorial bore. One American fashion commentator was clearly sick of the post-wedding 'Kate effect', remarking: 'If you take Kate out of the royal family and put her on a street in New York, you wouldn't look at her twice.' She has a point. The duchess is a stunning woman, no doubt, with an enviable physique and ample resources to furnish her wardrobe. But what she gives in terms of fashion is graceful, beautiful, but not particularly creative. One in her position has to convey elegance, the right amount of glamour and, importantly, new-generation royalty. She has helped British fashion worldwide and is always elegantly attired, yet sufficiently conservative for her position. We will probably never see this girl don a studded Burberry leather jacket or a Givenchy print jumper just because it's in fashion. Her accessible style is not too intimidating. She is not about edginess, or reinvention of sexiness - which is why she stands out from all the other starlets cited in fashion magazines. Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, she is not. A fascinating article by anthropologist and sociologist Joanne Finkelstein (in her paper titled Chic Theory - published in the Australian Humanities Review) might shed some light on how a classic, feminine, though not overly fashionable woman like the duchess is celebrated as a style icon alongside the shocking, daring and forever transformational Lady Gaga. Finkelstein remarks that 'the basic irony of fashion is that it cannot succeed in marking the individual as truly different. While fashions may be touted as a means to distinguish oneself, the pursuit of fashion is more effectively a means of being socially homogenised.' While fashion loves the daring, wild things who constantly shock and reinvent (like Gaga), in reality, for most of us, fashion's own hierarchy is also restrictive and reinforcing of social structures (like Catherine). Some anthropologists have even implied that a rise of fashioned subcultures in the West since the second world war is an attempt to create a sense of common cause - in distinctive fashion tribes - lacking in the mainstream. So, after decades of punk, mods, bohemians, rock 'n' roll, teddy boys and bikers influencing designers, have we become bored and numb to it all? Can we find freshness in only these two extremes - the creative shock of Lady Gaga and the prim, conservative elegance of the modern-day Duchess of Cambridge - because both are equally divisive forces in public opinion?