By REBECCA ENGLISH and RICHARD SIMPSON
Dressed down: A casual trip to the shops on London's King's Road for Kate - before her dazzling transformation as she arrived at the 10th annual Ark (Absolute Return for Kids) Gala Dinner at Kensington Palace that evening
With her glossy hair, megawatt smile and £4,000 sequinned dress, she had all eyes on her.
But just hours before dazzling at her first official evening engagement on Thursday, the Duchess of Cambridge could have been any young woman shopping on London’s King’s Road.
Dressed casually in flat white pumps, skinny Hudson jeans and a cream scoop-necked jumper, Kate managed the three-hour trip without any of her fellow shoppers noticing her.
Her long, dark hair was scraped back into an unremarkable low bun, with the only hint of glamour coming from the sapphire engagement ring that once belonged to Princess Diana.
Accompanied by two plainclothes Scotland Yard police protection officers, Kate, 29, popped into the Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, where she spent almost an hour browsing fashion accessories before picking up a few bits and bobs.
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She also visited Boots, where she bought a couple of facial moisturisers from the low-cost Nivea range.
But while passers-by failed to realise they had the Duchess in their midst, one or two excited shop assistants did a double-take when they spotted her.
Another police officer waited nearby in a royalty and diplomatic protection squad Range Rover. Parked on a double yellow line, he drove around the block whenever he saw a traffic warden.
Kate eventually made her way to the car and was driven to the Clarence House apartment that she and William are sharing with Prince Harry until they move into Kensington Palace next month.
No more than four hours later, as a transformed Kate stepped out of a Jaguar at the Ark tenth anniversary gala, there was no chance of her going unnoticed.
In her shimmering rose Jenny Packham gown, she reduced millionaires and celebrities to behaving like excited children as they crowded around her eagerly taking pictures on their camera phones.