kate middleton nails
photo: Getty Images

When you think of Kate Middleton's nails, you think short, well-manicured, and pinky-beige.

You also might think Essie's iconic nail polish shade Ballet Slippers, the barely-there lacquer that every publication in the history of the WORLD claims is the Duchess of Cambridge's favorite color.

Such is the power of the K.Midds' manicure that, according to Essie, 30 bottles of Ballet Slippers sells in the United States every hour. That's a lot of beige-pink nail polish!

But it turns out that your Kate-inspired nail polish might all be a lie. Turns out that she might not wear this color at ALL.

To figure out how, exactly, the Royals-love-Ballet Slippers rumor got started, we have to travel allllll the way back in time to 1989.

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Back in the day, the story goes, the Queen's hairdresser sent a letter to Essie brand creator Essie Weingarten requesting a pale pink nail polish called Ballet Slippers. The letter — which Essie references in interviews, and is usually only attributed to the Essie website — supposedly called this pale pink shade "the only color her majesty would wear.
(Pale nudes are also meant to be the ONLY nail polish color royals can wear to official events. Womp womp.)

From this single anecdote, tens of thousands of beauty articles were born. Almost 30 years later, Ballet Slippers is still described as "The Queen's favorite nail polish" — and it's why almost every other female royal, including Kate Middleton, is said to wear it.

There's just one tiny problem — the Queen doesn't wear any nail polish anymore. Not Ballet Slippers, not anything.

queen christmas address 2015
photo: Getty Images

I have no doubt that Queen Elizabeth wore Ballet Slippers back in the early '90s, but today — or at least in 2017, which was when this official state portrait was taken — she's either wearing clear polish, or totally bare-nailing it.

"But Alle," I hear you saying. "What if the Queen is just wearing Ballet Slippers applied very lightly?"

Well, get ready. Because there *is* no lightly where Ballet Slippers is concerned.

This is me, wearing two coats of Essie's Ballet Slippers. It's a beautiful color, but as anyone who has ever worn it knows, there's no such as a "light" application of Ballet Slippers. It's just not that kind of nail polish.

alle connell nails
photo: Alle / Revelist

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I've been wearing Ballet Slippers ($8, Target) since 1993. I am a long-term fan. And though Ballet Slippers has likely been though multiple reformulations, it has always had a thin, slightly streaky consistency. You need to wear two coats of this polish, or it looks terrible — plain and simple. And no woman who routinely wears hats made out of jewels is going to risk having a crappy looking manicure.

Let's look closer: Ballet Slippers as worn by me is completely opaque and nearly white. You can't see the paler free edges of my nails, nor the light "moon" emerging over the cuticle. You can see both of those things on the Queen's nails. Ergo, she's not wearing this polish.

the queen ballet slippers
photo: Alle / Getty Images

Additionally, this is a formal state portrait. If there's ever a time to go all-out with the nail polish, it's in a fancy picture that's going to live forever.

Perhaps hoping to avoid nail polish scrutiny, the Queen almost always wear gloves to official Royal events. Which is a pretty baller way to hide a chipped nail, should such a thing ever occur.

queen elizabeth gloves
photo: Getty Images

(OK, that's totally not the reason the Queen wears formal gloves. But I'm just saying, it's a good way around having to get a manicure every 10 days.)

And now we come to Kate Middleton, or as I like to call her, "Ballet Slippers: The Next Generation."

kate middleton nails
photo: Getty Images

Literally the second K.Midds got engaged to William, the frenzied speculation over what her favorite nail polish is began. Kate famously mixed two polishes together to create a custom nude shade for her wedding day — and because one of those colors was the now-discontinued Essie shade Allure — it was easy for lazy writers to start saying that, like her grandmother-in-law the Queen, Kate was also a devoted fan of Essie's Ballet Slippers.

But is she REALLY? Photos of Kate's manicures tend to show extremely sheer, shiny polish over the opaque near-whiteness of Ballet Slippers.

kate middleton nails
photo: Getty Images

That picture doesn't look much like Ballet Slippers, which again, is the shade I'm wearing here.

Kate doesn't really wear gloves very often, so it's far easier to see what's happening with her nails. And more often than not, the manicure she chooses – though sleek and elegant – is clearly NOT Ballet Slippers.

kate middleton nails
photo: Getty Images

When you see the Duchess of Cambridge's hands, you're seeing a very sheer, almost transparent wash of pink polish... if you're seeing it at all.

kate middleton nails
photo: Getty Images

If you forced me to bet on which shade of Essie polish Middleton is wearing here, I'd say Mademoiselle over Ballet Slippers EVERY time.

Have you ever noticed Kate's nails looking this dramatically off-white? No — and that's just the point. You would have *noticed* it.

ballet slippers
photo: Denise Tomm / Revelist

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There is a tremendous amount of pressure on Kate to be absolutely perfect at all times. She can never not be camera-ready — not even after giving birth — and having a perfect, "appropriate" manicure is part of that. Her appearance is simultaneously the most important thing, and something which should (ideally) be part of the background — she must be perfect, but not seem like she’s trying to pull focus from anyone else.

If she had nails that popped this dramatically, people would start talking about her manicure. That’s not the desired effect.

But there is ONE future royal who may actually be bringing Ballet Slippers back — Meghan Markle.

meghan markle prince harry
photo: Getty Images

it’s certainly possible that for her engagement appearance, Markle was wearing Ballet Slippers.

meghan markle nail polish
photo: Getty Images

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That looks like a very pale, opaque, pinky-white polish to me! And if you zoom in, you can even see some of the tell-tale streaks that let me know that someone didn't go heavy enough on that second coat!

Yep – this looks like Ballet Slippers to me.

We'll just have to watch the fingers of royalty to find out more about their nail polish preferences.

photo: Getty Images

Let's all promise that if we, plebs that we are, ever meet any royals, we'll just ASK them what color nail polish they wear. Because honestly, who knows?