Princess Diana was the original monarch who ruled the art of royal dressing. She seamlessly embraced royal etiquette, all the while setting her own fashion rules, like not wearing gloves on official visits and single-handedly making the Dior Lady Di bag one of the most coveted in the world.
Her sartorial influence was such that even Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle often pay tribute to her in subtle ways. Meghan Markle wore Diana’s ring on the evening of her wedding night, and just like Kate, she had Diana’s blue ribbon sewn in her wedding dress. Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cambridge’s maternity dress was a touching tribute to Diana, and of course, you all know the story behind Kate Middleton’s engagement ring.
We take a look back at her most iconic styles.
Get the royal look: The Micro Lady Dior Bag
Princess Diana’s wedding dress
It might surprise you to hear that when Princess Diana first got engaged, she had no interest in fashion. But overnight, she went from a shy young aristocrat to a soon-to-be princess in the limelight, and had to dress accordingly. At first, her style was very twee. As Diana’s former stylist, Anna Harvey revealed, “Diana started off being really safe with her style. It was all very ‘Laura Ashley’.” Cue bows, frills and, in other words, every little girl’s interpretation of a fairytale princess.
Princess Diana’s wedding dress embodied exactly that aesthetic, thanks to its cathedral length trail, puffy sleeves and miles and miles of taffeta – and FYI, did you know there was a second dress made as a back-up, and that her wedding tiara had a special meaning?
On top of that, the young Princess had to follow a strict dress code, which included dressing suitable for the occasion, and according to who she met, for example, other royalty, children etc.
Discover more with Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.
Princess Diana fashion in the 1980s
In the mid to late 80s, as Diana’s love of fashion and her confidence grew, she began to make some bolder fashion choices. The exhibition curator of Diana: Her Fashion Story, Eleri Lynn, commented, “We see her growing in confidence throughout her life, increasingly taking control of how she was represented, and intelligently communicating through her clothes.”
There were the bold evening gowns, including the midnight blue Victor Edelstein dress she wore to dance with John Travolta on a state visit to the US to meet Ronald and Nancy Reagan (the iconic image is available to purchase in the most gorgeous historical print). In fact, that dress was hailed as a departure from her usual ‘safe’ style. She became known for her Dynasty-esque sequin gowns, and bold coloured shoulder pads, which she pulled off elegantly. During the day, she favoured power suits and dresses in equally bright designs and prints, always worn with matching accessories like pillar box hats.
Princess Diana fashion in the 1990s
It wasn’t until the mid-90s that Princess Diana really found her style; it was no coincidence that this coincided with her divorce. Gone were the brash colours and exaggerated silhouettes of the 80s, replaced in favour of sleeker, more minimal outfits in muted tones.
Perhaps one of her most famous of all was the black Christina Stambolian ‘revenge dress’ she wore to the Serpentine Gallery summer party in 1994, the same night Prince Charles admitted to having an affair with Camilla. Many would have hidden away from the limelight, but she emerged confident as ever.
Diana almost didn’t wear the dress, which she thought was too low cut, and in fact had intended on wearing a Versace gown instead, but was put off at the last minute after a release went out announcing her outfit.
She nailed her working wardrobe, favouring chic Catherine Walker suits and tailored dresses, and became known for her simple evening dresses.
To shop Diana’s iconic style, for less, with retro accessories that align with the era, shop vintage. Not sure where to start? Check out our edit of the best online vintage clothing stores.