The Fashion Chronicles: Princess Diana

The new season of Netflix’s The Crown has brought the late Princess Diana to the forefront of discussion once again. However, instead of politics, we will be discussing her legacy as a style icon. As the world’s most photographed woman, she was known for her distinctive and daring fashion. Though her legacy extends far beyond that, Princess Diana is arguably the greatest fashion icon of the 20th century.  

Being born after Diana’s death in 1997, those of the younger generations have only seen clips from the past. However, her iconic style moments remain well-known, from the Virgin Atlantic jumper to the ‘revenge’ dress. Of course, who could forget her fabulous, fairy-tale-like wedding dress? 

Without further ado, let us look at the style evolution of her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, Diana. 

Sloane Ranger Style – late 70’s

Sloane alone … Lady Diana Spencer in 1980. Source: Hulton Archive 

Before her engagement with Prince Charles, she was far from the fashion legend that would influence the fashion industry. Her wardrobe resembled the Sloan Ranger aesthetic, a typical upper-class teenager style in the United Kingdom. 

In 1975, editors of British magazine Harper’s & Queen, Ann Barr and Peter York, coined the term. They also published the Official Sloane Range Handbook, where Diana graced the book’s front cover. The hallmarks of the style include pie-crust collars, calf-length hemlines tartan smocks and silk scarves. 

The Sloane Ranger look was best embodied by Princess Diana back when she was still Lady Diana Spencer. She was the most famous Sloane and was awarded the title “Super Sloane”.  

The Wedding Dress – 1981 

An official portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales, on her wedding day. Source: PA 

The gown, as we are all aware, is legendary. On the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in her Emanuel wedding dress, Princess Diana’s fairy-tale appearance fully embraced the style of the 1980s.  

“It was all about drama and making Diana a fairy-tale princess,” the designers told British Vogue. The pearl-adorned gown with giant puffy sleeves and a voluminous skirt was purposely overblown, romantic, and flouncy. That said, the most iconic and daring part of the gown was the 7.5-meter-long train – the longest in royal-wedding history. 

The only panic-inducing moment came when Diana stepped out of the carriage. The huge dress was creased! The media sensationalised this small mishap into British headlines, but the dress remained every young girl’s dream. 

Working Wardrobe – mid 80’s 

Princess of Wales during official engagements. Source: ELLE 

As a member of the royal family, Diana needed a huge and sophisticated working wardrobe for her official visits and occasions. Diana’s daywear amounted to an interpretation of an executive woman’s wardrobe, but her outfits always stood out in the crowd. The princess was always respectfully dressed. Regardless of the occasion, she was there to please the host by dressing the part. On a visit to France, Diana captivated the Parisian fashion world when she got off the plane wearing an outfit by Chanel, their national design label. 

End of the Fairy Tale – 1994 

Diana, in her revenge dress, arriving at the Serpentine Gallery in London, Source: Getty Images

The ‘revenge dress’ was her most famous look of all time. The black, off-the-shoulder silk minidress by Christina Stambolian looked stunning on Diana. No other royal had dared to wear this style of dress before as it broke royal protocol. The dress was dubbed the ‘revenge dress’ due to an event that occurred on the same night. On an airing of a documentary, Price Charles admitted to being unfaithful during their marriage. This is why this moment remained iconic in fashion industry. She could have avoided the event, but she chose to make a statement. 

According to the documentary Princess Diana’s Dresses: The Auction, the Princess had originally planned to wear a more modest Valentino gown that evening, deeming the Strambolian gown “too daring”. But she changed her mind. “She wanted to look a million dollars,” Diana’s formal stylist, Anna Harvey recalled in the documentary. “And she did.” 

Casual Mummy Style 

The Princess of Wales in London in November 1995. Source: Getty Images

Aside from her humanitarian work and official engagements, she is also the mother of 2 sons, Prince Harry and Prince William. But even in those casual moments, her style never faltered. 

She was a busy woman. After swimming at 7 in the morning, she would dash back home to get dressed and have her hair done. After taking Harry to school, she would then rush off to the other end of the country for an engagement. Somehow, she would still have time for a set of tennis in the evening. She also had a coach that would advise her on her gym workouts a couple times a week. 

Normally, Diana’s gym outfit would comprise of a pair of tight-fitting cycling shorts, an oversized sweatshirt, thick white socks, and chunky trainers. True style does reigns even during everyday activities. 

In 1995, the princess showed off the above look that featured bright-orange shorts, sneakers, and a Virgin-Atlantic sweatshirt. She repeatedly wore the outfit for gym sessions to stop the paparazzi from getting new photographs of her. In July 2019, the sweatshirt was auctioned off at US$ 53,532. 

Her Hats

Princess Diana in a blue outfit complemented by a matching hat. Source: Pinterest 

The Princess of Wales had about 75 hats. Hats were a key part of her signature style and always added a finishing touch to her looks. 

Naturally shy in her early years, she wore them in the traditional British way, favouring birdcage veil details at formal engagements. The 1983 royal tour of Australia and New Zealand was particularly notable on the millinery front. This cemented the then 22-year-old Diana’s long-standing relationship with British hatmaker John Boyd. She always looked marvellous in broad hats as she knew how to wear them properly and matched them with the right outfits. 

Her Signature Blue Eyeliner 

Princess Diana with blue liner along her lash line. Source: Getty Images

“I like to be a free spirit,” Princess Diana once said. “Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” 

Princess Diana loved make-up. Her signature swipes of electric blue eyeliner were about emphasising and brightening up her natural blue eyes. She kept the eyeliner minimal, yet with enough product for the blue colour to pop. This made the striking colour wearable for many occasions. 

The People’s Princess

Princess Diana’s wardrobe reflected the many stages of her life and the growth of her confidence, from a naïve, shy, young girl to an elite, matured princess. Although she has passed on, her legacy will remain. Not just as a style icon, but also as a compassionate and dignified princess. 

By: Yee Jie Si (Jesse)  

Read the last Fashion Chronicle here!

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