We take a look at Diana's most memorable and stylish outfits
Princess Diana was the original monarch who ruled the art of royal dressing, long before Kate Middleton and her cool fashion brands came along. After all, she seamlessly embraced Royal etiquette, all the while setting her own fashion rules, like not wearing gloves on official visits, starting this trainer trend and single-handedly making this Dior handbag one of the most coveted in the world.
Today, almost 20 years on since Diana’s death, her style still fascinates the world, so much so that Kensington Palace has dedicated an entire exhibition to her (Diana: Her Fashion Story), showcasing some of her most famous outfits, including the pale pink David Emanuel blouse she wore in her engagement portrait.
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, reveals, ‘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 examples other Royalty, children etc.
Princess Diana’s style 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, 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. 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 dress in equally bright designs and prints, always worn with matching accessories like pillar box hats.
Princess Diana’s style 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 styles 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.
Twenty years on from her death, Princess Diana’s style is still an inspiration to many. Scroll down to see her most iconic looks.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles got engaged in 1981, and the outfit she wore to the announcement at Buckingham Palace was power dressing at its best, neckerchief and all. It was the beginning of Diana’s royal style journey, but believe it or not, the ensemble was actually plucked from the rails of Harrods at the last minute. Diana had visited high-end Bellville Sassoon, but wasn’t recognised by the French sales assistant, who suggested Diana visited a more budget-appropriate department store. Fortunately, once David Sassoon himself had discovered the mishap, Diana was warmly welcomed back into the boutique and their relationship flourished from there; the designer was one of the defining names behind the Diana style we all know and love.
As a royal-to-be, this was Princess Diana’s first official appearance following the engagement – and what better dress to rely on for the occasion than an LBD? Designed by Elizabeth and David Emmanuel (who would also serve as the masterminds behind Diana’s wedding dress), it made headlines around the world and firmly established Diana as a global style icon.
Ask any millennial woman to name an iconic wedding dress from the last century and we’re 90% sure they’ll name Diana’s fairytale showstopper from her 1981 royal wedding (the others will toot Kate Middleton, who was a bride precisely 30 years later). Complete with a 25ft train, no less, the gown was designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel along with the bride herself. It’s the epitome of everything little girls dream of in a princess wedding dress.
Diana’s maternity style was the perfect balance of practical and chic; think oversized, slighlty slouchy dresses paired with a stylish pair of pumps. You recognise this green and white polka dot number for a reason – that iconic photo of Diana and Charles with a newborn William on the steps of St Mary’s? It’s the very same dress Diana wore then.
This Bruce Oldfield ticked all of the boxes – dramatic shoulder? Check. Bold blue? Check. Statement pattern? Check. It was one of her first public outings following the birth of her son, Prince William, only a few months beforehand, so naturally the gorgeous ensemble sent the fashion world into a frenzy. Talk about nailing it in the post-baby style stakes.
This outfit is classic ’80s Diana; smart hat, statement red, oversized lapels and a polka dot dress to boot. Here she’s pictured on her tour of Australia in 1983.
As part of that same Royal tour in 1983, Princess Diana taught everyone how the (currently revived) off-shoulder trend should be done. Here she is arriving at a reception at the Melbourne Hilton Hotel in a sparkling white floor length gown and suitably sparkling earrings to match.
While this gorgeous lace white gown is nothing short of princess-like, the tiara is the big deal here. Gifted to Diana as a wedding present in 1981, the ‘Lover’s Knot’ tiara is encrusted with diamonds and teardrop pearls. It was designed by Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother in 1914 and reportedly Diana’s favourite. So, naturally, when Kate Middleton wore it to a function two years ago the world could barely contain its excitement.
Another iconic moment during which Princess Diana captured the hearts of the world; showing off her fun side by dancing with a young John Travolta at a White House dinner held by President Reagan. The gown, an off shoulder number by Victor Edelstein, was sold at auction for £240,000 after her death.
Princess Diana wore a suitably naval-feeling outfit to represent the queen at a parade for Officers of the Britannia Royal Naval College in 1989. The red and white coat was designed by Catherine Walker, while the hat was made by Philip Somerville.
Another Catherine Walker number, this time worn to a charity evening held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel. The shimmery gown was complete with puff long sleeves and adorned with sequins, meaning Diana caught the light wherever she turned.
It’s one of the ten iconic Diana dresses that went up for auction in 2013.
Quite possibly Princess Diana’s most famous look from her style archives is the black plunging Christina Stambolian gown she wore to the Serpentine Gallery summer party in 1994. Its special significance? Not only did she almost not wear the gown, but it was the same night a documentary aired in which Prince Charles confessed to his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. The name ‘Revenge Dress’ stuck, and the gown was one of 10 iconic Diana dresses auctioned off in 2013.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was Jackie Kennedy, but no, it’s definitely Princess Diana. The pink suit, complete with a very Jackie O hat, was designed by Gianni Versace for the Princess of Wales to visit troops at Howe Barracks in Canterbury, 1995.
Interestingly enough, the Serpentine Summer Party the following year was also significant for Princess Diana, as it was during her divorce proceedings. The pretty blue halter-neck gown was the ultimate summer party mini dress.
Here Princess Diana wears a gorgeous bright blue silk dress by Versace on the red carpet during her tour of Australia in 1996. The event in question was a Heart Foundation ball in Sydney.
It’s safe to say that Princess Diana had the slip dress and statement necklace combo down to a tee. At the 1996 Met Gala, held in honour of Christian Dior himself, Diana paid homage to the designer by opting for this Dior navy number.
One of Princess Diana’s last public appearances before her tragic death in 1997 was to see Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in June. The necklace she wore for the performance, since nicknamed the ‘Swan Lake Suite Necklace’ and made of 178 diamonds and pearls, became iconic. It went on sale for approximately £10 million earlier this year.