Why Princess Diana always wore bright colours to visit children

princess diana

Princess Diana was known as the People's Princess for her work with charities that helped people in need, including those infected with HIV, but mainly because of the personal rapport she established with them.

She made the at the time controversial decision to shun royal protocol by not wearing gloves. This was 'because she liked to hold hands when visiting people or shake hands and have direct contact' according to Eleri Lynn, curator of the exhibition Diana: Her Fashion Story.

At the time, there was a stigma associate with shaking hands with Aids patients, as many thought you could catch the virus that way, and the late Princess really helped dispel that myth.

Princess Diana visiting a family welfare centre In Pakistan in 1991

Children were always special to Princess of Wales, and she spent a lot of time visiting hospitals and centres for those in need, and often wore bright colours to do so, which was entirely planned.

David Sassoon, one of her designer friends, explained that it all started with what she called her 'caring dress', a floral crepe de Chine dress (main picture above) which she wore in Lagos in Nigeria, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and also while visiting a London Aids hospice.

The Princess noticed the children were really attracted to the design, and so she decided to carry on wearing bright colours to cheer them up, and make those visits less formal.

Princess Diana wearing a red Catherine Walker suit during a visit to London Lighthouse, a centre for people affected by HIV and AIDS, in London, 8th October 1996
(Image credit: Getty Images)

He told The Telegraph, 'She happened to wear that dress when visiting a hospital, and children seemed to clamour round and like it. If you are like the Princess of Wales, who loved children, you don't want a strictly formal suit for a hospital visit. You pick a very informal dress with bright colours, which that dress was. The reaction is one of awe from young children.'

Princess Diana visiting 'grandma's House', which looks after Aids sufferers, In Washington DC in 1990

Sassoon added that Diana carried on wearing the dress even though others weren't fans. He said, ‘She would say “I keep being told not to wear it, but I love this dress, my caring dress”. Of course, Diana was the first member of the Royal family to break all the rules.’

She also stopped wearing hats even though they were considered appropriate for formal visits, as she couldn't cuddle children in them.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at MoneySavingExpert.com, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.