August 31 marks the 2oth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. On a recent trip to London, I was privileged to view some of Diana’s most iconic dresses during a special exhibit at Kensington Palace; just one of many events planned this year to honor her life. Even after two decades, it is easy to see that the English, as well as the rest of the world, have not forgotten Diana’s immortal spirit.
If I had to describe Diana’s style using three words, they would be: elegant, feminine, and very British. Her fashion sense evolved through the years, but her style always remained true to her essence.
“From the moment her engagement to the Prince of Wales was announced in 1981, there was huge demand for news about her. Her image on the cover of any magazine could increase circulation by 40% and her choices influenced popular taste.” … excerpt from Diana: Her Fashion Story*
Following her engagement, Diana began meeting with British designers. “Her quiet demeanor earned her the nickname, “Shy Di,” but in private Diana had a much more playful and informal side. This charmed the designers she recruited to help craft her image, and many became steadfast friends.”*
“Whenever the Princess discussed her clothes with me, part of it was always, ‘What message will I be giving out if I wear this?’ ” …Jasper Conran, Fashion Designer
During the 14 years Diana was ‘Princess of Wales,’ she attended hundreds of public engagements each year, and every occasion was met with a clothing decision. She commissioned designers to create ‘bespoke’ (custom made) garments just for her.
Once briefed, designers would prepare sketches for Diana to review and together they would finalize the look, “…sometimes sitting on the floor, flicking through fabrics and images. Diana became a proud ambassador for the British fashion industry. Her patronage could catapult unknown designers to fame in an instant.”*
Diana’s relationship with the late couturier Catherine Walker lasted for 16 years, from her first commission in 1981 to Diana’s death in 1997.
“She learned what worked–what would sparkle.” …Catherine Walker
Walker took Diana from frilled ingénue to serious suit-wearing humanitarian campaigner. Or, as her press secretary once put it, from ‘clothes horse to workhorse.’
As Diana’s lifestyle changed, so did her wardrobe:
Glamorous British Ambassador
One cannot help but wonder if Diana’s life had not ended at the young age of 36, what she might be involved with today. We can be sure that this woman, who gave so much, would still be dutifully contributing with the same grace and panache she exemplified in life.
“Her beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds.” … Earl Spencer, Diana’s Brother
See more on the exclusive exhibit at Kensington Palace, DIANA: Her Fashion Story by clicking here.