Princess Diana’s wardrobe has been memorialized in books, exhibitions, Netflix shows, Vogue tribute photo sessions, and even a musical. The world observed her style transition into the “People’s Princess” from her dream wedding gown to the so-called “revenge dress” she donned after Prince Charles admitted to infidelity. “Her style was so very much her own,” said Jack L. Carlson, whose clothing business Rowing Blazers recently launched a Diana-inspired collection. “She wasn’t a follower in the least.
How would the Princess of Wales have worn in 2021 if she were 60 years old?
On the contrary, she went off on her own, and we all stood there in awe, trying to catch up.” When Carlson’s business re-released the Princess of Wales’ famed black sheep sweater last year, he sold “three months worth of sweaters in an hour and a half” after it went viral online, he said. But, if Diana had lived in 2021, how would she have dressed? In this divisive era, how would she have used her propensity for subtle, symbolic, and expressive fashion? With Diana’s 60th birthday approaching on Thursday, we take a look back at the influences that created her style — and how they might have influenced her look now.
More soft diplomacy is needed.
The Princess of Wales was a master at negotiating with her clothes. She utilized clothing as a nod of support and appreciation, whether she chose designers from the nations she was visiting or wore colors and symbols connected with the national identities of her hosts. “From the start, she used clothes to make gestures,” Diana’s former stylist Anna Harvey told British Vogue in 1997, shortly after the princess’ death: “On her first visit to Wales, she wore the Welsh colors — a green and red silk suit; for her arrival in Japan, she wore (Japanese designer Yuki Torimaru); and for a trip to Paris, Chanel.” She donned a dress embroidered with gold falcons, one of Saudi Arabia’s patriotic symbols, during a visit to the Gulf region in 1986. She wore a red and white polka-dot dress that seemed to recall the national flag during her royal tour of Japan that same year.
When milliner Stephen Jones wove the Prince of Wales’ feathers onto the traditional tam-o’shanter hat she wore to Scotland’s annual Braemar Gathering, Diana acknowledged to the royal institution she had married into. Royal family members generally “dress garments that subtly pay tribute to the culture of the nation they are visiting,” according to Matthew Storey, curator of Kensington Palace’s new exhibition “Royal Style in the Making,” in an email. Princess Diana, on the other hand, continued to do so in the years after her divorce from Prince Charles in the early 1990s (choosing to wear a traditional shalwar kameez on a visit to Pakistan in 1996, for example), and it seems likely that she would have applied the same thoughtfulness to her working wardrobe. Princess Diana used fashion to highlight the charities and institutions she valued by wearing their attire to polo matches or public events, in addition to paying honor to the host countries. Even back then, she was “light years ahead of us,” Carlson said, referring to the contemporary trend of utilizing items to support causes that people care about.”If anything, she taught us all to enjoy merch: from institutions you’ve never heard of, sports teams from other people’s hometowns, and even airlines you’ve never flown,” he said, referring to Diana’s instances when she wore a Northwestern University or Virgin Atlantic sweatshirt with cycle shorts. Today, it’s impossible to predict which causes Diana would have supported. Given her longstanding commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness, the many capsule collections presented for World AIDS Day by companies ranging from Maison Margiela to Victoria Beckham’s namesake label may have piqued her interest.
Diana’s fashion pronouncements, on the other hand, were not always so literal. The princess’ attire has been compared to “armor” by fashion analyst Eloise Moran, who started the Instagram account Lady Di Revenge Looks. Following her 1996 divorce from Prince Charles, her garments not only protected her from harm, but also helped her reclaim control of her story from both the palace and the British press. In a video interview, Moran noted, “She became a really strong figure by the end.” “I believe people were scared of her and what she may do next.” In today’s world, her defiant attitude would be well received. It may have affected how high-profile women utilize their outfits to defend themselves and make clandestine political comments, from Alexandria Ocasio-use Cortez’s of red lipstick as “war paint” to Jacinda Ardern’s decision to wear a traditional feathered Maori cloak to Buckingham Palace.
A wardrobe that is more international
Diana was drawn to British designers in her early years, and she had a way of changing the fortunes of those whose items she was pictured wearing. In a 1997 Vogue tribute, her stylist Harvey stated, “She wanted to wear British because she felt it was something constructive she could do for the fashion industry.” Take, for example, the aforementioned sheep sweater, which went viral long before the internet age, with its lone black sheep symbolizing Diana’s status as an outsider in the royal family. Last year’s re-release, which Carlson worked on with the garment’s original originator, Warm & Wonderful, was “life changing” for designers Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir, according to Carlson. According to him, the couple was able to build a storefront, and their creations were also sold in department stores from New York to Japan. In an email interview, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at the fashion search portal Lyst, stated, “Members of the royal family know that the clothes they wear are likely to hit the headlines — and promptly sell out.” Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton have continued the trend, according to Le Caer, who said that the next generation of royal spouses have “become great influencers in their own right.” Princess Diana might have revisited her statement knitwear days (a period highlighted by her Gyles & George sweater reading, “I’m a luxury no one can afford”) if she were alive today, according to both Moran and Carlson. “Perhaps she’d pay homage to her younger fondness for tongue-in-cheek knitting,” Moran speculated. “I think she would have enjoyed the Magda Archer x Marc Jacobs (project), especially the ‘Stay away from toxic people’ sweater,” she continued, referring to a sweater worn by celebrities such as Harry Styles.