Style Icons of Our Past: Princess Diana

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Known as "the People's Princess," Diana Spencer was a breath of fresh air compared to the British Royal Family of her time. Princess Diana was the former wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. Princess Diana married her prince on July 29th, 1981, in what's been described as a fairy tale wedding that aired to over 7.5 million viewers worldwide. The ceremony took place at St. Paul's Cathedral, with about 3,500 guests in attendance.

Despite their hopeful start, after eleven years of marriage Charles and Diana would divorce in August 1996. The princess's death would only be a little over a year later, in 1997, in a tragic car accident in Paris while being chased by paparazzi. 

As Princess of Wales, Diana was expected to make public appearances at schools, hospitals, and a number of other facilities. Over time she developed an interest in serious illnesses and health-related matters such as AIDS. Through her charitable work and genuine care about those she went to visit, her popularity with the people grew. 

She was either a president or patron of over 100 charities that included Centrepoint, Leprosy Mission, Hospital for Sick Children, the National AIDS Trust, and so much more. 

Princess Diana impacted the lives of millions as we watched her use her influence to help others. She was a true icon in every sense, including her style. Despite the sudden end of her title as Princess of Wales, it was evident that Diana had a presence and elegance. Even now, her fashion sense is still discussed and remembered fondly.

Her style has influenced many of the '80s and '90s fashions and still does to this day. Members of the current royal family, like Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, often have their style compared to the late princess. Some celebrities have even tried to copy her looks. Hailey Beiber was seen doing a photo shoot in honor of Princess Di and her casual everyday street style with biker shorts, oversized sweatshirt, and her classic large blazer paired with a baseball cap.

A large part of what set her apart from royal family members was her way of communicating through her clothing. Not just in the colors she wore and in the style of dress, but even in her way to physically communicate with the public. For charities, the princess did not like wearing gloves so she could hold people's hands. She desired that skin-to-skin contact to show people that she was more like them than royalty and that she saw herself as a part of her people instead of being something separate entirely. 

Like most royals, Princess Diana had to follow a royal protocol of how she was expected to dress for engagements. Diana did this with much more style and taste than the others. She established her style through a unique use of prints, lively colors she wore, patterns, matching hats, and handbags, etc. She must have understood that looking good was a big part of her success and popularity as Princess of Wales.

However, to truly understand and respect Diana's sense of fashion, we have to go back to the outfit that turned the heads of millions worldwide: the wedding dress. 

The princess' wedding dress was designed by then-married couple and designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. The Emanuel's kept Diana's dress locked in a safe and was guarded 24/7 until the royal wedding day. It was a typical '80s gown - large, overblown, romantic, etc. The wedding gown train was 25 feet long, the longest wedding gown train in British royal history. Her veil was even longer. 

Soon after her emergence in that gown, people all over the world began to pay even closer attention to the way Diana dressed. Her royal engagements and outings served as a place for the public eye to hone in on her and what she was wearing, and her style of clothes began to be featured at stores in London and eventually worldwide. 

Shortly after Prince William's birth, Diana had her first official royal tour in Australia, which lasted six weeks alongside her husband and newborn baby. We see a lot of youthful, 'girly' colors and frills on her dresses. However, on the last night of their Australian tour, we see her switch to a sparkling, fitted, one-shoulder dress that makes her look womanly and much stronger than she has dressed before, marking the start of her style evolution. Her wardrobe would continue to mature, as did her confidence in the public eye and as a royal family member.

Designer Bruce Oldfield introduced the princess to a much more glamorous, sleek "film star" look compared to her previous frilly skirt and big-shouldered gowns (which were still beautiful and in style, keep in mind). She evolved her style as her position in the royal family progressed and changed. 

Some of her other favorite designers include Bellville Sassoon, Jasper Conran, and Katherine Walker. One of her staple pieces was her coat-dresses, which she is seen wearing various ones on numerous royal jobs. These coat dresses were initially designed for her by Katherine Walker. 

This mature way of dress continued on into the early '90s, with more of her clothing becoming much more fitted yet shapely. She looks far more sophisticated than she did in previous years with the maturity of age and style - something that women even to this day still aspire to achieve. 

Another staple of her outfits was her glamorous hats, most of them designed by Philip Somerville. They were flattering and stylish - the perfect companion at a British royal engagement. And although hats have been worn many years before joining the royal family, Princess Diana's fresh take on this staple piece had her stick out from other Windsor members.

From her dazzling gowns to her fabulous hats, Princess Diana's legacy is not just as the people's princess, but their princess of style, as well. 

Written by: Alyssa Lambo

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