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Style Icon: Princess Diana

By Alice Browne

With the fourth series of ‘The Crown’, a handful of new documentaries fresh on our screens and a biopic in the works, Diana Spencer’s image has once again been ingrained into our current cultural moment. Though it’s been almost 25 years since the Princess’ tragic passing, her image is once again everywhere we look. Many of us have only heard stories of the political shockwaves and the collective mourning that her death incited nationwide, yet her influence has become accessible to a whole new generation. For this edition of Style Icon, we take you through the impact that the ‘peoples Princess’ still holds today.

Emma Corrin’s portrayal of Diana in ‘The Crown’ gives us replicas of some of her most iconic looks, from the 25 ft long David Emanuel wedding dress right down to her kitsch yellow dungarees. However, her status as a fashion powerhouse stretches far beyond the Netflix adaptation. Even prior to her marriage to Prince Charles, Lady Diana’s privileged upbringing placed her deep within the cult phenomena of the ‘Sloane Ranger’. This trademark, clean-cut, high society style continued into her official royal engagements, yet feels only a stone’s throw away from the preppy trends we’ve seen dominating this year.

Across her life, both with and beyond the house of Windsor, she was pictured in sharp, mensy silhouettes and power suits. These ranged from big names like Dior to more personal choices such as Catherine Walker, a strong statement against the dated styles of her royal peers at the time. Though obviously stunning, her influence was solidified not through her evening gowns but through the crisp collars and campy knitwear that wouldn’t be out of place on Harry Styles for Gucci.

(Princess Diana and Reebok Aerostep Pro. 1994 - Daily Mirror)

Following the catastrophic rise of streetwear, it’s now near impossible to celebrate Diana without even the staunchest of anti-monarchists (myself included) lusting over her dreamy 90s wardrobe. Though often just heading to and from the gym, her now iconic cycling shorts and graphic sweatshirt combination earned itself an entire homage shoot with it-girl Hailey Bieber in a 2019 issue of Vogue Paris. Since then, various takes on the look have been emulated in countless ‘model off-duty’ snaps. This sought after style has been picked apart right down to her shoes. Instagram accounts like @trainer.spotting have dedicated posts to her multiple pairs of fresh white Reeboks, as we see her effortlessly execute the tube sock and chunky trainer duo now central to our wardrobes.

Whilst we may see our own style in her more casual, accessible looks at the time, much of the media frenzy surrounding her outfits was dedicated to her ballgowns- where her subversion, arguably, caused the greatest stir. Over time, her formalwear went from making significant shockwaves to being outright infamous, with the 1994, custom-designed ‘revenge dress’ unironically taking the crown. Custom made for Diana by Greek designer Christina Stambolian, the dress snatched the headlines from Charles openly discussing his relationship with Camilla for the first time. It marked a new era of almost autonomy for Diana, staking her claim as an independent force.

Before the sultry silk of revenge came another controversial, yet often forgotten, black gown. For Diana’s first public engagement, the soon to be Princess wore a black ruffled dress, with a ‘daring’ sweetheart neckline. Though little more than a typical, slightly garish, 80s garment to us now, at the time it was a simultaneous act of resistance and modernity- both falling flat with the outdated, patriarchal institution she was marrying into. With its feminine silhouette, the later ‘revenge dress’ could be seen as a defiant nod to this first encounter, both proving her fashion status outside of royal constraints.

Image credit 1:

Image credit 2: @trainer.spotting

Image credit 3: Jayne Fincher/Getty Images

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