Style Icon – Diana, Princess of Wales

This year, to mark the Princess’ death 20 years ago, Kensington Palace has mounted an exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story. It charts the Princess’ style legacy and follows Diana’s fashions from a romantic, frilled ingénue to the glamorous style icon she became. Another wonderful exhibition is being held at her family home, Althorp House, where she grew up; Mario Testino’s complete collection of iconic images will be on display from 1st May until 8th October 2017.

The dresses on display at Kensington Palace tell a story in their own right and it is a fascinating fashion trajectory. The most famous dresses include the jewel-encrusted Elvis Dress made by Catherine Walker for the Princess’ visit to Hong Kong in 1989; the navy-blue velvet John Travolta dress she wore at the White House when she danced with Travolta in 1985, designed by Victor Edelstein; and a cream satin dress with lace over-bodice and satin belt worn in 1991 for a state banquet at Buckingham Palace that was designed by Bruce Oldfield, who designed many dresses for the Princess.

Initially, for her royal duties, Diana’s decision was to wear British designers and only after her divorce from Prince Charles did she pick clothes from international collections. When you consider the thousands of photographs that were taken of the Princess at the huge number of public engagements around the world, we can only guess at the extent of her wardrobe and the work involved in creating her public persona. In every situation, whether for her charity work or on a state occasion, she was luminous. In the 16 years she was Princess of Wales, her dresses chart her journey from Bambi-eyed Sloane to the most glamorous business woman in the world. She knew that her image was part of her job.

The Mario Testino portraits captured the essence of Diana. They were originally commissioned for Vanity Fair in 1997. The original photographs form part of a permanent exhibition at MATE in Lima and are displayed for the first time in over 12 years  at Althorp House this year. These were her last official portraits, so rather special.

Diana knew that people often waited hours in the rain to see her, so incorporating colour into her day wardrobe was important. For her evening engagements she looked like a fairy princess and photographs of her went immediately around the world. The Mario Testino portfolio of portraits of Princess Diana are justly famous. Her slicked back hair was new and modern and her laughter and relaxed poses showed her confident beauty and completely changed the way we viewed the world of royalty, making it relevant and alive.

Personally, I have always been mesmerised by the Princess and plan to visit both exhibitions.

Style Icon – Diana, Princess of Wales

Style Icon – Diana, Princess of Wales