This generation can only see Diana through the lens of a camera, and understand her by the affectionate memories of our parents and grandparents. We will never quite understand the presence that the Princess of Wales once had.To follow Diana’s life as a series of images is too see her develop from a naïve young girl into a strong woman, her sense of style sketching this transformation excaltly. The release of ‘Diana’ today will present the late Princess of Wales through yet another pair of eyes, featuring true items from Diana’s wardrobe. More so than usual, these pieces tell a story of their own.
By looking the first images of Diana shown in the press, one could not have imagined what a dominant fashion icon she would become. She wore baggy, motherly clothing, fitting the stereotype of a nursery school teacher perfectly. At her young age, Diana had not developed her own fashion identity, leaving a blank canvas for the royal advisors to create their new Princess of Wales upon.
Yet as Diana developed her identity as a woman and a member of the Royal family, her personal style took a leading role. Her look was no longer sculpted by others. Fashion critics have even said that Diana single handedly revived British fashion for women across the country: the public saw her transformation from a plain, shy girl to the most fashionable woman in Britain and were inspired. Diana appeared on three Vogue covers during her life and a final fourth to commemorate her death
The road that lead Diana to this point was not, however, built simply on glamour and perfection. Diana struggled with a severe and traumatic eating disorder, bulimia nervosa. The fashion industry is often blamed for the high number of sufferers around the world of similar disorders, but for Diana, fashion was a positive force, not a destructive one. In a speech given on April 27th, 1993, on the subject of eating disorders, Diana stated that ‘the quest for perfection our society demands can leave the individual gasping for breath at every turn’. Despite other struggles in her life, fashion gave Diana strength in both her own eyes, and the eyes of the public.
There are several items in Diana’s life that will never be forgotten. The most famous of this was her wedding dress: the 25ft trail remains the most elaborate in Royal history. David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, the designers, remained dear to Diana’s style directory. The new princess looked beautiful, but not always quite perfect – with a train that long, keeping it pristine after a car ride through London was always going to be problematic…
The Red Carpet
Combining her definitive passion for charity with her dedication to fashion, Diana expressed her personal style at a 1985 fashion show gala in aid of Dr Barnado’s, the charity that she was president of. This Bruce Oldfield dress is just one in the catalogue of beautiful, statement evening gowns that defined Diana as a fashion icon. Among the most memorable was the deep blue dress, covered top to toe in dazzling sequins worn to a film premier, and the monochrome gown worn when on a royal tour to Saudi Arabia, from the designers of her wedding dress.
The Black Dress
To truly understand Diana’s relationship with fashion, we must turn to the black Christina Stambolian dress, worn the day after Diana and Charles’ divorce was announced. To Diana, fashion symbolised more than elegantly arranged pieces of material – they were her way of talking to the public. From this point onwards, Diana truly became the fashion icon that we remember her as today.
However Oliver Hirschbiegel might present Lady Diana in his new feature film, her personal style choices are possible the truest expression of the late fashion icon that we can ever access.