Splitting with Prince Charles was the best thing that could have happened to Princess Diana — at least for her wardrobe.
“That’s when she became a style icon,” says Matthew Storey, one of the curators of the exhibit “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” currently on view at London’s Kensington Palace.
Twenty years after Di’s death, it’s not the over-the-top, 1981 puff-sleeve wedding dress, but the sleek sheaths, slinky silhouettes and laid-back workwear she donned in her post-princess years that helped cast her as the icon she is today.
“The dresses worked, the hair worked, the styling worked,” says Storey. “It all came together so beautifully that instead of seeing the outfit, you saw her. She went beyond fashion.”
Of course, Diana Spencer had already come quite a long way from the frilly pie-crust collars and woolly jumpers of her schoolteacher days by the time she separated from Charles in 1992.
Even by the late ’80s, Storey says, “you could see her experimenting and settling into something more confident, elegant and timeless,” such as her “Elvis dress,” a white beaded column with a matching high-collared jacket by Catherine Walker that she wore in 1989.
Yet nothing prepared the public — nor the royal family — for the “revenge” dress: the tight, ruched and scandalously short frock Diana stepped out in shortly after Charles publicly admitted his infidelities in 1994.
“It was sleeveless, low-cut, above the knee, sexy,” says UK fashion editor Lynnette Peck, who covered Diana in the ’90s and now owns online shop Lovely’s Vintage Emporium. “Even Kate Middleton doesn’t dress like that today!”
“Some of the papers were supportive of her, but some of the tabloids suggested that she was behaving very naughty for an ex-princess,” Peck adds of Diana’s post-split look. “People wanted her to go away quietly and be a mother and dress appropriately.”
Instead, Diana continued to parade around in even more provocative ensembles: a sleeveless cocktail dress with a low neckline that Peck describes as “not at all royal,” a beaded red tunic worn over a slim-cut pencil skirt in Venice, and a wiggly white sheath by va-va-voom Italian designer Gianni Versace, which was rebellious not only because it highlighted her curves, but because it wasn’t made by a Brit.
“It was very important for her role as Princess of Wales to represent the British fashion industry,” says Storey. “Later she started wearing more foreign designers.”
She often ditched the palace-preferred pantyhose and appeared barelegged and tan. She attended the 1996 Met Gala just about four months before her divorce was finalized in a navy lace-edged slip dress that resembled a slinky nightgown, worn with her signature enormous pearl-and-sapphire choker.
Some of Diana’s most radical outfits were what she wore to fight for her chosen causes. As Princess, she had to wear long skirts and prim blouses, no matter how inhospitable or rugged the conditions. In her post-royal life, she dispensed with such finery and opted for three-quarter-length trousers and worn-in loafers. She was photographed walking through an active minefield in war-torn Angola in khakis, a menswear button-down shirt and a safety vest.
“That image really sticks out in my mind,” says Storey, adding that no one had ever seen a princess — or ex-princess — so unruffled.
“In a way, she was sticking it to the idea of formality,” says Peck. “She came from an English society with lots of rules and regulations and married into a family with even more rules and regulations. The last five years of her life, she had a freedom she’d never had.”
Source: nypost com
Tags: Diana, Princess of Wales, Princess Diana, Met Gala, Outfits, Angola in Khakis, menswear, Button-down, Vest, pearl-and-sapphire choker, slinky nightgown, worn with her signature