Princess Diana could “sell clothes just by looking at them,” The Telegraph’s Iain Hollingshead aptly wrote. What she wore created trends immediately.
Diana’s 1981 David and Elizabeth Emanuel silk and taffeta and pouffy all over wedding gown, which by the way has its own Wikipedia page, became the gold standard in the 1980s as soon as the 750 million people who watched the Wedding of the Century dried their eyes. She modernized and in a way, humanized, royal dressing, becoming the first princess to wear jeans, paving the way for Kate Middleton to have some fashionable-but-comfortable days.
And Diana also knew how make a statement. John Galliano, who made his first couture dress at Dior for the People’s Princess, once said: “I always felt she really understood how to use fashion as the silent language and let clothes do the talking for her when she couldn’t, the way a movie star in the silent films did.” She certainly did that in 1994 when she proved looking good is the best revenge in a short, off-the-shoulder LBD shortly after her fairytale marriage to Prince Charles ended and he admitted to an affair.
Look your best on New Year’s Eve, the holiday season’s grand finale, by taking some cues from an icon. Consider this your guide to Princess Diana style.
A Simple Silhouette
If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It
Diana’s post-royal fashion included some more revealing choices that probably caused Prince Charles to kick himself once or twice. Pick your best feature and show it off, like Diana did during a visit with the British School of Seoul in South Korea when she donned a fitted suit dress-and-blazer number that displayed her long legs and kept the rest buttoned up.
With a simple, classic silhouette as her foundation, Diana focused on picking out clothes made of luxe materials and gorgeous details, like silk and velvet. The pearl-encrusted Catherine Walker bolero, complete with a high collar, she wore during a trip to Hong Kong has gone down in fashion lure as “The Elvis Dress.” Look for pieces with intricate details that will keep a classic cut from looking drab.
One, Right Note
Monochrome has had a revival in recent years, but Diana rocked it in the 1990s and she wasn’t afraid to go there and wear all red. If you’re not feeling particularly risky, you can of course stick to a more neutral color like white, brown or our New York City neighbors’ favorite, black. Play with layers and textures like a faux fur over a cashmere sweater with wool pants.
Be Fearless. It’s the Best Accessory.
When Diana emerged on royal scene, she was sometimes called “Shy Di,” appearing modest and reserved in her engagement photos. Of course, she went on to blossom into the woman fearless enough to rewrite the fashion rulebook and, gasp, wear denim, recover from a highly-publicized divorce and courageously speak about her own eating disorder. You may not be able to deck yourself out in diamond jewels or have several Versace dresses in your closet, but you can absolutely rock a subtle swagger as you hail a cab in the Financial District, on your way home after owning your to-do list in your coveted corner office.