Princess Diana: A style icon through the ages

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Although we’re well aware of all the goodness and compassion Diana, Princess of Wales, spread throughout the world, her personal style was the first thing that dazzled (and in some cases, scandalized) the public. From her early days as a young, shy assistant teacher to her public and glamorous life as a royal, Diana’s style left an indelible mark on the world of fashion.

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She rubbed elbows with the glitterati of the style and music worlds, including her close friend Gianni Versace, who would go on to dress her for many of her most upscale appearances (and who was tragically killed less than two months before her). And although she took more fashion risks later in her life, once she was out of the clutches of the royal family, she demonstrated a keen understanding of style from her earliest pictures.

From prim British Lady to glamorous international figure, Princess Diana’s aesthetic sensibilities cemented her as a modern style icon.

1971

Even as a young girl, Diana demonstrated a keen understanding of fashion. This photo, taken in 1971 at the age of 10, shows that Diana was on top of the emerging trends of the decade, including floppy hats, which would become the style hallmark of the prairie look.

1981

On her honeymoon with Prince Charles in Scotland, Diana began to take otherwise staid British fashion staples like tweed into new territory, in a looser silhouette that was indicative of the 1980s.

1982

Just two months shy of giving birth to her first son, Prince William, here Diana shows she’s started to adopt the aesthetic of the decade: a wide-shouldered, deconstructed coat and a frilly blouse that would become the enduring look of the 1980s business woman.

1985

By the middle of the decade, Diana had settled into her public life and started to experiment with the styles of the time. Dresses like this gold-and-silver one by designer Bruce Oldfield garnered her the nickname “Dynasty Di.”

1987

Compared to her glitzier looks of the mid-80s, this dress proved Princess Diana was a style chameleon who could walk the line between elegant and risque. She famously wore this same dress two years earlier for an official event at the White House where she danced with John Travolta.

1989

Although designer Catherine Walker said the silhouette of this bolero was inspired by Elizabethan ruffs, the press declared this Diana’s “Elvis dress.”

1992

Pictured here attending a wedding with a young Prince Harry, Diana proves that matching clothing and accessories can look very chic.

1994

Diana’s off-duty style was as on-trend as her formal looks. She was sporty and classic — a look often mirrored by her daughter-in-law Kate Middleton.

1994

By now, Diana was separated from Charles and out from under the clutches of the royal family. Her style began to take a riskier and sexier route.

1995

For a concert in Italy, Diana wore a slinky white mini dress designed by her friend, Gianni Versace.

1996

Diana attends the Met Costume Institute Gala in a lingerie-inspired design from John Galliano’s premiere collection for Christian Dior.

1997

By the time she was officially divorced from Prince Charles, Diana embraced the quintessential body-con look of the 1990s, favouring short, form-fitted dresses with a lower neckline.

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