Although she first appeared in the public eye as a kindergarten teacher at a London nursery, Diana became a style icon for the 1980s and 1990s. The world was mesmerized by her transformation from shy English rose to fashion superstar. Diana’s wedding dress, designed by British partners David and Elizabeth Emmanuel, was fit for a fairy-tale princess-all taffeta and ruffles with long lace cuffs trailing 18 feet of pearl encrusted train. Seven hundred and fifty million TV viewers watched Diana walk down the aisle at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
As a 19-year-old Princess, Diana’s early look was rather uninspired, based on the traditionalism of her upper-class upbringing. Nevertheless, the Sloaney look went global and Diana started a trend for ruffled blouses, simple Laura Ashley-type dresses and skirts, velvet jodhpurs, and tweed vests. Her drop-waisted dresses with sailor collars were also widely imitated.
The fashion press documented every tone of her dress and hair, often unkindly in the begining, so Diana quickly understood that she would be required more in the fashion stakes. She turned to British couturiers like Bruce Oldfield and her favorite, Catherine Walker of the Chelsea Design Company, and together they created the new Diana. This new look was elegant and sophisticated but at the same time it brought a feeling of freshness and modernity to the ancient institution of British monarchy. The world was enchanted and in the process the new Diana came to exist as a force in her own right.
Through her glamorous clothes and her amazing work for various charities, Diana not only carved out her own unique image but achieved a form of independence from her husband that gave her confidence and helped her show a brave face to the world, despite the difficulties she had to suffer in her unhappy marriage. By the mid-1990s though, Diana no longer needed fashion to bolster her confidence, which now came from within.
“Clothes are not as essential to my work as they used to be,” she said and in 1997 she sold many of her most beautiful outfits at auction in New York, raising three million dollars for charity.
I remember my mom and aunt crying when they aired her funeral on TV.