Two decades later, Princess Diana leads fashion

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Two decades later, Princess Diana leads fashion

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Roman Drop Cap 1or those of us born in the late 1990s, it seems we entered the world just as many cultural phenomena were leaving it. Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994. Nineties fashion was taking its victory lap before we could appreciate it. And the world nearly stopped when news broke that Princess Diana of Wales tragically passed away in a car crash in August 1997.

It may have taken 20 years for our generation to truly understand the phenomenon that was Diana, the People’s Princess whose funeral drew around 1.5 billion people to the TV screen. Her life was the sort of dramatic narrative Hollywood loves; mere nursery teacher assistant swept up into the royal family, where she was scrutinized for being too personable with the crowds and not personal enough with her husband Prince Charles. The media loved the glamour and scandal surrounding Diana, stalking her like no public figure ever before, and initiating the age of vicious paparazzi we have become accustomed to.

Yet Diana knew how to harness the power of the limelight. Visiting hospitals and landmines, she used the attention to advocate for better health care and an end to landmines. Constantly photographed, Princess Di also knew what she was wearing was as important as what she was doing, and from the never ending wedding train to the “revenge dress,” her outfits spoke millions. In a fashion era as distinct as the ’80s, Diana was its fierce icon.

Thankfully, fashion repeats itself and us ’90s kids have been able to relive the ’70s and ’90s with full intention. Eighties fashion has slowly crept back as well and should be in full force in the fall. On the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s passing, we pay tribute to her most ionic looks and the top lessons she taught us about fashion. Let the People’s Princess show us how to do the ’80s right.

 1. You don’t need plunging necklines to look sexy

Perhaps what people most adored about Diana was that, on one hand, she appeared just like them. She had the feathered hair, the “healthy” tan, the athletic build that was admirable yet achievable. Some can say she looked more contemporary than today’s Kate Middleton. But then again, take a look at her ball gowns and pillbox hats, and one knew she was a princess.

With both the financial freedom and style limits of the royal family, Princess Di mastered the art of looking sexy yet classy. One would imagine she was forbidden to don mini skirts or low necklines, but Diana didn’t need them show off her figure. Instead she turned to the era’s asymmetrical shoulders and swimsuit-like necklines to show off her glow.

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1983 in Hachi at the UK Premiere of the James Bond Film Octopussy in Odeon Leicester Square

Photo courtesy of Rex Features


1996 in Versace and Jimmy Choo

Photo courtesy of Glamour

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1996 in Versace at Victor Chang Research Institute dinner dance in Sydney

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

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1994 in Christina Stambolian (the “revenge dress”) at gala dinner Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London

Photo courtesy of PA Photos

Princess Diana also ruled the off-the-shoulder neckline, demonstrating how menswear could be cleverly contoured into a little black dress, or how a chunky choker added the perfect punch for an envy-eliciting ensemble.

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1989 in Victor Edelstein

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

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1984 in Bellville Sassoon

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail 

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1985 in Bruce Oldfield

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

Photographed from all angles, Princess Diana made the most of paparazzi’s affection by keeping it modest in the front and daring in the back with dramatic cutouts. Spiked with ’80s shoulder pads, the backless dresses slayed. Another royal in sweetheart necklines and updos would induce yawns. Princess Diana exemplified what a modern princess could be.

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1989 in Catherine Walker

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

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1985 in Catherine Walker

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail

2. Reign with red

Ah, red. It is the color of romance, revenge, and of course, royalty. Despite the powerful connotations, so many women stray from the shade, claiming that it doesn’t flatter, or that it’s too bold. Well, it’s time to put on the big girl pants, because fashion editors are calling it one of the biggest trends of fall 2017. From gowns to leather pants to skirts suits, Princess Diana painted the town red.

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In Ralph Lauren

Photo courtesy of Tumblr

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Photo courtesy of Glamour

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1989 at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington

Photo courtesy of Rex Features

1985 in Bruce Oldfield at Victorian State Government reception on a Royal Tour of Australia

Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail



Photo courtesy of Pinterest

3. Long live the power suit and the shoulder pads

It’s easy to get nostalgic when looking at photos of Princess Diana. What needs to come back? The ’80s professional skirt suit with all its shoulder pad glory. Nearly every female in the royal family wears the classic female suit at one event or another, but none do with the same swagger as Princess Di. Pearl chokers, bulky buttons, huge houndstooth, popped collars, punchy peplum, and fabulous tailoring make the outfits anything but prude. It’s rumored men’s tailoring and tidy tweed are to make a comeback this season. Perhaps us plebs can have our princess moment too.

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1994 at the wedding of Sarah Armstrong Jones to Daniel Chatto at St Stephen’s Church in London

Photo courtesy of PA Photos

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1992 in Egypt

Photo courtesy of PA Photos

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1990 for the christening of her niece, Princess Eugenie, at Sandringham in Norfolk

Photo courtesy of Rex Features

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1992 at the Royal Albert Hall gala dinner in memory of Sammy Davis Jr.

Photo courtesy of Rex Features

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1989 in Catherine Walker’s “Elvis” dress at the British Fashion Awards

Photo courtesy of Rex Features


1989 in Catherine Walker and hat by Kangol during Royal Tour of Italy

Photo courtesy of Flickr


1981 in Balmoral

Photo courtesy of Tumblr


1986 at Guards Polo Club in Windsor

Photo courtesy of Rex Features

4. Go big or go home

Monarchs have showed off their wealth with precious metals and jewels throughout history, and even in the late 20th century, Princess Diana rocked rocks. Rather than allowing them to date her, though, the Princess brought a breath of fresh air to pearls and gold. Against her cropped cut, pearl earrings popped. Closely wrapped around her neck and closed with a stunning sapphire, pearl strands suddenly became vivacious as chokers.

If not pearls, Princess Di was photographed in her gold hoops. By pairing them with casual pieces like bomber and ski jackets, she lent the classic accessory an edge of cool.

Yet nothing was as cool as her sunglass game. In typical ’80s fashion, shades were oversized with sharp lines and bright accents. She couldn’t have possibly been trying to hide from the paparazzi when slipping them on.

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1994 in Versace

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

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1990 in Catherine Walker

Photo courtesy of Tumblr


1993 in Thorpe Park, London

Photo courtesy of Pinterest


1986 in Klosters, Switzerland

Photo courtesy of PA Photos

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Photo courtesy of Jolie Gazette

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1989 and 1991

Photos courtesy of The Daily Mail


5. Underline it in blue

Blue eyeliner may sound like one of those regretful trends lying among the ranks of crispy perms and hairspray overload. But after flipping through a few of Diana’s portraits, you’ll notice the magic. Drawn so subtly, it’s almost as if you don’t notice the blue eyeliner, just her blue eyes. But then boom, it hits you: she has blue liner along her lower lash line. The secret is to keep it crisp and clean so that it enhances the eye color, not under eye circles. The trick works for all eye shades and skin tones. In Diana’s case, maybe it’s the makeup, or maybe the Princess was just born with a royal sparkle.

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1989 in Escada coat with a hat by Philip Somerville

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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Photo courtesy of Pinterest

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1988 in Catherine Walker at a gala at the British Embassy

Photo courtesy of Marie Claire

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