Thursday September 13, 2012
Diana conquered the fashion world
Before the ‘Kate effect’, there was a princess who conquered the fashion world.
THE only person who would have been able to topple Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, off her current style pedestal was her late mother-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales.
This was someone who knew how to not only work the crowd and have them eating out of her hand, she pretty much controlled how her image was presented to the world.
She has sold more magazines than probably anyone and the “Diana effect” in her time outstripped Catherine’s. Diana appeared on three Vogue covers during her life and on the October 1997 issue commemorating her death.
The princess was in a different realm altogether, she wasn’t just a style icon, she was the people’s princess. Universally adored, her tragic death caused a near-constitutional crisis in Britain and never had the royal family been so disliked than during that time.
Therefore, to do a comparison between the two is rather unfair. Catherine, at 29, had time to hone her style and was older when she got married, hence less likely to make mistakes. She would have also seen what Diana had gone through and the shadow of the late princess would have fallen rather strongly on the duchess.
Diana, who married at 19, had to grow publicly into her role, and her fashion sense developed along the way. From the well-documented photo of the see-through skirt prior to her engagement to her transition from polka-dot and drop-waist dresses to the sheer elegance of sleek, fitted suits, glamorous ballgowns and dazzling dresses, she outshone everyone.
Her wedding dress, designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel, was a real princess dress, with a ruffled neck, full sleeves and skirt, and a 7.6m train – the longest in royal wedding history.
At the height of her popularity, no one could make an entrance quite like Diana. Long before the duchess wore Alexander McQueen military style outfits, the princess had already been there and done that in 1987 in Catherine Walker.
The late British designer Catherine Walker was a favourite and Diana wore several of her outfits during her official engagements. The princess was even buried in a Catherine Walker black dress.
She understood the power of an outfit, and she used it. When the programme on Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles aired on TV, who made the papers the next day? Diana, of course, who appeared at a gala dinner the night before in a black off-the-shoulder Christina Stambolian dress with a pearl choker. Glamour has and will always rule the headlines.
While she favoured British designers like Catherine Walker, Jacques Azagury, Arabella Pollen, Bruce Oldfield and Amanda Wakeley to name a few, she also wore clothes by international designers such as Versace, Christian Lacroix, Ungaro and Chanel.
Her list of style accolades are numerous and one of them was her admission to the 1991/1992 International Best Dressed List’s Hall of Fame.
Diana was always appropriately dressed, and even matched the designers to the countries she visited, like wearing Chanel to Paris and an Escada coat to Germany.
She made pearl chokers popular and don’t forget the Lady Dior bag which became a must-have accessory when Diana started carrying it in 1995.
Diana never followed trends, she set them. Whether she was in jeans or a ballgown, she was, in her time, the most stylish fashion icon and will always be remembered as the most famous princess of all. – Dzireena Mahadzir
Regal and real