Princess Diana has long been seen as one of the great, if not the greatest, fashion icons of the 20th century. Her style was sensible, elegant, and, with a little bit of work, achievable.
Princess Diana hardly needs an introduction, but the lovely Lady Di as she was known is certainly deserving of one. She grew up in an upper-class English family and married Prince Charles at a tender 21 years of age. She would be a very involved mother to her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
Humanitarianism is also something that comes to mind when people think about Princess Diana as at one time she was the patron for more than 100 charities. She once said that she was not a political figure, but was instead a humanitarian figure, adding “and I always will be.”
She did interviews about the heartbreak she felt when discovering Charles’ affair with Camilia and famously said, speaking in the third person, that she was a problem because she wouldn’t go out quietly. That vulnerability is often what drew so many people to her. She was very beloved, which led to the scene of flowers sent to Buckingham Palace following the tragic car accident that killed her.
While it was hard for most to believe that this great woman was gone, she lives on through her two children, the Princess Diana Memorial Fund, and her iconic style that has set her alongside the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn.
The Sloane Ranger Look
This is really the look that comes to mind when we think about the young Lady Diana. The ironic part is that this iconic style that so many copied when the world first met Princess Diana wasn’t original to her. In fact, many of the clothes were those she borrowed from other Sloane Rangers. The Sloane Rangers were young adults who shared flats around Sloane Square in wealthier burrows of London.
The look was very set out: pie-crust collars, Laura Ashley floral skirts, and a sweater (or a jumper if you’re English like Lady Di), with simple flats or kitten heels. The look was all about mixing the sensible with status symbols. For example, you might wear a basic sweater from the men’s section of the department store, but your tights were Dior. Or wearing wellies (rainboots) but still having on a strand of pearls. In a lot of ways, the look can be thought of as the English version of the preppy look created by upper-class people in New England here in the United States.
This signature look of Lady Diana is very easy to emulate because it was particularly formulaic. In fact, you can even buy a Sloane Ranger handbook from the time that will tell you exactly how to dress. It was all about tradition and conformity, something that Princess Diana would break away from later.
But despite the fact that the look was formulaic and not actually original to Lady Diana, it’s part of what makes her a style icon because women all over England began to dress like her after she became engaged to Prince Charles. Prior to the invention of the Internet, if you didn’t live in that area there wouldn’t be any real way for girls outside of that specific area in England to know that this way of dressing even existed much less begin to dress that way themselves. Lady Diana is the one who introduced the iconic look to the world, blending sensibility with class.
Dress To Show You Care
This element of Princess Diana’s style was really true to her and speaks to her humanitarian side. She wouldn’t wear gloves because she liked to hold people’s hands when she went on visits. She wore chunky jewelry when visiting children’s hospitals because she knew they would like playing with it. Her thoughtfulness went all the way down to her fabric choice, often choosing textured fabrics like velvet when visiting the blind. Princess Diana took it beyond dressing to pay homage to countries when she visited. She really dressed to show that she cared about each person she met.
It’s that thoughtfulness that earned her the moniker “The People’s Princess.” Employing a similar sentiment in your life looks a little bit different for everyone. Wearing the sweater your grandma gave you would make her day, or wearing a ball cap with your dad’s favorite team if he takes you to a game. Clothing sends a message. If we can learn anything from Princess Diana, it’s that one of the messages we can share with the way we dress is that we care. A little thought and effort are all it takes.
Glitzy, Body-Con Dresses
As she got deeper into her time as a member of the royal family, Princess Diana began to step away from her Sloane Ranger look of the early years and really came into her own sense of style. She chose elegant dresses with lots of colors and embellishments. Princess Diana tended to choose things that really added to the glamor, but it was the confidence with which she wore the dresses that made them so iconic because it seemed to radiate through the photographs. So don’t forget confidence is the most important accessory when you’re making a fashion choice.
Athleisure Done Right
Athleisure is a huge trend today, and even though now it would seem as though everyone did it, I’ll never be convinced anyone ever made it work quite like Diana did. The spandex bike shorts recently became in again (I think because the Kardashians were seen in them), but Lady Di did them first.
For this one, you’ll just need spandex bike shorts (she even wore colored ones), a loose crewneck sweatshirt, chunky white sneakers, and thick gym socks. The gym socks will really be the detail that helps to set it apart from the current trend. Just make sure to match them with the chunky sneakers and you’re golden. It really is cool without trying to be, so when you’re exercising or running a quick errand it’s the perfect look
Signature Makeup Look
Princess Diana’s classic makeup look helped to bring out her bright blue eyes and finished off her look. Her makeup artist Mary Greenwell has actually filmed a tutorial on just how to do your makeup like Princess Diana. She made it a more modern take on what she used to do for Lady Di, and it would be suitable for any occasion. Greenwell was the one to have her step away from the blue eyeliner (which was iconic in its own right) to help the look become a bit more mature.
Overall, the main thing to get makeup like Princess Diana’s is to keep the look pretty natural. She didn’t wear super bright lipstick or do winged liner. Instead, try some purple toned eyeshadow, keep your eyeliner close to your lash line, and finish your look off with some pink lipstick. You’re done!
Princess Diana was a true fashion icon of the 20th century. She was known for being very charismatic and thoughtful and was a wonderful mother. Embody her lovely spirit, try out some of these looks, and you’re sure to find yourself resembling her a bit more.