The ultimate Sloane Ranger, Lady Diana Spencer was born into an aristocratic family and became Lady Diana in her teens when her father was made an Earl. The Spencers lived on the estate next door to Sandringham – a Royal family estate that William, Kate and Prince George have recently moved to.
Diana then went on to make her debut on the world’s stage in 1981 as the shy fiancée of Prince Charles. Married at 20 and a mother of two little Princes at just 23, Diana was a thoroughly modern Royal who tore up the rule book and won the hearts of millions with her refreshing approach to life and style. She is remembered today as much for her tireless charity work and her warm, human touch as she is for her iconic and timeless style – a perennially preppy look that’s influenced many a Sloanie over the decades, including a certain Middleton…
Diana’s ensembles were chronicled tirelessly in the press in the same way that Kate’s are today, and one of the many traits the women shared was a fashion-forward awareness paired with a very distinct sense of elegance. All this, and great shoes. Where Kate is steadfastly loyal to her beloved LK Bennett, Princess Diana was equally true to Royal shoemakers, Rayne, who also made the Queen’s wedding shoes for her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947.
Big defining looks for Diana were military style accents such as buttons and stripes, one-shouldered ball gowns on the red carpet, peter pan collars and – of course – big, eighties shoulder pads. She also had a penchant for two-tone color-blocking and masculine tailoring, as well as plenty of plaid. In eighties London where High Street fashion was all about soft pastels and big, billowy sleeves, Diana’s fashion was edgy enough to raise eyebrows without causing all-out controversy. Just our kind of style icon.
Off-duty, Diana’s look was pure Sloanie casual and she managed to make a pairing as simple of jeans, blazer, cashmere v-neck or a simple button-down shirt look chic. Now, where have we seen those looks before..?
Credited by many for reviving the British fashion industry single-handedly, the Princess of Wales as she was then was celebrated for being a woman whose ‘age, size, coiffure and taste reflected the mass of the market. Because she was beautiful, others wanted to look like her’. Her style was carefully studied and imitated – though never duplicated – the world over. “Lady Di” blouses – chiffon with a high-neck and pussy bow – became as popular after Charles and Diana’s engagement photo call as Issa dresses were after Wills and Kate’s official engagement appearance at Clarence House.
What Princess Diana is remembered as much for today, nearly 18 years after her tragic death in Paris, is her humanitarian nature which saw her travel the world raising awareness for the charities closest to her heart. Children’s charities and African landmine charities featured highly on the agenda of the People’s Princess, though her heart made room for all manner of local and global causes. Showing a particular interest in health-related matters previously overlooked by British Royals, Diana became involved in charity work for AIDS and leprosy charities, and learnt sign language when she became a patron of the British Deaf Association. It is thought that the Ottawa Treaty – a global ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines – was finally passed thanks to her tireless work in this area.
“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Princess Diana