We'll call this one the mother of all transformations.
Here's a change that was painfully easy to see coming: after all, Diana was only 19 years old when she and Charles announced their engagement. Few among us keep the same style from the age of 19 on, and Diana was no exception. What most people, especially the royal family, didn't see coming was the extent to which Diana would take her transformation.
Diana's style always seemed a bit lost to me, at the beginning. Such a young girl doesn't yet have a definitive style to call her own, so she relies on others to guide her. In Diana's case, she stuck with the principles of royal dressing and with a cache of British designers including the Emanuels (of wedding gown fame) and Bellville Sassoon.
This hazy-edged dream way of dressing lasts until sometime around Prince Harry's birth (1984). It's hard to say what prompted the change; certainly by this time Diana was gaining confidence in her royal role, and she was gaining a handle on her press attention (and how to use it). And for what it's worth, this is said to be the time period in which the cracks in the Wales's marriage begin to deepen beyond the point of repair.
Up until the real war between Diana and Charles begins, we see a continuing evolution of style. Diana becomes more sophisticated, she grows up. The trends of the eighties are swapped out for the cleaner lines of the nineties. The playful details begin to disappear, and she fine tunes the art of using her clothing as a public relations tool.
When we reach the point of the Wales's separation (1992), that public relations tool becomes a weapon. For so long, she'd battled criticism that her style was grabbing attention away from others when she didn't mean it to; now, she put it to use. After more than a decade spent as one of the most photographed women in the world, Diana now knew exactly what to do to tell her side of the story.
As the divorce progressed and passed, Diana was finally able to say goodbye to the restrictions of princess style that had held her through her marriage. Though she remained a patron of British fashion design, she opened up the field and found great success with international designers. Versace, in particular, created many of her last memorable gowns.
It seems to me that this is the real Diana, this style that emerged just in the very last years of her life. I would argue that this is really where we see a fashion star on the rise, not in her earlier years. She was, for once, not trying to adhere to royal requirements, not trying to be a brand ambassador, and finally not trying to be the princess that everyone thought she should be. And that's really the saddest fact of all: that she found herself with so little time to spare.
Which era epitomizes Diana for you?
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