Her Revenge Dress and Biker Shorts Are Iconic, But Diana’s Final Looks Show Us Who She Really Was

I used to be only five years old when Princess Diana died. My memory of her death—and life—may be very limited. But I remember watching her funeral on an old box television at my next-door neighbor’s house in London. I can still recall my mother and our elderly neighbor’s tears, and the ocean of bouquets opened up in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace. I assumed that perhaps my mother, and the 1000’s lining the streets of the funeral procession all knew this woman personally. In fact, they didn’t; yet, all of them mourned her. Some even mourned her like family.

It wasn’t until 2018, after I was living in Latest York, that I used to be reintroduced to Princess Diana in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I used to be 26 years old, and my marriage, something I entered into far too flippantly after I was just 21, was ending. On the time, my knowledge of Diana’s life was vague, but this modified after I watched a documentary about her, and felt inexplicably connected to the princess. Like me, Diana married young, albeit under circumstances that I could hardly imagine. She, too, entered into her marriage with great hope. She believed she was in love, and with a prince! I started the Instagram account @ladydirevengelooks, which was intended to be an archive of Diana’s best post-divorce looks paired with playful, barely irreverent captions (low-key directed at my very own ex, after all).

The Lady Di Look Book: What Diana Was Attempting to Tell Us Through Her Clothes

Credit: Courtesy of Macillan

On the age of 19, Diana had barely had any time to get to know herself. She was passed from one aristocratic family to a different—the “sacrificial lamb,” as she herself put it. As the longer term Queen Consort, Diana was expected to do two things: look the part and stand each figuratively and physically behind her husband, Prince Charles. In fact, what the Palace had not expected was that this meek, insecure woman would grow up. Amidst mental health struggles, breakdowns, and personal battles with bulimia—she’d slowly begin to know herself, what she had to supply, and most significantly, who she desired to be.

The media’s “clotheshorse” also realized that while people weren’t listening, they sure were watching, and if everyone was looking so closely and dissecting every detail, then perhaps she would discover a strategy to communicate and carve out her independence through her style. Diana’s uncontainable spirit became more present throughout the eighties; through the dazzling sequins of her Dynasty Di era, the rebellious black leather and punkish blue eyeliner worn to rock concert events, and the tongue-in-cheek slogan knits that spoke so very loud against her coy demeanor. Then there have been the side-eye glances and eye-rolls behind Prince Charles’s back that said all of it. Stripped of her voice prematurely, it soon became clear—this was not the variety of woman who felt comfortable fading into the background.

Diana’s many style metamorphoses have since been memorialized by a younger generation, who, like me, were too young to recollect Diana first-hand. Brands like Ganni revisit Diana’s ’80s Peter Pan and Chelsea collars, while Rowing Blazers successfully resuscitated the princess’ favorite knitwear brands by reissuing her infamous black sheep sweater from Warm & Wonderful, and the “I’m a Luxury” sweater from witty knit label Gyles & George.

Across Instagram and Tiktok, the style tributes to Diana are unceasing, and her athleisure looks have develop into synonymous with our generation. Nevertheless it’s the lesser-known looks, the outfits she wore zipping around town, which can be significant in their very own way and what urged me to start out my Instagram account to start with. They’re the looks that put the concentrate on where she was headed, her authentic sense of favor, and the brave path she was determined to pursue.

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Princess Diana on Aug. 10, 1997 during a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she raised awareness about landmines.

Mirrorpix//Getty Images

Through each transformative style era—from the frills and florals of an ’80s fairytale princess to the clean lines and Dior suits of a ’90s ambassadorial profession woman—perhaps essentially the most stripped back we see Diana, and her wardrobe, is during August 1997, the ultimate month of her life. She’d auctioned off 79 of her dresses at Christie’s Latest York only a month before, and for humanitarian missions to Angola and Bosnia and Herzegovina she welcomed crisp Ralph Lauren button-downs and straight-leg jeans, styled with elegant oval sunglasses and Tod’s driving moccasins. Perfect for the lady who wanted her work, reasonably than her outfits, to face center stage.

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On Aug. 9 in Bosnia – Herzegovina.

Mirrorpix//Getty Images

Afterwards, she joined her latest boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, on his father’s superyacht in Saint-Tropez. It was her second vacation with the Egyptian film producer that summer. As she bronzed herself on the deck and openly embraced together with her summer fling, her rainbow of swimsuits by brands Jantzen and Gottex added a splash of color to the glistening azure of the Mediterranean Sea. But after all, it was the lady wearing these statement suits and her beaming smile that stood out essentially the most. Finally, she checked out peace. The world watched as she perched alone on a diving board in an aquamarine bathing suit, in a now famous image that captures an apparent moment of solitary reflection for the princess—away from the frenzy and furor of the paparazzi that may once more await her on her final trip to Paris.

The haunting last images we’ve of Diana are mostly from grainy footage captured from The Ritz’s CCTV. Insinuating the holiday was over, Diana began her final day on Aug. 30 in a gray business suit, and ended it, after dinner in a non-public suite on the Ritz, in a utilitarian look: a straightforward black blazer and white jeans. It was a typical outfit for the princess who was surely able to get home to her boys, and desperate to get back to her role. She had a lot work to do.

princess diana at sarajevo airport

Arriving to the Sarajevo Airport on Aug. 8.

Mirrorpix//Getty Images

Then, the accident. The funeral, followed by the fury. A sense that also lingers that we as a society could have done so a lot better for this woman had we listened to her, had we heard her cries for privacy, had we demanded her protection from the press. What if we had not only assumed a fairy tale ending for her? In his eulogy, Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, noted, “Of all of the ironies about Diana, perhaps the best was this: a lady given the name of the traditional goddess of hunting, was ultimately, essentially the most hunted person of the fashionable age.” She was tossed around, tested, and ultimately thrown to the wolves. How can we not help but wonder: had there been true value placed on her life as a substitute of entertainment value, that perhaps she might have been saved. Would this very human woman who cared so deeply for others still be alive today had she not been so dehumanized?

The story of Diana is a tragedy, but especially to women. Once admired simply for her clothing, she alone made the world hungry for her words and actions, and in her final month, stepping back from the frocks, the glamour and the surplus, she was louder than ever; she was herself. Twenty-five years on, we are able to still take inspiration from Diana’s story; it’s, in spite of everything, one in all immense growth and strength.

We must also ask ourselves if the patriarchal formula that sold tens of millions of newspapers at her expense still exists today. Perhaps the rationale why an entire latest generation looks to Diana with such tenderness (apart from the plain admiration for her clothing) is because her story continues to be relevant. Outstanding women are still hounded by photographers, misogyny still sells tabloid newspapers, and feminine bodies are still dissected at humiliating lengths. Has much really modified? The anniversary of Diana’s death is a stark reminder that we still have a lot work to do.

 Eloise Moran is a London-born, Los Angeles-based fashion author and creator of the Instagram account @ladydirevengelooks, which has been featured in The Latest Yorker, ELLE, The LA Times, and The Telegraph. She currently lives on the east side of LA with a formidable collection of nineties clothing—including her most prized possession: an original Virgin Atlantic Sweatshirt which was seen on Lady Diana herself. The Lady Di Look Book is Eloise’s first book.  

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