Diana, Princess of Wales and the 1990s
Diana, Princess of Wales was closely scrutinised by the press and public. She developed the style of an international celebrity and had many imitators around the world. Some people claimed that Diana’s faithful patronage of home-grown designers single-handedly revived the British fashion industry.
“Diana is the lady most of us want to copy.” Women’s Own magazine, February 1984
Image: Catherine Walker, 1992. Evening dress, silk velvet. Historic Royal Palaces. Worn by Diana, Princess of Wales for a Vanity Fair photo shoot with Mario Testino, 1997
Catherine Walker designed this smoking jacket-style dress which reflected the masculine, tailored look that celebrities such as Cindy Crawford and Madonna made popular.
The Princess ordered the dress in 1992 for a private occasion. The Princess raised millions of pounds for her charities in 1997 when she sold this dress alongside seventy-eight others at Christie's in New York.
Mario Testino photographed her wearing it to publicise the sale. He said she was really divine that day. She looked so happy and fresh and sure of herself.’
Dressing for state visits
The Princess also continued the tradition of diplomatic dressing, wearing colours and styles appropriate to the countries she visited.
Diana, Princess of Wales wore this vibrant emerald green gown at the Dorchester hotel in London during a banquet for the 1993 Malaysian state visit.
She wore it with matching emerald green shoes and jewellery. By this point in her life, the Princess was firmly aware of the power of a strong image. In press photographs, the bold green silk contrasted sharply with the plush red carpet and the black dinner jackets of foreign dignitaries.
The emerald colour also provided a perfect backdrop for the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II – a jewelled portrait of The Queen fixed to a pale watered silk ribbon.
Image: Catherine Walker for Diana, Princess of Wales, 1992. Lent by Fundación Museo de la Moda. Worn by Princess Diana to a banquet at the Dorchester Hotel in London, 1993
Left: Catherine Walker for Diana, Princess of Wales, 1990. Evening dress, silk velvet, with silk taffeta skirt. Lent by Fundación Museo de la Moda. Worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, in Balmoral and to the National Gallery in Scotland, 1990
Right: Princess Diana at the Guildhall © Tim Graham/Getty Images
The royal custom of wearing tartan began with George IV’s triumphal entry into Edinburgh in 1822. It was a public relations gesture – he was the first reigning monarch to visit Scotland since 1650.
Queen Victoria reinforced the tradition, wearing a wardrobe full of tartan dresses and shawls during her first visit to Scotland in 1842. The Queen and other members of the royal family continue to wear tartan in Scotland to this day.
Diana, Princess of Wales ordered this tartan evening dress for a visit to Balmoral. It was one of many tartan outfits the Princess chose for Scottish visits – and conveyed an important diplomatic message that she identified with local people.