From her first introduction to the world press in 1980 to her tragic death in 1997 and beyond, the public has been fascinated by Princess Diana, so much so that in a November 2022 poll she was still the fourth most royal popular in Britain.
Part of Diana’s international appeal was her beauty and unmistakable style. The royal has become so closely associated with a number of defining fashion moments that after her death the dresses she once wore are now almost considered relics.
Key to helping shape Diana’s image as a fashion icon was her long association with the British style bible voguewhich would offer him a lifeline as his marriage crumbled in the 1990s. This association was mapped by authors Robin Muir and Josephine Ross in their recently published book, The fashionable crown.
From a pre-engagement scoop to the breakdown of her marriage and posthumous assessment of her inheritance, the princess’s public life featured prominently in the magazine’s pages.
“Diana, Princess of Wales, did three covers during her lifetime and one posthumously, as well as one for the United States vogue“, said Muir Pleasemynews of his collaborations with the title.
The three Britons vogue covers published during her lifetime (August 1981, December 1991, and July 1994) “coincided with significant moments in her life. These were when she was on her own,” Muir continued.
“She also came at a time when popstars, celebrities and social figures didn’t necessarily dress to be different, but be noticed, and Diana, who instinctively understood the power of fashion, was determined to cut a silhouette that no one could ignore.”
“1989 saw the cracks begin to show in the Royal Wedding, so it was almost imperative for the Princess to develop a new narrative, one that showed her as an independent-minded woman with a bold new approach to work. And through these various coverages and reports, vogue helped reflect this carefully crafted image.”
Diana’s association with the magazine began long before her marriage broke down, with her two older sisters both sometimes working for the title.
Through her sisters, she met fashion editor Anna Harvey, who was sent to help style Prince Charles’ then-girlfriend after a fashion faux pas where the press photographed her in a revealing pose after the sun made her light cotton skirt transparent. in images, in pictures.
Harvey aided Lady Diana Spencer, as she was then, and arranged for her to be photographed privately by Princess Margaret’s ex-husband, Lord Snowdon.
Portraits of the 19-year-old first appeared in the pages of vogue in February 1981, perfectly timed to coincide with the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles, and beating her competitors in the battle for an exclusive photograph.
“As Lady Diana Spencer, pictured just before the engagement by Snowdon – a real stunner for vogue who knew from the inside that an announcement would be made and who was able to act on it – she looks remarkably young yet confident and entirely photogenic,” Muir said.
“I think Snowdon’s fashion photographer’s eye really sees the glamor in her early on (especially in the rarely seen portrait of her in blue ruffles by the Emanuels) and, of course, with poise and a elegance long before it became the greatest weapon in her armor.”
As the 1980s progressed and audiences fully embraced the princess, she began to experiment with her style, moving away from the excessive designs typical of the decade that earned her the nickname “Dynasty Di” and more. towards the classic and refined aesthetics of the 1990s.
As her marriage to Charles deteriorated, first separating in 1992 and then divorcing in 1996, Diana’s image increasingly centered on ideas of strength and independence as she also grew his charity work.
One of the photographers who captured his image during this time was Patrick Demarchelier, who became a friend and trusted visual expert.
“Patrick was one of those great European fashion photographers who came to prominence in the mid-1970s and by the time he started working with Diana he was very proficient in the art of artifice,” said Muir.
“Clothing rails were called, hairstylists and makeup artists hired, fashion editors and assistants moved around. The results were as polished as any vogue fashion shoot – which they basically were – and the princess emanated that cool stylized glam. »
Many of Demarchelier’s portraits are said to be used to pay homage to the Princess’s life after she died in a high-speed car crash in Paris aged just 36. The photographer died in 2022 at the age of 78.