Remembering Princess Diana: How the people’s princess broke royal protocol with her fashion

Updated on Mar 11, 2021 08:03 PM IST

The beloved Princess Diana was a humanitarian and philanthropist, and would have turned 59 in 2020. From walking out in public in the ‘revenge dress’ after Prince Charles cheated on her to her public admission of bulimia, Princess Di was far from predictable.

Princess Diana(Instagram/dianaforeverremembered)
Princess Diana(Instagram/dianaforeverremembered)
Hindustan Times, Delhi | By, Hindustan Times, Delhi

Twenty-three years after her death, Princess Diana continues to be remembered as so much more than just a member of the British Royal Family. From being a philanthropist and humanitarian, to a loving mother and style icon, the late Princess was constantly in the public eye, defying tradition and speaking her mind, be it refusing to say that she would ‘obey’ Prince Charles in her wedding vows, or wearing outfits that showed off her shoulders, the icon sure ruffled a few feathers and was a feminist long before the word was overused and lost all meaning. The beloved princess, who died in 1997 in a car crash, would have turned 59 in 2020. Princess Diana, also remembered as the people’s princess, flaunted a versatile sartorial sense which ranged from classy and muted ensembles, to colourful and daring ones as well.

The royal’s evening wear and the stunning royal jewellery she accessorized her ensembles with continue to inspire the red carpet looks of many celebrities till date. And who can forget Princess Di’s Revenge Dress?


The black ruched dress with a plunging neckline that the Princess wore as she walked into the Serpentine Gallery for an event, just after a controversial documentary where Prince Charles admitted to having an affair had aired.

Princess Diana visiting the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital upon her arrival in Lahore, Pakistan on May 22, 1997. (Instagram/dianaforeverremembered)
Princess Diana visiting the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital upon her arrival in Lahore, Pakistan on May 22, 1997. (Instagram/dianaforeverremembered)

The princess’ style may have been modern, but the royal was always respectful of where she was headed, wearing formal skirts and blazer for her royal duties, and her traditional kurta-salwars during her visits to India and Pakistan earned her an automatic place in the hearts of all desis.


Diana rocked cycling tights with sweatshirts, and white sneakers as she ran errands and carried off masculine tuxedos with finesse long before Instagram influencers and ‘street-style fashion’ was even a thing.


The late princess known for being very experimental when it came to her style, be it having the longest train on her wedding dress or wearing her mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth’s diamond necklace as a headpiece, Diana never shied away from trying something new.


‘Cleavage bags’ were another accessory that the royal loved, her handbag designer, Anya Hindmarch gave them the name as the princess would use these clutch-style bags to cover her chest when she would get out of her car. In an interview, the designer told the Telegraph, “She would come and see us with no bodyguards or any fuss. We used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags’, little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars.”


View this post on Instagram

Man she looks so sexy! Taken August 15, 1988.

A post shared by Princess Diana (@dianaforeverremembered) on

The princess also rocked denims with white shirts and kitschy prints on swimwear long before they were in vogue.

The princess in Bosnia, August 9, 1997. (Instagram/Dianaforeverremembered)
The princess in Bosnia, August 9, 1997. (Instagram/Dianaforeverremembered)

The Princess was a trailblazer in every right, she used to adorably participate in the mother’s race that took place during the sports day at Prince William and Prince Harry’s school, she would take off her shoes, and even places first in many races. She also spoke openly about her failing marriage, infidelity, the pressures of living in the public eye, her struggles with bulimia and mental health. In a very candid BBC interview, the Princess spoke about her battle with bulimia which she felt was because of struggling to keep her marriage afloat in the public eye, “That’s like a secret disease. You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable ... It’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive to yourself.”


The British Royal Family’s daughters-in-law, Kate Middleton (married to Prince William) and Meghan Markle (married to Prince Harry), have often taken a page from Diana’s rule book, for both style and flouting royal protocol. Kate is often spotted sporting similar outfits to the Princess, and her engagement ring, the 12-karat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-karat white gold surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds by jeweller Garrard, is the one the Princess Di picked out for herself from a catalogue (once again breaking royal protocol). And Meghan’s quick exit from her royal life are proof that she is following her courageous mother-in-law’s footsteps.

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    'Ask no questions, hear no lies.' Alfea Jamal is a fashion, culture, travel and food writer. She also dabbles in video journalism, multimedia production, the culinary arts, design and is modestly decent with canvas.

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