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The eternal style icon? Princess Diana's legendary fashion sense explored

Black sheep? Maybe. Style Icon? Definitely - Diana pictured in 1983
Black sheep? Maybe. Style Icon? Definitely - Diana pictured in 1983 Copyright Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Copyright Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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The late, great royal would have turned 62 on 1 July, had she lived. Euronews Culture looks into why she has always remained such an inspiration for designers and fashionistas across the globe.

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As soon as she was catapulted into the public eye as a teenager, Princess Diana drew legions of fans, with many fixated on her impeccable style.

1 July marks what would have been her 62nd birthday and the legacy of her countless iconic outfits lives on, with Gen Z recreating the looks in millions of TikTok videos, often soundtracked with rapper Ice Spice's hit track, appropriately titled 'Princess Diana'.

Nearly 26 years following her untimely death at the age of just 36, Diana has somehow managed to stay as arguably the most relevant style icon in history, with designers taking inspiration from her on a near constant basis.

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The eternal style icon - Diana in 1986Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Earlier this week, Jacquemus dedicated their latest collection, shown at Versailles Palace, to the late Princess. Called Le ChouChou, the show’s designs, headed up by Simon Porte Jacquemus, was described as a love letter to Diana.

Featuring iconic 1980s motifs, like puff sleeves, tutu-inspired pieces and bubble hems, throughout, there were explicit references to her style drip fed through the entire duration of the runway.

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A love letter to Diana - Kendall Jenner wears a Jacquemus design inspired by the princessCorbis via Getty Images

Kendall Jenner stalked down the catwalk in a romper resembling a cloud, which resembled Diana’s wedding dress. The ensemble was teemed with a pearl and sapphire choker-style necklace, a clear reference to a piece worn by the Princess as a complement to her iconic revenge dress.

That outfit is often cited by fashion and royal experts as the ultimate piece in Diana’s extensive wardrobe as well as one of the most recognisable by the public.

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Diana's most iconic look? The late princess in her 'revenge' dress, 1994Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Celebrity stylist and royal commentator Leroy Dawkins agrees with that analysis, saying it had the ‘wow factor’ thanks to the timing of when she wore it as well as the message it sent out.

“Diana wore the dress in June 1994 to the Serpentine Gallery, the same night [then] Prince Charles admitted his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles”, Dawkins tells Euronews Culture, adding, “It was not her first choice dress to wear that night; she was going to wear Valentino, but it was leaked what she would be wearing, so Diana chose to wear the now notorious revenge dress, which was designed by Christina Stambolian”.

The dress had the desired effect, landing on the front pages of newspapers, taking the news of Charles’ affair off the spot.

The look has long been recreated by many, including Queen Camilla. In 1995, she showed up to a party at The Ritz in London - her first outing as Charles’ official girlfriend - in an almost identical dress to Diana’s.

While Camilla even chose to style it in a similar way, with a pearl choker and Diana’s signature sheer black tights, the attempt was universally panned by fashion critics and criticised as a poor imitation of Diana’s style.

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Making gymwear chic - Diana in 1995Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

It isn’t just her taste in formal dresses, though, which has made Diana such a style icon. Her looks were and remain equally heralded, even if she was dressing down.

A perfect example of that is her ‘black sheep’ jumper. Once part of her everyday wardrobe, it’s going up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York this August, with an estimated value of up to $80,000 - or about €73,500.

The sweater hails from knitwear brand Warm & Wonderful and was worn by Diana to a number of polo matches in the 1980s and ‘90s.

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While the price may seem steep, it’s a piece of royal history as well as a mere garment.

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Diana in the iconic jumper at Windsor Polo Club, June 1981Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Diana was well known for making statements through her outfits and, when rumours started to surface about difficulties in her marriage to Charles, the jumper with its contrasting black sheep came to be viewed as a nod from the princess about how she viewed herself within the royal family, namely as the odd one out.

Stylist Bella Hignett says she thinks the knit deserves to sell at its estimate.

“I think the jumper will definitely sell for around the $80,000 mark - it is such an iconic piece which continues to be copied over and over again”, she tells Euronews Culture, adding, “Did the jumper have a hidden meaning? Did Diana really feel like the black sheep of the Royal Family? I think we all know the answer to that!”

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Royal style - Diana at a polo match with Sarah Ferguson in 1983Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Warm & Wonderful stopped producing the black sheep style in 1994, but due to popular demand, it was re-released in 2018 when Jack Carlson, creative director of the American clothing label Rowing Blazers, approached the jumper’s original design.

The recreation was worn by Emma Corrin when she played a young Diana in The Crown and it’s still on sale for a slightly less pricey €289.

“Diana's fashion choices not only for herself but her sons Princes William and Harry still have an impact in today’s world”, says Leroy Dawkins.

That seems especially pertinent considering there was one nostalgic shoe worn by fashionistas all over the recent fashion weeks in Milan and Paris.

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Diana coded - JW Anderson's 'frog clogs' on show at Milan Fashion WeekEdward Berthelot/Getty

The trend harkens back to the frog Wellington boots Diana dressed William and Harry in during the 1980s and '90s. Earlier this year, UK designer JW Anderson debuted a collaboration with Wellipets of ‘Frog Clogs’ which feature frog faces, yellow eyes and red mouths. The shoes adorned the feet of many a stylish man and are a nod to the enduring popularity of Diana's more whimsical side.

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Princes William and Harry in their frog wells at Cirencester Park Polo Club, June 1987Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images

The Frog Clogs, which come in green, yellow and blue, retail for €395 and have been in constant demand since their release.

This isn’t surprising for Bella Hignett, who says, “The world is still obsessed with Diana and her legacy. Whilst William and Harry are around, she will still continue to dominate the royal family unconsciously”.

Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Bold and beautiful - Diana wearing a coat by Escada and a Philip Somerville hat, 1988Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Leroy Dawkins appears to agree with the consensus among countless Diana observers, saying it comes as no shock that her fashion legacy is seemingly endless, with countless celebrities, designers and even her daughter-in-law Princess Kate paying homage.

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“Diana was an icon because she was not afraid to experiment with fashion and her fashion choices, statement pieces, bold colours and sending messages through her clothing”, he says, adding, “A lot of her style was deliberate and done with purpose”.

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