Remembering Princess Diana: The Diana Dresses

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Pictured: Princess Diana, wearing a dress designed by Donald Campbell at a performance of Coppelia in New Zealand, 1983. © Getty Images.

On the anniversary of Princess Diana’s 60th birthday, I’m taking a look back at a rare exhibit of her dresses which was shown at the Fashion Museum in Bath, England called The Diana Dresses. These are some of the formal gowns worn by the Princess of Wales. She was as her brother, the Earl of Spencer said “the most hunted woman of the modern age.” Like many women,  I loved Diana’s style.  She transitioned from innocent to sophisticate through her wardrobe, I was fascinated by her in her brief lifetime, and I continue to be fascinated by her over 20 years later.  Sadly, her beauty and style, were key factors in the Paparazzi’ s continual hunt of her. They stalked her to take her picture to sell to tabloid as well as top magazines for high prices.

I  enjoyed the exhibit of the Diana Dresses  through the magic of the Internet and video from the BBC. The exhibit is amazing as it brings together dresses from private collections  into one place at this amazing little museum in the charming town of Bath.  These are the dresses that Diana auctioned for charity shortly before her death.  During the 16 years that Diana was in the public eye she took quite an amazing fashion journey.  From a shy school teacher wearing a dress off the rack bought at Harrod’s to Haute Couture style.  Some of her earlier dresses even recall the empire styles of Bath’s most famous author, Jane Austen.  I can definitely imagine Jane or Elizabeth Bennett from Austen’s  Pride and Prejudice wearing some of Diana’s early, ruffled, frilly gowns.

 Pictured: Princess Diana, wearing Pink silk dress that was  a replica  of an 1880s dress designed by John Bright of Cosprop for an event in Canada. © Getty Images.

But Diana did not stay the demure, young innocent and the dresses tell the fascinating story of her transformation.   The exhibit included evening dresses by the amazing British designer  Catherine Walker and little black cocktail dresses by designers such as Versace from the mid 1990s.

Princess Diana in Versace

Princess Diana wearing three different Versace dresses.(photos courtesy of Getty Images.)

One of the most fascinating things about viewing the dresses is how ordinary some of them look without her wearing them.  It’s an important reminder about how fashion is about personality and expression.  For a woman who was often not allowed to raise her voice as Princess of Wales, she did a lot of talking through her dresses and personal style.  Who can forget the off the rack “revenge dress” by Christina Stambolian that she wore the day after Charles declared his adultery of British TV? Such a subtle dig without saying a word.


Diana making a statement in fashion in her “revenge dress.” (Photo from Getty Images.)

The low cut, off the shoulder black dress Diana wore was copied and replicated all over the world.  The replica which was priced at  $495 US sold out immediately online.

The Diana Dresses provide insight into the evolution of Princess Diana from a innocent, girlish style to a sleek, sophisticated look fit for a Queen.


Since 2008, Mary Hall has been the author of The Recessionista Blog, which is read by thousands of regular readers in over 160 countries. An internationally recognized expert on the art of the living the good life for less, she has been a commentator on local, national, and international radio and TV shows. Her advice has been featured in over 2,000 media outlets, including The New York Times, Reuters, Life & Style magazine, ABC News, NBC News and now The Huffington Post, among many others.