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Princess Diana Was The Unexpected Versace Poster Girl Of The ’90s

28/12/2020

Diana, Princess of Wales’s stylist and former British Vogue editor Anna Harvey once showed her royal client a picture of Naomi Campbell wearing a beaded Versace column gown. Lady Di – who loved to experiment with clothes, but was never preoccupied with being perceived as fashionable – loved the look. Gianni Versace, who became a close friend of Diana’s after she modelled an icy blue Atelier Versace gown on a 1991 magazine cover, and his sister Donatella set to work making one for her.

“Diana was waiting with her bags packed for a trip to New York and, as she wanted to take the dress with her, I rushed round to Kensington Palace with it,” Harvey recalls of securing the look. “When we opened the box, it was the wrong dress and did nothing for her. She sent it back with a charming note (and, incidentally, despite being HRH she always insisted on paying for everything).”

No matter; the years that followed would see the princess wear several striking dresses synonymous with Versace’s high-octane glamour. As Gianni pulled up the roots of bourgeois taste with his super-charged, sassy fashion, Diana carved out her own charity-focused lifestyle away from Prince Charles and the Kensington Palace spotlight. She began mixing in Gianni’s world, socialising with influential creatives from the arts, such as Elton John and George Michael, and dressing for herself, rather than the royal platform given to her at the age of 20.

In the July 1997 issue of Vanity Fair, of which Diana was the cover star, Gianni said of his friend, “I had a fitting with her last week for new suits and clothing for spring, and she is so serene. It is a moment in her life, I think, when she’s found herself – the way she wants to live.” Gianni was murdered shortly after the interview was published on 15 July, and Diana died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August the same year.

For that brief spell in the mid ’90s, when Versace was ground-breaking, Diana radiated confidence in Gianni’s signature form-fitting dresses and peppy suiting. As Harvey reflected, “The sample Versace shift dresses and evening columns that Catherine Walker was doing for her were probably her most successful looks to date.” Here, nine pictures that prove Versace was the perfect brand for Diana.

1995
Lady Di in a classic Versace shift, realised in white, for the Children of Bosnia charity concert in Modena, Italy.
© Rex Features

1995
This bubblegum Versace suit with a matching pillbox hat by Philip Somerville brought joy to the Howe Barracks in Kent.
© Princess Diana Archive

1995
Diana’s quintessential Versace dress moment at the London premiere of Apollo 13.

1995
Landing in Buenos Aires, the princess looked effortlessly put-together in a pale Versace skirt suit, and her Lady Dior bag.
© Tim Graham

1996
Princess Diana looked resplendent in a one-shouldered blue satin Versace gown and matching accessories at the Victor Chang Research Institute dinner dance in Sydney.
© PA Photos

1996
Modelling a luxuriously muted Versace coat that enrobed her frame without swamping her at Brown’s Hotel.
© Tim Graham

1997
The Princess of Wales visited the Royal Brompton Hospital to meet young cystic fibrosis sufferers wearing immaculate pale blue Versace separates.
© Tim Graham

1995
Lady Di took on a day of meetings in Liverpool wearing egg yolk-yellow Versace punctuated with black accents.
© Tim Graham

1996
The princess committed to a monotone Versace look again at a gala dinner in Chicago.
© Tim Graham

 

From British Vogue

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