The Glittering Jewels

The first substantial piece of jewellery that Diana owned was her beautiful oval sapphire engagement ring with its corona of 14 diamonds. On her wedding day, however, most jewellery that she wore was borrowed - the Spencer tiara and pearl and diamond earrings from her mother, and the pearl choker, worn with her going-away outfit, from her sister, Lady Sarah. The Queen's wedding present to Diana was the glorious lover's knot tiara with tear-drop pearls, which had once belonged to the Queen's grandmother, Queen Mary. This tiara was a weighty item, the sort which gave the wearer headaches if left on for too long. Diana had some difficulty, though, suiting her hairstyle to the ornate tiara. During the Italian tour in 1985, for instance, there were too many fronds of hair sticking out and too much fringe to do the piece justice. A smoother, unfussy hairstyle would have been more appropriate, as Diana showed later, in Bonn in 1987, when she wore the Spencer tiara.


Diana's favourite form of jewellery seemed to be earrings, but wisely she realized she was not the sort of woman who could sport big, elaborate 'chandeliers'. Her earrings were mainly quite modest-looking, but they came in almost every form: large and small rounds, half-hoops, heart-shaped, pearl drop, horseshoes, plain gold rings, small pearl or diamond-studded. In virtually every picture taken of Diana, earrings were usually present, even when she was on the beach sunbathing. Conversely, Diana rarely wore rings, apart from her engagement and wedding rings, and she disliked some brooches as 'too old'. The Queen Mother gave Diana a beautiful brooch as a wedding present, but she cleverly turned it into a necklace by mounting it on a pearl choker. This was a tactful way of displaying an important gift and her own style in jewellery at the same time. This was only one example of Diana's creative use of jewellery. Another of her wedding presents was a stunning suite of jewels from the royal family of Saudi Arabia: sapphire and diamond pendant, necklace, bracelet, earrings, ring and watch. From this, Diana produced a splendid jewelled headband to wear in Japan in 1986. She did a similar conversion on an emerald and diamond necklace which had once belonged to Queen Mary, wearing it round her head during her second visit to Australia in 1985.


It was unusual though for Diana to wear green jewellery. Sapphires were her favourite stone, matching the colour of her eyes. Pearls were a top choice too. An important lesson Diana learned was when not to wear jewellery. Many of her dresses had necklines which seemed to beg for a necklace, but Diana wisely left them to speak for themselves. Diana's style with jewellery was as much part of her fashion icon image as her clothes. She saw jewellery not as accessories but as part of her whole look. This was also marked by a display of superb taste.

The Wardrobe

Before her marriage, Lady Diana Spencer dressed in the manner of the Sloane set she mixed with. She liked to wear high necked frilly ruffled blouses, pearls, floral skirts, loose short sleeved shirt blouses, low pump shoes, simple dresses and country tweed suits. All were clothes very much liked by the 'country set'. Once engaged, she began to wear slightly more glamorous clothes although sometimes these seemed too old for a woman so young. First Official photographs of her wearing a deep green taffeta silk ball gown before her marriage shows a romantic Diana. The Princess chose designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel who designed her much criticized puff ball meringue wedding dress in 1981. The beautiful dress was based on a romantic look of huge puffed sleeves with a full skirt of ivory silk pure taffeta, old lace and hand embroidery incorporating 10,000 pearls and sequins. The dress had a twenty five foot train and when the Princess emerged from the carriage at the cathedral; the world saw how creased the dress appeared. The creases soon dropped out, but the fabric and construction method used was criticized worldwide. David Emanuel complained in a TV interview that the carriage was far too small for both Diana and her robustly built father along with her full skirted dress, hence the inevitable creases, and he was probably right, no fabric deserves to be treated that way.


Within five years of her marriage, she had developed the Dallas factor with big hair, big shoulder pads and big name glitzy outfits. The full skirted taffeta silk crinoline ball dress with puffed sleeves was widely copied by stores such as Laura Ashley and it became the dress style to wear to May Balls and similar events. Getting out a romantic fantasy ball gown was an occasion to shed the power suit showing the woman of aspiration and taste beneath. The Princess Of Wales adopted the tailored big shoulder look shortly after the christening of Prince William in 1982. She was already setting fashion trends. The soft dreamy styles adapted from the New Romantic look and hats which had been passé for decades were instantly a hit with all who saw her as an inspiration for living out their dreams of fashion.


She soon fuelled the fever even more as she wore sharper and sharper square shouldered suits. Like any young woman she experimented and not all of her outfits were a total success, but in the 1990’s, something rather different happened. In the 1990's till her tragic death in 1997, she was a world renowned fashion icon with a pared down cool sophisticated assured style in a honed and fit body. the suits simply defined her well honed figure, rather than adding padding to it. Diana wore suits in the way a business woman wore them. She had found her style and suits were part of her working wardrobe. Her look became more international with a sophisticated and simple silhouette. The effect was all in the details that became her hallmark; superb cut, materials worn with coordinated accessories, handbags, jewelry and shoes. The Princess now had the resources, the independence and the experience to create a unique and personal style. British designers continued to provide outfits, notably Catherine Walker and Jacques Azagury, but increasingly she turned to international designers, to Versace, Valentino and Chanel.


The Princess understood that millions of people followed her as a fashion icon and that the crowds who gathered to meet her expected glamour. She also understood that the worldwide media coverage of her image could be used to good effect; to raise money for the charity causes she so passionately supported. On the year 1997, the Princess of Wales made a great decision by selling 79 dresses to support her charities. In fact, this was Prince William's bright idea to his mother; believing that this action will turn heads and the world would support the charities she worked on. By then, the princess decided to sell her favorite dresses on Christie's Auction House in New York city. The media covered this event, and the people were thrilled to see the Princess who attended the event and want to own Diana's beautiful dresses. The results were tremendous. The Princess of Wales raised more than three million dollars in that particular event and donated the money to all her charities through the Princess of Wales Funds in London. Diana’s image will inevitably define a fashion look of the late 20th century. Some say she died young enough to only be recalled as a great beauty of her era rather than an ageing royal outsider.

Dressing The Princess For Special Occasions

These Magnificent Earrings Were A Favourite Of Diana's. They Feature A Leaf Design Of Diamonds Set In Silver With Large Sea Pearl Drops

Diana Looks Her Glamorous Best Wearing The Giant Sapphire, A Brooch Given To Her By The Queen Mother, Which She Had Chosen To Set On A Pearl Choker

British Designer David Emanuel Confers With Diana At Kensington Palace On Designs And Materials For More Contributions To The Wardrobe

Dress designers often get their inspiration from foreign cultures. This was useful for Diana when her wardrobe on royal engagements and overseas tours had to compliment her hosts and, at times, take their sensibilities into account. One clever choice of outfit, for example, was the white dress with large red dots which Diana wore during her tour of Japan in 1986. Diana could not have chosen anything more appropriate for her first day in Japan. In effect, she was introducing herself to the Japanese by wearing their flag, or at least a version of it. The large red dots echoed the emblem of the Rising Sun, the symbol of Japan, and the significance of this was not lost on the royal couple's hosts. They were highly pleased.


Another clever choice was a beautiful evening dress designed by Catherine Walker, which Diana wore during her visit to Thailand in 1988 for the celebrations of the King's 60th birthday. The evening dress combined two adventurous colours, purple and crimson, and was fully made of chiffon. Instead of a diamond tiara, Diana wore silk flowers in her hair to compliment with the dress, giving her a typical exotic look. On her very first public appearances as Princess of Wales, Diana used her wardrobe to compliment her hosts. At the Braemar Games in Scotland in 1981, she joined in the Royal Family's tradition of wearing tartan. Shortly afterwards, on her first tour to Wales in November 1981, she wore a suit in the Welsh national colours of red and green with a matching wide-brimmed hat.


As time went on, wearing clothes that borrowed colours and other features from a host's culture or customs became a regular feature of Diana's wardrobe. Sometimes this was only subtly achieved, sometimes it was more straightforward. For instance, when Diana visited Sand Hurst Military Academy in 1987, she wore a white 'drum majorette' two-piece suit trimmed with rows of gold braid. In 1990, Diana visited the Royal Hampshire Regiment, of which she was Colonel-in-Chief. This time, she did not bother with adaptations. Instead, she had a copy specially made of the Royal Hampshire's mess jacket made by Gieves and Hawkes, the Saville Row tailors, and wore it with regulation white shirt, gold-buttoned white waistcoat and black bow tie.


On her choices of outfits for royal engagements and overseas tours, Diana said: "When I first arrived, there were a lot of people to help me. It's now really my choice." In 1991, Diana went almost totally ethnic and complimented her Pakistani hosts, the Chitral Scouts, by wearing a soft white cap with jewels and feathers ornamenting the front, and a top intricately embroidered with gold interlinked diamond-shapes that were emphasized by crimson, green and blue lozenges. However, choosing an outfit might be as challenging and tricky, especially when travelling to the Middle East, where female dresses have to be modest and unrevealing.


When touring the Gulf State with Charles in 1989, for example, Diana chose tight white trousers and a long lilac and white tunic. The loose-fitting top and trousers did not offend the sensibilities of her male hosts, and were perfect for desert picnics and for dinning cross-legged on cushions, as is customary in the Gulf States. It also helped the Princess cope with the intense heat of the desert climate and was much better choice than the long, heavy skirts worn by the Queen or other royal female members on their own visits to the Muslim countries. In another occasion, at a dinner reception hosted by King Fahad in Riyadh, Diana wore a black and white gown that picked up the colours of the robes worn by the men around her. The gown was designed by The Emanuels, and with it, Diana wore Queen Mary's tiara given to her by the Queen on her marriage to Prince Charles.


Not all Muslim countries, of course, are quite as strictly traditional as this. Egypt, for instance, is much more westernized. When Diana stopped off there on her honeymoon in 1981, she was able to wear her short skirts. Diana's outfit made diplomatic fashion statements, and were cleverly conceived to fit in with the rest of her wardrobe. The trick was not only to create something which her hosts could identify as a compliment, but also to further Diana's image as a smart and elegant princess. 



  • Diana: An Extraordinary Life, By Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated. Publication Date: 14 September 1998

The Loose-Fitting Top And Trousers That Was Worn By Diana Were Perfect For Dinning Cross-Legged On Cushions, As Is Customary In The Gulf State