Physically, Diana suited a hat. She had the height and the figure to carry off even large-brimmed creations. What she lacked, though, particularly early in her royal career, was the confidence to wear one. As she became more confident, Diana began to treat hats as they are most successfully treated: with a sense of humour. 


New Zealand milliner Philip Somerville, who has been making hats for more than 30 years for famous clients, including The Queen, convinced Diana to try bigger hats in bolder colours, with contrasting edges or hatbands.


"My influence led Diana towards big hats, taking her away from the little feathery ones she had originally worn before she really matured. Of course she had other favourite looks and certain styles that she enjoyed wearing. In particular, she liked the blue and white hat worn in Dubai. We had to come up with a hat that was suitable for a country where women don't show their hair, as well as having a fashionable look, and it actually became quite sensational," recalls Philip.


"Likewise, she loved the pink pillbox hat made for a visit to Canterbury, as it was easy to wear and showed her fringe," says Philip. Like many women, Diana liked to have some hair on show. She became very fond of pillboxes, however, as state occasions changed, her hats became gradually smaller. For William's confirmation, she wore a pillbox, it meant her face could be seen and she enjoyed that. Big brims were more dressy, so as her official role changed she was able to become more flexible and less dramatic with her headwear.


"Personally, I loved her in the big brims that we moved towards around 1985 to 1986 for state occasions. The Princess was a very tall lady and was able to carry off the wide brim marvellously while being seen underneath it. She looked equally brilliant in the pillboxes of course, but for my part, I really did prefer the sweeping fashion of big brims from Diana's earlier years," says Philip.


Diana was aware that she didn't have to wear such formal hats any more, but she was still very keen on them. "In fact, I believe that she attracted the British market back to the hat business, as she recreated hats for younger people, and we were all very grateful for that," says Philip.



  • The Telegraph Obituary. Publication Date: 16 September 2014

A Wide Brim Hat Designed By Philip Somerville For The Princess In 1991