Diana Frances Spencer was one of the most iconic women to catch the attention of the paparazzi and although the interactions between her as an individual and the paps as an entity weren’t always favourable for the former Princess of Wales, they did result in expansive documentation of this glamorous figure.
She had a history of subversive rebellions against the status quo of the royal family. The way she raised her children, the fact that she picked out her own wedding ring instead of getting it made custom, and that she had a job as a preschool teacher before being wedded to Prince Charles, are all included in the list. The most striking entry, however, one that led to her memory still being in the public eye even now is the way she chose to dress.
She understood the power of wearing the right outfit at the right time. She did receive backlash for her vision in some instances but she did things her own way and is now almost revered for her choices.
She had a Moment when she styled Queen Elizabeth’s diamond and emerald necklace as a tiara on a visit to Australia and she casually wore low cut dresses and shoulder revealing tops. Anya Hindmarch, her handbag designer, called her handbags “cleavage purses” because she used them to cover her décolletage whilst stepping out of cars at events. Members of the royal family were supposed to wear neutral coloured or no nail enamels, Princess Di flouted this rule too.
She was incredibly strategic when it came to the press, as is evidenced by the use of the “cleavage purses”. We keep glimpsing images of her in oversized sweatshirts, those have a story too. Whenever she used to go to the gym she was hounded by the press, in order to deter them, she tried to wear the same “Fly Atlantic” navy sweatshirt to every gym visit. It was gifted to her by Sir Richard Branson and was auctioned off later for $53,532.
Then there was also her penchant for wearing black dresses to occasions other than funerals.
Her dynamic with the paps was intense, to say the least. Prince William said that they once even spat at her in order to elicit a reaction. She was called the most hunted person of the modern age and she shaped paparazzi and celebrity culture.
Always engaged in a powerplay with those who had a camera, she managed to use this equation to her advantage on occasion.
Let’s put that on the backburner for a second though and circle back to the black dresses.
Princess Diana was always very frank with the press and during an interview with Martin Bashir, which aired on the BBC channel, she revealed details of infidelity pertaining to her relationship with Prince Charles. Because of this reason, and because they were constantly in public view, their relationship devolved and they got divorced.
Then, the former princess stepped out in all her glory wearing an off-shoulder black silk dress, breaking the protocol she was still under. This is the moment in which she embraced her status as the pariah princess loved by the public and even as there was much effort put into redirecting public sympathies towards Prince Charles after the divorce, this move and his admission of infidelity undermined those efforts completely.
She had a tragic and untimely demise. But, it only resulted in the public transforming her into a concept, an icon and a guide on how to break rules with your head held high.
Directions by Harkrishan Alag
Written by Nandini Chopra