Princess Diana's 'rebellious' wardrobe inspires designers today

Princess Diana’s ‘chic’ but ‘rebellious’ sense of fashion still inspires a lot of ‘high fashion designers’ today, model Leomie Anderson claims in Channel 4 documentary exploring the late royal’s wardrobe

  • New documentary Diana: Queen of Style explores the royal’s wardrobe history 
  • British model and activist Leomie Anderson brands Princess Diana a ‘royal rebel’
  • Documentary shows how royal’s style resonates with all types of generations 

Princess Diana’s ‘rebellious’ sense of fashion still inspires high-end fashion designers today, a model and activist has claimed. 

Speaking in Channel 4’s Diana: Queen of Style, which airs tonight at 10pm, British model Leomie Anderson says the late royal, who died in 1997, conveyed a ‘chic’ sense of rebellion in her outfits that designers still try to emulate. 

‘I think Diana inspires a lot of high fashion designers, because she was seen as the royal rebel,’ Leomie says. ‘And I feel that’s an energy that a lot of designers try and capture in their own collection.’

‘I feel that when people are referencing Diana, they are trying to capture that chic, couture element, but with a rebellious touch.’  

Meanwhile, sesigner Jacque Azagury, who dressed Diana on several occasions, notes how the late royal wore short, revealing dresses – such as the one she famously donned during a visit to the Serpentine Gallery in June 1994 or the blue ensemble she wore at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1997 – to show she was a ‘free woman.’ 

Channel 4’s Diana: Queen of Style, which airs tonight at 10pm, explores how Princess Diana’s wardrobe still influences fashion today. Pictured: The royal in the Christina Stambolian black dress that is now referred to as the ‘revenge dress,’ in June 1994 at the Serpentine Gallery, London

The documentary explores how the late Princess of Wales’ wardrobe and sense of style have stood the test of time and are still popular with the public 24 years after her death.

Elsewhere, fashion writer Justine Picardie claims Princess Diana’s clothes helped her to connect with the public – adding that the personal way in which she used her wardrobe to communicate will appeal to future generations to come.  

‘Every generation will return to Diana because every generation understands the fabric of life, the fabric of love and loss,’ she explains. 

‘And it’s that we recognise in Diana’s wardrobe, what we are recognising is something that reflects in ourselves: in our own joy, our own sorrows, our own grief, our own happiness, our own losses, that’s there, in the fabric of her clothes.’

But according to Elizbeth Emanuel, who famously designed Diana’s wedding dress, the royal was not always clued up on the power clothes could have. 

Pictured: Princess Diana in a light blue dress designed by Jacques Azagury, which she wore to attend a performance of ‘Swan Lake’ by the English National Ballet at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1997

The royal was not always clued up on the power of clothes, but was stylish even as a shy newcomer. Pictured in her famous sheep sweater from 1980

‘In the beginning, when we first met Diana, I don’t think she thought much about fashion,’ she explains. ‘I think she enjoyed wearing clothes but never thought it through on the type of stuff that would be appropriate for her to wear. And we were very young obviously and it was all new to us as well.’

She says this shifted when the Princess – who was just 19 at the time and had just got engaged to the heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles – wore a black taffetas dress with a revealing neckline for an evening at the Royal Opera House in 1981. 

‘We happened to have this black dress that was hanging on the rail which was a sample but she loved it, she tried it on and we all thought “wow, she looks great in it”, Elizabeth recalls. ‘But we didn’t know at the time that black was not a good colour to wear because it’s usually reserved for funerals.

‘But it was also quite low-cut, and when she wore that dress, everybody just went crazy. It was a controversial outfit. It focused the eyes of all the fashion journalists at the time.’

The dress is today seen as the moment Diana went from a shy newcomer to a fashion powerhouse. 

‘I think that from that point on, she realised the power of the vocabulary of clothes and as years went by she used that. She knew it could really create an effect,’ Elizabeth notes. 

Justine also explains how the late royal often used her clothes to covey a message. 

‘In the early 80s, we still lived in a sexist society and women like Diana were seen but not heard,’ she says. ‘Clothes were her way of communicating with the world.’

She adds Princess Diana’s wardrobe was what made her relatable, before the details of her unhappy marriage to Prince Charles came to light.   

‘I think that Diana is the People’s Princess, the woman that people feel they know her as if she is their friend, their sister, their mother, really gained structure in that Australia tour,’ Justine says. ‘That must come down in part to her clothes. Because at that point, nobody knew that her marriage was in trouble.’

British model Leomie Anderson, pictured in 2020, says Diana’s rebellious flair inspires fashion designers to this day 

‘So it wasn’t as if you could relate to Diana as somebody that was suffering heartbreak.’

Author Banseka Kayembe agrees: ‘I think fundamentally, her clothing is a way to have a voice in a media landscape that doesn’t like to give women voices and doesn’t like to give women any kind of autonomy about their own narrative and their story.’  

After her separation from Prince Charles in 1992, Princess Diana came out with an emboldened wardrobe. 

Her visit to the Serpentine Gallery in June 1994 on the evening where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles’ affair came to light – now the Duchess of Cornwall – is still talked about. 

For the occasion she donned a revealing dress by Christina Stambolian which is still spilling ink today. 

The design, which was a black fitted off-the-shoulder dress with a short hemline, was dubbed the ‘Revenge Dress’ and even has its very own Wikipedia page. 

Designer Jacques Azagurdy, who designed gowns for Diana in the 1990s, testified of the Princess’s desire to dress in revealing clothing more often. 

Pictured: Diana, then 19, causing a commotion in a black taffetas dress designed by the Emanuels for an evening at thw Royal Opera House in 1981, which made her realise the effect fashion can have on people

He discusses a blue diamond dress he made for her, which she wore at a performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1997. 

‘This is probably one of the famous dresses that the princess wore,’ he says. ‘You’ll notice how short it is and the princess was 5ft 10 in flat feet, so there wasn’t much dress and there was a lot of the Princess,’ he jokes. 

Pointing to the dress’ cleavage and hemline, he adds: ‘It was very low here and, very high there. She actually wanted it a bit shorter than this.’

‘At the time she really wanted to put the message across that yes, she was a free woman finally and very confident in herself and above all, very happy in herself,.’

Diana: Queen of Style, airs tonight at 10pm on Channel 4.  

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