Princess Diana and Prince Charles separated in 1992, and they officially divorced in 1996. After the couple announced their separation, Diana’s wardrobe noticeably changed. She no longer clung to royal etiquette; she wore spaghetti-strap dresses, animal prints, suits, and more. Diana became a fashion icon after her divorce. Keep reading to see some of her most famous looks.
It Started With The Revenge Dress
June 29, 1994, was two years after Prince Charles and Diana announced their divorce. That night, she appeared at a party hosted by Vanity Fair. Meanwhile, a documentary on Prince Charles aired, designed to give him better press at the divorce. Diana wore a dress that broke all royal rules: off-the-shoulder, short, and with a plunging neckline.
The media called it the “Revenge Dress” for its timing. “We called that ‘The Revenge Dress'[because] she wore that the same evening Prince Charles confessed to his adultery with Camilla,” explained Kerry Taylor, whose company auctioned Diana’s dresses.
She Dressed Far More Casual
Usually, Royals only wear casual clothing during specific non-committal occasions, such as walking their dogs. But Princess Diana wore more casual outfits during outings, perhaps because she had fewer royal outings and fewer people breathing down her neck.
While she left the Leaving Chelsea Harbour Club in 1995, she wore a Virgin Atlantic sweatshirt and shorts. She also wore tennis shoes with high socks, sporting a carefree look. People got on board with the appearance, especially enjoying the less expensive clothing brands.
Getting Rid Of The Princess Frill
After losing her title in the divorce, Diana stopped wearing as many floral patterns, big sleeves, or frills. This was in part thanks to her stylist, Anna Harvey from British Vogue. But it also came from the freedom of not being seen as a Royal.
Her new formal dresses came in solid, bold colors with flattering silhouettes. In 1996, she attended the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Dinner Dance in a blue one-shoulder dress. This dress went down to the ankles and matched with blue shoes and a blue clutch.
She Refused To Wear The Chanel Logo
Before the divorce, Princess Diana often wore the French high fashion brand Chanel. But afterward, she refused to put on a pair of Chanel shoes, according to one of her designers, Jayson Brunsdon.
During their first meeting, Diana said that she would not wear anything with the double C’s that form the Chanel logo. When Brunsdon asked why, the Princess responded, “It’s Camilla and Charles.” Something about the Chanel logo reminded Diana of the divorce. However, that did not stop her from wearing other high fashion brands.
Expressing Her Wild Side Through Animal Prints
Even in the late 1980s, Diana wore some animal print jackets and shirts. But after her divorce, she showed off more animal print clothing, from bathing suits to dresses. In April 1990, she wore one of her more famous animal print dresses–a leopard patterned beach dress for her visit to the Virgin Islands.
In 1997, she was photographed while wearing an animal print one-piece bathing suit. The suit was a mixture of leopard, tiger, and other animal prints. She paired it with golden hoop earrings and sunglasses while on the beach of St. Tropez.
Her Iconic Short Haircut
Throughout the 1990s, Princess Diana became known for her short haircut. She cut it right before a 1990 British Vogue photoshoot–or rather, her hairstylist, Sam McKnight, cut it. “As she was leaving, Diana asked what would I do to her hair if I had free reign,” he said.
I suggested cutting it short and she, to my surprise, agreed. And we did it there and then.” Although this happened a bit before the divorce announcement, Diana must have decided that short hair suited her. It looked more rebellious and freeing than her princess ‘do.
She Even Wore Suits
Although the Royals technically allow women to wear suits, they tend to frown upon it. That might be why, after her separation, Diana wore several suits. Sometimes it was just the jacket, while other times, she included slacks and undershirts.
In June 1992, right after her separation announcement, Diana visited Hull and Humberside in northern England. She wore a purple and pink suit jacket by designer Catherine Walker. While she was still a princess, she seemed to embrace her newfound fashion freedom with a bold, unconventional suit.
Going Entirely Androgynous
Royal dress code will allow women to wear suits on some occasions if it looks traditionally “feminine.” But Princess Diana ignored this rule after her divorce. Tabloids often talked about her “androgynous” style when she dressed in traditional men’s clothes.
In March 1994, Diana visited her brother Charles Althrop’s newborn baby at St. Mary’s Hospital. She wore a long suit jacket with gold details on the sleeves, a matching tie, and a navy belt with a large gold buckle. By pairing it with dark jeans, she made a bold statement.
Her Mini Dresses Expressed Freedom
When Diana first debuted her Revenge Dress, fashion journalist Alex Longmore wrote, “In that minidress, she oozed confidence, an air of happiness and independence.” Perhaps that feeling encouraged her to wear more short dresses that ended above the knee–a clear breach of Royal etiquette.
In September 1995, Diana visited Moderno, Italy, and attended a concert in aid of Bosnian children. She wore this white Versace dress, with a short cut, low scoop neck, and spaghetti strap. At the time, it made several headlines for its out-of-the-box style.
In Fact, Versace Was One Of Her Main Brands
Diana wore a lot of Versace after her divorce, likely because of her friendship with founder Gianni Versace. The two met after Diana debuted one of his pieces in 1991, an icy blue gown that made it to the cover of British Vogue.
Versace often designed dresses, skirts, and suit jackets for Diana, such as this orange one that she wore at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital in 1995. After fitting her in July 1997, Versace said, “It is a moment in her life, I think, when she’s found herself – the way she wants to live.”
Wearing Shorts Was A Bigger Deal Than It Seemed
According to British etiquette expert William Hanson, you won’t see many royal women wearing shorts. Generally, shorts are reserved for young boys, who switch to trousers when they become men. This is another etiquette rule that Diana ignored upon her divorce.
Shorts became the new norm for Princess Diana, especially with her more casual looks. She wore blue shorts while on holiday in Spain in 1990. After the divorce, she often paired university sweatshirts, such as when she wore white peach shorts and a blue sweatshirt to the Chelsea Harbour Club.
Not Just Form-Fitting
While royal outfits are modest, they tend to show off the Royal’s body by being well-fitted. But Princess Diana abandoned the form-fitting dresses after her divorce. Sometimes she wore them, but other times, she donned baggy sweatshirts, jackets, and sweater dresses.
In 1996, Diana wore (yet another) Versace coat as a knee-length dress. She arrived at The Association Of American Correspondents lunch in a baggy white coat with black tights and shoes. Even coats are not usually this baggy in a princess’s wardrobe, but Diana clearly did not care.
As Diana’s dresses and shirts became more casual, so did her footwear. She embraced the ’90s style of sneakers with chunky socks. Princesses are not forbidden from wearing sneakers, but her pairing tall socks with shorts was uniquely Diana.
It was not always for casual occasions, either. She once wore a brilliant red coat and white scarf with her sneakers and tall socks. It seems that, with her title officially stripped, Diana opted for more comfortable footwear. Many people imitated this look throughout the 1990s.
Her Hats Were Smaller Than We See Today
Nowadays, royal events like Christmas mass or weddings often have women wearing large, intricate hats. But Princess Diana ignored the large hats after her divorce. While she still wore hats, they were far smaller and were usually berets or pillbox hats.
In 1995, Diana wore a pink pillbox hat by Philip Somerville while visiting the Queen’s and Royal Hampshire Regiment. Compare that to the black beret that she wore during her Germany visit. They are both simple, but their designs make a bold statement, much like the rest of Diana’s post-divorce wardrobe.
Minimal Makeup, Emphasizing The Eyes
Princess Diana’s makeup was always minimal, but it became more subtle after the divorce. She did not need to dress formally as often, after all. Her makeup artist, Mary Greenwell, told ABC News that she mainly emphasized her eyes.
“She realized her best features were her eyes,” she said, noting that Diana had nearly flawless skin. “She was so young she didn’t need to wear so much makeup.” In July 1997, she only wore a bit of eyeliner to the new Children’s Ambulatory Care Center in Northwick.
She Embraced Low Necklines
One of the most widely-enforced royal dress codes is to not reveal too much. Princess Diana’s handbag designer, Anya Hindmarch, called them “cleavage bags” because she would use them to cover her chest while getting out of the car.
But after her divorce, Diana embraced low necklines. She often wore low scoop necks, such as with this embroidered dress by Catherine Walker. This dress was deemed as “not modest enough” for the private viewing at the Aids Crisis Trust And The Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund in 1997. But she rocked it.
But She Did Not Shy Away From Turtle Necks
Although Diana wore low necklines after her divorce, she also did the exact opposite–embracing high necklines. She often wore sweaters with high turtlenecks and even large cowl necks. It was another version of the choker, perfectly fitting her short hairstyle.
One example comes from a Rugby match in Paris in January 1995. Diana wore a black silk shirt that had a high turtle neck. It almost looks like a scarf (which she also wore often), but it was not. She paired it with a light beige suit jacket.
Bring In The Large Chokers
As Princess Diana’s dresses became more bold and simple, so did her jewelry. She rarely wore medium or long necklaces; instead, she embraced chokers, even large, sparkly, and bold ones.
In 1996, Diana attended the Gala Dinner At Field Museum Of Natural History in a purple Versace dress with a large, white choker. Earlier, in 1995, she paired a low-cut black dress with a sparkly choker. The large gem on the choker matched the dress and was formal enough for the Gala Evening for Aid Of Cancer Research.
Ignoring Many Of The Royal Rules
The fashion etiquette of the British Royal family tends to be modest. According to etiquette expert Grant Harrold, women must wear tights, hide cleavage, and drape skirts to the knee. But after her divorce, Princess Diana ignored many of these rules.
For instance, Diana began wearing low necklines, mainly scoop necks during formal occasions. She also wore spaghetti-strap dresses, which is looked down upon in the British royal family. You won’t see other princesses wearing something that reveals the chest and shoulders as much as this.
Her Earrings Were Subtle, But Blingy
Princess Diana was never known for piling up on jewelry. However, she almost always wore nice earrings, especially since her hair was short. Her earrings ranged from pearls to rubies to sapphires, but all of them were minimal. You would never catch Diana wearing large hoops.
One of her most famous pairs of jewelry debuted during a 1997 Gala viewing of “Swan Lake.” The earrings and matching necklace were designed by Garrard Versace with diamonds and South Sea pearls. Her earrings might be tiny, but they are unique and make a statement.