26 September 2023

The Lady Di Look Book: What Diana Was Trying to Tell Us Through Her Clothes

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Eloise Moran, Mitchell Beazley, $55.00.

Diana, Princess of Wales, is an international icon whose legacy continues today, 25 years after her death.

It was her activism and glamour that earned her enduring popularity as well as unparalleled public scrutiny, aggravated by her tumultuous private life. There was, and always will be, an air of mystery to the Princess.

Through a stunningly opulent series of colourful images, London-born, Los Angeles-based fashion journalist Eloise Moran decodes Princess Diana’s outfits in this stylish visual psychobiography. She outlines what Diana was trying to tell us through her clothes. What Lady Di couldn’t express verbally, she expressed through her clothes.

There’s a sense that Diana revelled in the enigma around her – it was almost her superpower, a small fragment of privacy that no one could invade. A narrative that she could control and finally have a say in.

Moran believes strongly that we can unravel this enigma by examining Lady Di’s clothes, alongside the known facts of her biography. “If we look carefully, we can piece together a powerful story – one that’s at first a little sad, then uplifting, ultimately heartbreaking, but overwhelmingly human. From the very start, Diana communicated surreptitiously through what she wore. At her first official royal engagement, she opted for a black taffeta strapless gown much to the dismay of Prince Charles, who told her that black was only for people in mourning.”

There’s an outfit at various stages of her life including a “standout Dynasty Di look” at the 1989 premiere of the film Shirley Valentine. In fact, 28 years ago – two years after Charles and Diana’s separation was announced publicly – she wore a little black dress known by most as her “revenge dress”.

From the summer of 1994, Diana’s clothing continued to play an important role in the rewriting of her narrative.

Diana, princess or not, is just like us. She’s like us because she went through the very human trials and tribulations faced by many women. Except she did it, at times humiliatingly, in plain public sight. “We witnessed her weaknesses, her pain, a betrayal, her growth, and, ultimately, her emancipation. Every move she made, we watched and critiqued. Diana is not relatable because of her status but because most women understand what it’s like to trust and have it broken, to speak and not always be heard, to be doubted and disbelieved.”

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