Lady Diana’s statement fashion – and the timeless appeal of ‘revenge looks’

Lady Diana's statement fashion - and the timeless appeal of 'revenge looks'

Eloise Moran is passionate about fashion and has been a copywriter for fashion brands since she was in her 20s. In 2018, Eloise Moran founded the Instagram account. @ladydirevengelooksAs a joke among her friends after the breakup of her marriage, when she was 25,

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Little did she know that her tongue-in-cheek celebration of the fiercest post-divorce looks of Britain’s Princess Diana would garner 117,000 followers on Instagram and lead to her first book, The Lady Di Look Book: What Diana Was Trying to Tell us Through her Clothes, a joyful, irreverent, but empowering photographic catalogue of the style of the princess turned style icon.

Moran, 30 years old, believes in the power and ability of images to tell a story. This is something Diana, the former Princess of Wales, was able to see early in her career in the public eye. “I believe that clothes can tell a story and that many people underestimate the power of clothes,”Moran. “I don’t think people realised that Diana was using her clothes as a weapon, and because they underestimated the power of clothes, they missed so many moments where she got the upper hand.”

Having watched the Netflix documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, Moran was gripped by the princess’s narrative. Finding parallels in her own life (albeit without the wealth, media scrutiny, and fame), she began researching photos of the princess, joking with friends about Diana’s “revenge outfits”. She began captioning Instagram photos with her own wry comments about breakups, using the same conversational style she uses for Lady Di Look Book.

“When people think of revenge, they think of ‘bitter and twisted’, but I think that revenge is a natural part of healing,”Moran. “I didn’t want the book to be too intense or angry — the whole point is to move on with life — so I wanted to make it lighthearted and funny, but still empowering.”

Eloise Moran: ‘I wanted to tell a story of the person who helped me get through my break-up.’

Her intention is not rehash facts about Diana’s life but to celebrate strength and passion in a woman who is often seen as vulnerable. “There are so many renderings of Diana that portray her as fragile and a little weak,” Moran says. Moran said. [2021 drama] Spencer went hard on her mental-health issues, but just because she had these issues doesn’t mean that she wasn’t a very strong person.”

“To me, she seemed quite sound of mind, just going crazy in a very intense situation. It’s almost like institutional gaslighting. I wanted to tell a story of the person I found inspiring and the person who (I’m not exaggerating) helped me get through my break-up.”

This technicolour romp will be a hit with people of certain vintages. Chapters are devoted to covering everything from the princess’s naïve ensembles of pie-crust collar and jeans, through the polka dot and tartan era, to the sleek ‘revenge’Dresses from the 1990s This is what younger readers will think. ‘lookbook’Of a princess long gone?

“Years ago, our mothers were looking to Diana for inspiration, but now gen-Zs and millennials are looking to Diana,” Moran says. “I split the book into various chapters with different looks, because everyone can pull something from her style that resonates with them,”Moran. “Fashion is cyclical, so I think the styles would have come around anyway, but during the pandemic Diana became a kind of athleisure star. She offered everyone an unintentional guide to pandemic dressing.”

Was Moran aware of Diana’s status in the fashion canon before she began her research, given that she was just five years old when the princess was tragically killed? “I was aware of her as a ‘style icon’, but my understanding of her was the flouncy 1980s pieces,”She said. “I began to research her, uncovering some of her 1990s looks, and thought, ‘This could be right now’!”

“Wearing a Harvard sweatshirt from her extensive collegiate collection. She accessorised with a crocodile-embossed handbag.” Photo: Brendan Beirne/Shutterstock
“Wearing a Harvard sweatshirt from her extensive collegiate collection. She accessorised with a crocodile-embossed handbag.”Photo by Brendan Beirne/Shutterstock

Moran views Diana as an early #MeToo icon: “Not in terms of sexual assault, but in terms of calling out men and speaking her truth, even though it put her in a position of great vulnerability,”She said. “After Charles’s admission of infidelity, instead of crawling under a rock, she made herself louder, which is what women have done in the last 10 years.”

However, Moran hasn’t written the book in light of the #MeToo movement or the resurgence in 1990s fashion: “I connected with her story and I believe lots of young people will connect to it, too. I’m a lot younger than many of the royal writers and I have a perspective that relates to more youthful attitudes around mental health, relationships, personal style, etc. Diana was ahead of her time: There is something about her which is so much more relevant to our generation than perhaps even my mother’s generation.”

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Diana was a proto-influencer. “I think from the day of her wedding, people realised that she was an influencer,” Moran says. “As she started to tour and appear in all these different looks, I think brands realised that she could be influential. It wasn’t a fast-fashion model in those days, but if Diana wore something, plenty of people would follow suit. She was the original influencer, though the term had not yet been coined.”

Social media and fast-fashion production mean that brands can respond instantly, but in Diana’s day, while some brands, such as kitsch knitwear label Warm and Wonderful (of the black sheep sweater) pivoted to demand, others, such as Sloppy Joe, did not see increased demand for their products.

This may be as true of how we dress as it is about how the fashion industry works. “The athleisure looks did not garner as much attention as her more glamorous looks at the time,” Moran says. “She also wore the same things over and over again to the gym, perhaps thinking that the paparazzi would leave her alone.

“No matter what date you search up there is a different outfit each day, so you realise just how often she was photographed. She was influencing fashion 30 years ago and is still doing that now. You go into any store and you can find Diana references everywhere, whether that’s the Sloane Ranger look, the athleisure look, or the Versace-esque bodycon dresses.”

“Cashmere and an oversized tapestry bag for the Sloane in the city. (Diana was definitely a Carrie.)” Photo: News UK/Shutterstock
“Cashmere and an oversized tapestry bag for the Sloane in the city. (Diana was definitely a Carrie.)” Photo: News UK/Shutterstock

Many of us associate Diana’s influence with the jewel-coloured ball gowns worn to 1980s debs. Moran claims that Diana’s influence is still present today. He cites brands like Shrimps and Allessandra Rich as well as Off-White Spring 2018 Natural Woman collection, which featured beautiful, tailored coats and voluminous dresses. One of the monochrome prints Diana wore was also included in the collection.

“It was like ’80s prom style on crack with Diana,”Moran. “Women cut their hair like her too. Some of the dresses she wore were pretty awful, but, in the context of the time, she was a tastemaker. You can still see how designers pull from even the craziest of those looks and turn them into something fresh and modern.”

The Lady Di Look Book is the best.

Reader through a style evolution from coy bachelorette to confident 30something. Moran says that this evolution occurs in tandem with society’s changing roles for women.

“I think there was a time in the 1980s where Diana appealed to the British housewife and homemaker with the whimsical shirt collars, floral prints, and the pastel colours,” Moran says. “Then, in the 1990s, perhaps, she began to appeal to the working mum or ‘women on the move’. Obviously, in the 1990s there was that shift, where a lot more women were flooding the workplace and more mothers became working mothers.”There was also a shift in attitude: “She got a job and started to go to work every day. By the 1990s she was no longer in the shadow of Charles. She was taking her ambassadorial roles very seriously and she wanted to be taken seriously.”

The princess also transitioned from puffy ball gowns and to sleek, figure-hugging dresses. “She obviously had a complicated relationship with her body, especially with the issues she went through with bulimia,”Moran.

“According to her, she had her bulimia under control by the early ’90s, she got a personal trainer, and, as the restrictions on her loosened, I think she embraced that. She was dating, she was a single woman, and I think she started to appreciate her body and embrace her sexuality.”

There was definitely a shift in ‘Diana the princess’To ‘Diana the international celebrity star’. Remember John Travolta’s 1985 White House dance? Or the stratospheric coup d’état the night after Prince Charles’s admission of infidelity in 1994? Diana in her iconic Christina Stambolian Christina Stambolian dress, stepping out of her car at the Serpentine Gallery “revenge”To raucous applause and the front page of every newspaper in the country the next morning, dress up! Many looks are covered in this book and they’re brilliantly illustrated, from Diana’s working uniform to her soccer-mom outfits, her Americana phase to her ski outfits, her 1990s power suits to her androgenous looks, a style that seems so current again. “Clothing is becoming more gender neutral and unisex, so I think there is a whole new relevance for these outfits now,”Moran.

“Black and white became regular features in Diana’s 90s wardrobe— she finally could wear the forbidden colours.” Photo: Brendan Beirne/Shutterstock
“Black and white became regular features in Diana’s 90s wardrobe— she finally could wear the forbidden colours.”Photo by Brendan Beirne/Shutterstock

One of the final chapters — ‘The Mr Wonderful Revenge Look’ –covers Diana’s style while she was in a relationship with Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan. The evening of her divorce settlement, she attended a charity event at London’s Dorchester Hotel. Rizwan, a Pakistani luxury designer, had given her an ivory, pearl-embellished shalwar kameez. It was a hint for Khan and a nudge at Khan. “I often wonder if this rejection of British style and embracing a more international look, whether the USA sweatshirts, sexy Versace, or the shalwar kameez was another way of getting back at the royal family,”Moran. “But Diana was a lover. I think she really loved Khan and wanted to be embraced by his family. I think she was showing her devotion to him by wearing some of these outfits.”

Diana’s commitment was not enough for Khan and they parted ways in 1997, the princess becoming reacquainted with Dodi Fayed a short time later. From the conservative shalwar kameez to the skimpy swimsuits she was photographed wearing on Fayed’s yacht, Diana was yet again sending out a message through her clothing. “She was very strategic and obviously wanted to send a message,” Moran says. “I look at those photos and think: ‘Good for her’. She was having an experience that any successful woman would have. Even though she tragically died shortly after those photos were taken, I think it gives people solace to have seen her so happy.”

The Lady Di Look Book for Moran is about “Breaking free and truly discovering who you are, expressing yourself through your clothes and discovering how being more intentional with your clothes makes you feel about yourself. Ultimately, it’s about not letting the bastards get you down.”

The first time Moran approached a literary agent to discuss the idea, the agent stated: “All I want is for you to write the book and get a divorce.” Inspired by Diana’s outfits and her kick-ass attitude, Moran has just used the last chunk of her book advance to hire a lawyer and file for divorce.

“In my mid-20s I was completely lost. I didn’t know who I was or what I liked. Five years on in my Diana journey, I have written a book and know that I want a career in writing. I think Diana can inspire people,”She said.

That is all.

The Lady Di Look Book by Eloise Moran is published by Mitchell Beazley (€31.25).jpg
The Lady Di Look Book by Eloise Moran is published by Mitchell Beazley (€31.25).jpg
  • ‘The Lady Di Look Book’Mitchell Beazley published the book ‘Eloise Moran’.

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