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Princess Diana: Style and Substance

Published: 8/31/2012

Our world has always been fascinated with royalty, all the way back to the days when the king had a slightly nicer loincloth than everybody else and lived in a bigger hut. But that fascination has risen to a fever pitch over the course of the past 100 years or so, with every new form of media making it that much easier to watch every move a princess makes… in particular, a princess like Diana, Princess of Wales, whom we simply could not get enough of.

Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales, arrives at the Royal Albert Hall for a gala performance of 'Swan Lake,' June 3, 1997. (AP Photo / Jacqueline Arzt)

Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales, arrives at the Royal Albert Hall for a gala performance of 'Swan Lake,' June 3, 1997. (AP Photo / Jacqueline Arzt)

Today marks 15 years since the world reeled at the news that Diana had been killed in a car crash. She was just 36 years old when she died, a young woman who gave us so many of the things we look for in an international celebrity: beauty and style, love and scandal, great heights and occasional lows. But as we have watched her sons become men (and go through love and scandal of their own), the things we remember best about Diana are the positives. She was committed to helping others, with an impressive group of charities she supported. She was a devoted mother, one who was determined to raise her sons herself. And, if we're being honest about the things we loved about her, she was a style icon, a woman who, like her daughter-in-law Kate today, delighted us with her sensibly fabulous fashion.

It's easy to see those three facets of Diana in the wealth of photographs that were taken of her in the 16 years between her marriage and her death. We're flipping through a few of our favorites as we remember her today.

In 1981, Diana's wedding dress, with its giant sleeves and acres of ruffles and lace, was aspirational fashion for brides-to-be the world over.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles are seen on their wedding day in London, July 29, 1981. (AP Photo)

Princess Diana and Prince Charles are seen on their wedding day in London, July 29, 1981. (AP Photo)

Diana wasn't coy about announcing her first pregnancy – she talked frankly with the press about it, and she clearly looked forward to being a mother. Unlike many royals, she chose her sons' first names herself.

Princess Diana and Prince Charles are shown with their son Prince William during a photo session at Kensington Palace in London, December 1982. (AP Photo)

Princess Diana and Prince Charles are shown with their son Prince William during a photo session at Kensington Palace in London, December 1982. (AP Photo)

While it's typical and expected for a princess to have little time to raise her children, Diana insisted on being an important part of her sons' lives. She arranged her public appearances around William and Harry's schedules in order to have as much time with them as she could. And their easygoing relationship was evident in photos.

Princess Diana of Wales smiles as she sits with her sons, Princes Harry, front, and William, on the steps of the Royal Palace on the island of Majorca, Spain, Aug. 9, 1987. The British Royal family is on holiday with the Spanish King Juan Carlos and his family. (AP Photo / John Redman)

Princess Diana of Wales smiles as she sits with her sons, Princes Harry, front, and William, on the steps of the Royal Palace on the island of Majorca, Spain, Aug. 9, 1987. The British Royal family is on holiday with the Spanish King Juan Carlos and his family. (AP Photo / John Redman)

A Princess of Wales is expected to devote time to charity, and initially Diana seemed to do it out of obligation, but as time went on, she grew into her humanitarian work, taking on atypical causes like AIDS awareness.

South African President Nelson Mandela, left, shakes hands with Princess Diana in Cape Town, March 17, 1997. Princess Diana met with Mandela to discuss the threat of AIDS in South Africa. (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)

South African president Nelson Mandela, left, shakes hands with Princess Diana in Cape Town, March 17, 1997. Diana met with Mandela to discuss the threat of AIDS in South Africa. (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)

Breast cancer research was another of the many causes she supported. Her deep devotion to helping others was part of what earned her the moniker "The People's Princess."

Princess Diana walks with Northwestern University president Henry S. Bienen as she arrives at University Hall on June 4, 1996, in Evanston, Ill. Diana is on a three-day visit to raise money for breast cancer research. (AP Photo / Michael S. Green)

Princess Diana walks with Northwestern University president Henry S. Bienen as she arrives at University Hall on June 4, 1996, in Evanston, Ill. Diana is on a three-day visit to raise money for breast cancer research. (AP Photo / Michael S. Green)

Diana didn't just help from afar, donating money and attending benefits. She was truly involved with the charities she supported.

The Princess of Wales talking to a young unidentified applicant at Centrepoint's new Streets Ahead recruitment agency during her visit Aug. 5, 1996. (AP Photo)

The Princess of Wales talking to a young unidentified applicant at Centrepoint's new Streets Ahead recruitment agency during her visit Aug. 5, 1996. (AP Photo)

Near the end of her life, Diana made headlines with her campaign to raise awareness of land mines in Angola. Many photos were released showing her at work there, but the most poignant are the ones where we see her making a connection with children injured by mines.

Diana, Princess of Wales, talks to amputees Jan. 14, 1997 at the the Neves Bendinha Orthopedic Workshop on the outskirts of Luanda, Angola. Sitting on Diana's lap is 13-year-old Sandra Thijica who lost her left leg to a land-mine while working the land with her mother in Saurimo, eastern Angola, in 1994. Princess Diana is visiting Angola in an effort to create awareness about land-mines. (AP Photo / Joao Silva)

Diana, Princess of Wales, talks to amputees Jan. 14, 1997 at the the Neves Bendinha Orthopedic Workshop on the outskirts of Luanda, Angola. Sitting on Diana's lap is 13-year-old Sandra Thijica who lost her left leg to a land-mine while working the land with her mother in Saurimo, eastern Angola, in 1994. Princess Diana is visiting Angola in an effort to create awareness about land-mines. (AP Photo / Joao Silva)

We loved seeing Diana in the field doing hands-on work for good causes… but we must admit we also loved seeing her dressed to dazzle at a fundraising event.

Princess Diana arrives for dinner in Washington, Sept. 24, 1996, for a benefit in recognition of the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research. (AP Photo / Denis Paquin)

Princess Diana arrives for dinner in Washington, Sept. 24, 1996, for a benefit in recognition of the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research. (AP Photo / Denis Paquin)

The People's Princess lives on in her good works, in her sons, and in the memories of many.

Diana, the Princess of Wales during her visit to Leicester, May 27, 1997, to formally open The Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and Arts. (AP Photo)

Diana, the Princess of Wales during her visit to Leicester, May 27, 1997, to formally open The Richard Attenborough Centre for Disability and Arts. (AP Photo)

Written by Linnea Crowther

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