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Princess Diana’s One And Only Met Gala Dress Was Loaded With Meaning

Will modern-day royals, including the new Princess of Wales, ever follow suit? We take a look back at Princess Diana’s Met Gala dress from 1996, a special fashion moment.

diana met gala dress

Photo: Getty

The date is December 9, 1996 and designers and their muses are gathering at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to fete the work of Christian Dior – the focus of the latest fashion exhibit and accompanying gala. Calvin Klein and Christy Turlington make a photogenic duo, while Christian Lacroix and Iman pull out all the stops with their combination of corduroy, crystals and corsetry. Linda Evangelista arrives in a dangerously low scoop-neck gown, accompanied by Kyle MacLachlan, and it’s all smiles from Amber Valletta as she navigates the famous staircase. Then, somewhere in the hubbub and the hobnobbing, there’s Diana, Princess of Wales.

diana met gala dress

Linda Evangelista and Kyle MacLachlan. Photo: Getty

diana met gala dress

Christian Lacroix and Iman. Photo: Getty

The royal made a discreet entrance, accompanied by her friend Liz Tilberis, while wearing her most un-royal look to date. Diana’s Met Gala dress was an inky silk John Galliano for Dior slip gown, with its lace negligée trim and matching dressing-gown style robe, was aeons away from the Di who once charmed the world with her sheep jumper, and signalled that the recent divorcée was enjoying a new phase of her life unshackled from Kensington Palace protocol.

What made Princess Diana’s Met Gala dress a moment to remember

diana met gala dress

Making her entrance with fashion editor Liz Tilberis. Photo: Getty

It was not just the lingerie detailing in Diana’s Met Gala dress that spelled out “liberation!” at the ball, but the fact that she had chosen to commission Galliano, the industry’s then wildly romantic, über prolific creative, to make her a special version of a midnight-blue dress from his first collection for the maison. It was the ultimate fashion flex on a night when all eyes are watching. If that didn’t score her fashion kudos, the Dior Lady Di bag – originally called the Chouchou and renamed in her honour – dangling from her wrist, along with acres of diamond bracelets, certainly did. Diana was reportedly worried about what her 14-year-old son, Prince William, might make of his mother in red-carpet mode, but the headlines were no less sensational than those peddled by the Christina Stambolian “revenge dress” the Princess wore to the Serpentine Summer Party in 1994. Despite her step back from the spotlight, everyone still wanted a piece of Diana.

A close-up of that signature French mani, her sparkling jewels and Lady Di Dior bag. Photo: Getty

Far from using fashion’s big night to further her own agenda, the Princess understood the power of her personal image to promote a good cause. Just as she had thrown her weight behind London Fashion Week and the British Fashion Awards previously, raising awareness for the Met Costume Institute fundraiser was a gift she could bestow with just a dress and a seven-strand pearl choker. Will modern-day royals, including the new Princess of Wales, ever follow suit? It’s hard to imagine the senior and serious Kate navigating the red carpet alongside the Kardashians in a look like Princess Diana’s Met Gala dress, but stranger things have happened in fashion and, indeed, the royal family.

Inside the hallowed museum halls. Photo: Getty

Originally published in Vogue.co.uk

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