The Purplest Prose

The Purplest Prose. From "Princess Diana: A Fashion Tribute," in the latest issue of Vogue:

From Diana's earliest days as a figure who engaged the world's interest in an unprecedented way, her clothes were a semaphore for the changing patterns of her life. And she was aware of the potency of their message. Diana was adept at using clothes--the classic Sloane Ranger sweater with its lone black sheep amid white flocks that she wore as a shy Windsor initiate, the racy black cocktail dress she wore at a soiree the night Prince Charles announced his marital infidelities on television, her no-fuss working uniform of white shirt and khakis as she drew world attention to the horrors of land mines--to tell her story...

[In 1985, she] swept into Washington, D.C... with luggage cargo reportedly weighing in at 7,000 pounds: clothes for herself and Prince Charles.... Diana, appraising herself in the mirror, said playfully, "Eat your heart out, Nancy Reagan."

[During] Diana's trip to the Leprosy Mission and Red Cross stations in Nepal... as Diana alighted from the plane wearing a crisp green Catherine Walker jacket, the photographers (most of them from the accredited press, and veteran Diana watchers) were crushed, instantly recognizing this as something that Diana had worn before...

It was a mark of her potency that a designer as worldly as Gianni Versace could say of her, "She is my design dream come true." They also became good friends, and, poignantly, Diana mourned the designer at his memorial in Milan in July. Versace, who began dressing Diana in 1991, adapted his signature racy flamboyance to suit her sleek sobriety; it was an influence that was soon to percolate gently through his collections.

Diana could also be playful. Dancing with Calvin Klein at last September's benefit for the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research in Washington, D.C., she jokingly told him that she loved his underwear. She was able to get people to relax in the least promising situations.... The first time she visited Rifat Ozbek in his Dickensian London atelier, he raced down in the elevator to meet her, but "by the time I got there, she'd already walked all the way up!" he remembers. "She could see that we were all so excited and nervous, so she said,

'I'd love a really black coffee. I went out with friends last night and I've got a bit of a hangover.' Of course, it completely put everyone at their ease."

In a further show of empowerment, Diana also embraced contemporary gym culture, and her clothes began to reveal more of her toned body than ever before. Perhaps mindful of the first time she appeared in public with her fiancé, wearing the Emanuels' low-cut strapless black taffeta ball gown, and was photographed emerging from the car with a great deal of her bosom on splendid display, Diana developed a prettily old-fashioned gesture of covering her cleavage with her hand or evening bag as she stepped from her car.

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