Britain

Designer Diaries: Diana, Princess of Wales and Catherine Walker, Part 2

Designing daywear for Diana was a particular challenge. She needed clothes for both tours and domestic events. They needed to reference the occasion, be respectful of various cultures, and be easy to wear. Catherine Walker described designing specifically for Diana as a very emotional thing, and one that developed slowly, over time.

Initially, Diana’s daywear was more intricate. It was a deliberate decision on the designer’s part to reference some of the formality of eighteenth century court dress. She was designing for a young woman new to the role, and she had to impart some seriousness of purpose. Later, the clothes become more streamlined and more body conscious.

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Above, Diana in a Catherine Walker two piece ensemble, circa 1983. Both designer and Princess were in early stages of defining her role. Note the amount of detail, and the youthfulness of the ensemble.

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The Corisia wool suit above was designed specifically for a tour of Italy in 1985. The fabric was chosen and tested for wrinkles and for retaining structure. The tailoring was cleaner and much more structured than the earlier Walker designs for Diana.

Walker determined that on tour, necklines were important focal points, particularly when they were integrated with a hat. The sailor influenced dress below was commissioned for the 1988 tour of Australia and worn for the arrival in Sydney Harbour.

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For events like Ascot, Walker focused on luxurious fabrics, cut simply, so that Diana would cut a striking figure.

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The Corisia silk dupion suit above, commissioned for Ascot Ladies Day in 1988, was designed to emulate a gentleman’s cutaway coat. The designer worked to make the midiff longer, and more of a focal point. Diana was firmly in her structured phase.

Color was an important factor on tours. For Asian countries, Walker worked with saturated colors and striking color combinations.

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The Taroni silk dupion suit above was commissioned for a tour stop in Hong Kong in 1989. Catherine worked with Diana’s office, in particular her lady-in-waiting Anne Beckwith-Smith, in choosing the colors to honor the Asian location. The wide belt was a common feature of designs of that period. Below, for another hot weather location, Dubai, Walker designed a two toned dress in deep colors. This was also 1989, and notice how both designer and Diana had worked together to thoroughly streamline her presentation.

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In the later years of their collaboration, the shoe/hat/jewel/dress combinations became more and more sophisticated. By 1995, Diana was a PhD level accessorizer.

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Diana, in a black and white Catherine Walker suit, 1995. By this point the designer knew how to fit and flatter her figure beautifully. This is Diana as I remember her, a confident and complete sartorial success.

Show your daywear Catherine Walker appreciation in the comments. The design house has produced clothing for many other royals (and civilians). Any and all contributions are welcome.