10 rare photos show Princess Diana’s best outfits from before she was a royal

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Lady Diana Spencer before she became a princess. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images, Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images
  • Diana, Princess of Wales was a fashion icon long before she became a member of the royal family.
  • Lady Diana Spencer was pictured wearing a range of outfits in the lead up to her wedding in 1981.
  • She even broke protocol with a strapless black dress that she wore to her first royal engagement.
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Lady Diana Spencer wrapped up in a black sweater, a plaid skirt, and ballet flats for an outing in London in October 1980.

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Diana Spencer in London. David Levenson/Getty Images

She added a festive twist to her otherwise formal outfit — a pencil skirt and blouse — with a Christmas-themed cardigan for an outing in November 1980.

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Diana outside her apartment in London before her engagement to Prince Charles. Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images

The 19-year-old wore a striped pink gown and black coat to Princess Margaret’s 50th birthday at the Ritz Hotel in London that same month.

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Diana leaving Princess Margaret’s birthday party. Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

The future princess looked smart in a red jacket and matching handbag outside her apartment in London in January 1981.

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Diana was photographed outside her apartment the month before her engagement was announced. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Prince Charles and Diana Spencer announced their engagement on February 24, 1981. Diana wore a blue skirt suit from London department store Harrods for the official photocall.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana after announcing their engagement in 1981. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

According to Diana’s royal biographer Andrew Morton, the princess “literally had one long dress, one silk shirt, one smart pair of shoes, and that was it” at the time of her engagement to the Prince of Wales.

The future royal and her mother “had to go out and buy six of everything.”


Diana broke royal protocol by wearing a strapless black dress to her first official royal engagement with Prince Charles in March 1981.

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Lady Diana Spencer arrives in a revealing David Emanuel black dress for her first official engagement with Prince Charles at a fundraising concert at Goldsmith’s Hall, London, in March 1981. Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Speaking in secretly recorded tapes featured in the book “Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words” by Andrew Morton, Diana recalled Charles telling her that she shouldn’t wear the dress because black is only for mourning.

“I hadn’t appreciated that I was now seen as a royal lady, although I’d only got a ring on my finger as opposed to two rings,” she said.


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She added: “I remember walking into my husband-to-be’s study, and him saying: ‘You’re not going in that dress, are you?’ I replied: ‘Yes, I am.’ And he said: ‘It’s black! But only people in mourning wear black!’ And I said: ‘Yes, but I’m not part of your family yet.'”


Diana wore her now-iconic sheep sweater by Warm and Wonderful to watch a polo match in June 1981.

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Lady Diana at a polo match in Windsor, England. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Warm and Wonderful has since partnered with Rowing Blazers to bring back the sweater, which previously hadn’t been produced since 1994.


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A New York fashion brand has teamed up with Princess Diana’s favourite designers to bring back her most iconic looks


That same month she stepped out in a peach dress and a matching floral fascinator for an appearance with her future in-laws at Royal Ascot.

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Diana at Royal Ascot in June 1981. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

The future royal dazzled in a red sequinned ball gown at the London premiere of the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only” in June 1981.

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Diana at one of her final engagements before her royal wedding. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Diana’s final appearance as a non-royal was on her wedding day. Wearing a stunning ivory dress by the Emanuels, she entered St Paul’s Cathedral as Lady Diana Spencer and left as HRH The Princess of Wales.

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The Prince and Princess of Wales on their wedding day. David Levenson/Getty Images


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Princess Diana’s wedding-dress designer said she was ‘horrified’ when she saw the royal wearing it because of how creased it was