timberland bags How Diana’s shoes traced the ups and downs of her marriage
Star in stripes: Diana’s ‘regular shoe’, with its 2in heel as seen here during a visit to Lambeth, South London during 1991
Court shoes, cone heels, evening pumps, slip ons, loafers: the sheer number of shoes Diana wore as Princess of Wales could almost have rivalled Imelda Marcos.
When we look at it today, we can see exactly how Diana’s shoe choices traced all the ups and downs of the story of her life especially when it came to her romance with Charles.
Step by step, from the moment she stood next to her fiance in the garden of Buckingham Palace, head held blushingly on one side in a self conscious effort to look shorter, right through to being an elegant woman who walked tall ‘6ft 3in in high heels’, as designer Bruce Oldfield put it it’s all there.
Her changing styles also mirror the rise of the shoe designer in fashion. Indeed, we’ve now reached a point at which designers such as Alessandro Michele, creative director at Gucci, are avidly referencing everything the young Diana wore in the early Eighties. Even her gawky early ‘ royal appearance’ footwear has become retrospectively fashionable.
In her ‘Shy Di’ years, Diana ordered pair after pair of low heeled court shoes in a rainbow of colours to match every conceivable outfit. She was careful never to overstep the heel height mark. Jimmy Choo remembers that when he first knew Diana, she ordered heels at ‘two inches only, no higher than that’.
They were pointed, with a V cut, and became what she called ‘my regular shoe’. Her shoe size, incidentally, is thought to have been six and a half.
Only gradually did the hemlines go up, the skirts narrow and the heels start to rise. In the last two years of her life, her marriage behind her, she entered her super groomed phase of elegant, strappy slingbacks. There were no tights, just tanned legs, and she was long past caring about giving the impression of being shorter.
She laughed when Jimmy Choo warned that a pair of four inch evening heels might be difficult to move in.
‘I won’t be going out walking here and there,’ she said. ‘I want to be taller than the men.’
Breaking the bare leg taboo
For generations, it had been unthinkable for a lady to gowithout tights in public,
let alonea member of the Royal Family.
Diana was the first royal tobreak ranks on the stuffy rule,ditching hosiery in summer to allow her tanned, race horse legs to be seen au naturel a trend which revolutionised the way women dress to this day.
Her off duty habit wasn’t much remarked on for one thing, she was wearing calf length skirts at that point but by 1991, as her hemlines rose, it became obvious Diana was daring to bare her legs on official occasions as well.
By the late Nineties, save for the times she wore 10 denier black tights, her bare legs in dresses well above the knee were just part of the progressive styleshe’d made her own.
How Diana set the nude shoe rules
If there’s one thing every woman knows about dressing for weddings, christenings and family parties, it’s the ‘Nude Shoe’ rule.
Pale imitation: Diana pioneered the nude heel look that Kate so loves. The Queen and Duchess of Cornwall have also followed
In fact, Diana pioneered the look 14 years earlier. In 1997, she’d already hit on the trick of enhancing her one coloured Versace, Jacques Azagury and Catherine Walker shift dresses with pale beige shoes, thereby visually lengthening her legs.
Her shoes were by designers such as Jimmy Choo, Gina and Versace. Where Diana led, the Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Cambridge and even the Queen,on occasion, have followed.
Her life long love of Jimmy Choo
Today, the name Jimmy Choo is an internationally accepted synonym for ‘strappy stilettos’, a British mega brand valued at around 702 million.
Yet the company’s most famous customer, the woman still most associated with the label, is Diana, Princess of Wales.
The relationship Diana forged with Choo himself over seven years, and the countless spindly heeled designs she ordered for her new life away from Prince Charles, effectively built the brand.
Back in 1990, Jimmy Choo, who was born in Malaysia and came to study shoe making at London’s Cordwainers College, was just one man in a small workroom in Hackney, with the capacity to make just 20 pairs of shoes a week.