When it comes to making a statement in the public eye, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle both rely on their late mother-in-law for guidance.
We are just days from the premiere of the long-awaited Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan,” and the trailer makes many direct comparisons to Princess Diana. There are images of her, magazine covers, and Prince Harry even says, “I didn’t want history to repeat itself,” referencing his mother’s tragic death after being stalked by the paparazzi.
Meanwhile, Kate Middleton has her own way of invoking the princess, usually through her wardrobe.
Princess Diana, once called “Shy Di” for her quiet demeanor, transformed herself into a style icon during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Before her tragic death in 1997 at age 36, the “People’s Princess” made her mark with couture, which consisted of Chanel suits, Versace evening gowns and Dior handbags. As the most-photographed woman in the world, the royal proved to be influential in both her humanitarian work and personal style.
“Diana was a breath of fresh air for the royal family, shaking things up during their rather staid early 1980s and setting the new standard for charity work, going where no royal had dared go before, but she will always be remembered most for her fashion,” Miranda Holder, royal fashion expert and celebrity stylist, told Fox News Digital. “The Princess brought a healthy dose of flair and drama to the royal wardrobe, placing the Monarchy firmly back on the style map for her fashion forward, often daring ensembles that had the world transfixed.”
Diana wouldn’t live to meet Kate and Meghan, the new Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Sussex, respectively, the women who married her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. The princess, 40, and the duchess, 41, have their own personal styles with one preferring classic British looks while the other has a more modern approach that evokes Hollywood glamour. However, there’s no denying that the royals have looked back at Diana for inspiration, winning the public over with memories of the beloved royal.
Holder explained it’s quite possible Diana’s “well documented unhappiness in her marriage to Prince Charles” led her to learn how to “‘weaponize’ fashion, using clothing as a means to communicate at the times when sharing her thoughts or feelings was forbidden.” She says these “boundary-breaking reasons,” have made Diana’s fashion iconic making it “only natural that it has since been replicated by both Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.”
“Kate has been compared a lot to Diana, and especially in her earlier years wore similar outfits. Some of the references have been subtle, others very overt, but there is no doubt that both women are admired by fashionistas all over the world,” Holder said. “On a visit to South Korea in 1992 Diana looked striking in a cobalt blue double-breasted blazer and matching pleated skirt. In 2021, Kate visited a violence reduction [center] in an almost identical outfit.”
“Another of Diana’s looks which Kate has carefully emulated is from her visit to a hospital in Pakistan – Diana wore a pale blue tunic with a white chiffon headscarf covering her hair. Kate looked almost exactly the same in her tunic and headscarf whilst on a visit to the Assyakirin Mosque in Malaysia,” Holder said. “Admittedly, the requirement of covering their hair was necessary, but Kate could have chosen from a wealth of colors to dress in, but instead chose one again to imitate her late mother-in-law.”
“If there was one aspect of Royal life that Diana always got right, it was her style, so it’s natural that both Kate and Meghan look to her for inspiration,” Holder said.
All eyes will be on the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Sussex this week as Netflix drops the bombshell docuseries “Harry & Meghan” on Thursday. The series will feature Prince Harry discussing his late mother’s struggles within the royal family.
“When Catherine, the Princess of Wales, honors Diana with her style, I think it’s both a wink to William and his mother,” Kinsey Schofield, royal expert and host of the “To Di For Daily” podcast, told Fox News Digital. “She knows how deep their bond was, and it is a way for her to honor that love. Like a sweet secret between the two of them.”
Schofield wrote a book that was published on Nov. 15 titled, “R is for Revenge Dress: A Princess Diana-Inspired Alphabet Book for Grown-Ups,” which explores how Diana influenced the fashion world. She noted how the Princess of Wales is “much more subtle” when it comes to her fashion tributes.
“We primarily saw Princess Diana dressed as a working royal, so Kate’s choices are much more Diana,” she shared. “Meghan was only a working royal for a brief period, so whenever we see her pull out the fascinator it looks contrived. I think Meghan is very eager to be seen as Princess Diana 2.0, so there is that intention behind her wardrobe. However, I believe Catherine’s is a tribute to the mother and friend her husband lost.”
“What Princess Diana and Catherine have in common is an effortless feel to their style,” Schofield continued. “We knew when Catherine stepped out of the vehicle in her green dress at the Earthshot Awards that she wasn’t hiding behind three pairs of Spanx and a spray tan. She just looks so comfortable and confident in her own skin, which is something we saw from Diana towards the end of her life, and it’s truly how we remember her.”
Markle’s style is also similar to Diana’s, as she has also tried to honor her late mother-in-law.
“Meghan has also been inspired by Diana’s style, but to a lesser degree. Her signature ‘casual jeans and a crisp white shirt’ look that she wore to the Invictus games in 2017 was very reminiscent of Diana’s jeans and shirt combo whilst visiting Bosnia in 1997,” Holder said. “The effortlessly cool, California chic vibe looked great on them both.”
Meanwhile, Schofield also noted how Diana’s “style was so important at the beginning of her relationship with the media and public because she whispered things to us through her wardrobe.”
” How can you forget the black sheep sweater? You can’t. It was Diana’s way of telling us, ‘I’m not sure I belong here.’ Diana knew ‘never complain, never explain’ was her only option, so she told us who she was and what she was dealing with through her clothing,” Schofield explained.
“She went through a fierce ‘ugly sweater’ phase and that is when she was consumed in motherhood. She was this silly, happy beacon to her children. Her wild sweaters told us that she was cuddly and affectionate behind closed doors. The further Diana got away from Charles, the sexier she started to present herself. She switched from giant Peter Pan collars to tailored suits in fun colors. I see some of this in Kate’s recent wardrobe. However, she usually goes for slacks instead of skirts.”
Royal commentator Hilary Fordwich pointed out that the princes inherited personal pieces that belonged to their mother. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Middleton and Markle would incorporate Diana’s jewelry into their looks. Middleton’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring, in particular, is the same one King Charles III gave to his first wife.
“It’s my mother’s engagement ring, so I thought it was quite nice because obviously she’s not going to be around to share any of the fun and excitement of it all — this was my way of keeping her sort of close to it all,” William said at the time of his engagement.
“Royal jewels are treasured precious physical pieces representing monarchial history passed down through generations of kings and queens,” Fordwich shared. “It was with this in mind, no doubt, that with great elegance the current Princess of Wales wore the classic green choker her late mother-in-law, Diana, [previously wore] to the Earthshot Awards.”
Added Holder: “Over the years, Kate has been more successful at recreating Diana’s style partly because their figures are very similar; what looked good on Diana’s tall, athletic frame naturally looks good on Kate, and also because both ladies held similar status in the family as wife to the heir to the throne – their looks both needed to have a certain status. Meghan by comparison is more California – favoring minimalist tailored separates and cleaner lines over the pretty feminine dresses which have suited both Diana and Kate so well.”
Fordwich said that over the years Diana used fashion to make bold statements about her life – something that Middleton and Markle have done as royal wives.
“Who can forget the ‘revenge’ black dress Diana stepped out in and all those sleekly tailored custom Dior evening dresses she made pointed statements in?” said Fordwich. She added that those looks successfully “crushed” Charles’ spotlight as their marriage collapsed.
“For the serious work in Boston … Catherine’s slim silhouette stayed well away from anything daring or designer oriented, given the looming winter of discontent, that would have been a domestic disaster,” said Fordwich. “Instead, she sensibly rallied in a rental dress, most sensible given the raucous nature of impending U.K. rail strikes.”
Schofield noted that there’s a reason why Middleton and Markle will continue to channel their mother-in-law as they attempt to carve out their own identities in the public eye.
“I think Princess Diana’s fashion is so important to us because there is still so much mystery surrounding her,” she said. “Diana’s style gives us clues to who she truly was. Diana was different from other members of the royal family and rejected the stuffiness of it all. There was a clear evolution in her wardrobe, and it was also an evolution in her attitude. She was going to own it, and she was going to be herself — and we saw that reflected in her style.”
“I think a lot of our obsession with Diana’s wardrobe is related to our admiration for Diana in general,” Schofield said.
Holder echoed Schofield’s sentiment, stating: “By recreating Diana’s looks, both women have demonstrated their commitment to their husbands. Getting dressed up as your mother-in-law — even if she was a style icon — is a pretty big ask for any loved up new wife, royal or not, but both Kate and Meghan were prepared to put their own identity to one side (Kate more so) in order to pay the ultimate homage.”