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How Princess Diana Became a Denim Style Icon

The life and legacy of Princess Diana, who would have turned 59 years old this week, is earmarked by iconic fashion moments. Her wedding dress with a 25-foot train. The blue velvet gown she wore to a White House gala in 1985. The black cocktail dress (a.k.a. the “revenge dress”) that she wore during her separation from Prince Charles. But it’s her off-duty style that has earned her the title of a style icon for millennial women.

Though current (and newly former) royals nab headlines for wearing jeans by accessible or sustainable designers, Princess Diana’s denim style in the ’80s and ’90s remains influential for the effortless and personal way she incorporated jeans into her wardrobe.

Jeans were part of both her English countryside life and her city-dwelling look. At the beginning of her royal career in the early ’80s, Princess Diana played it safe by pairing traditional down-filled coats and vests with classic straight-fit blue jeans.

During the tail-end of the decade, however, she introduced more color and youthful accessories. She wore a pair of workwear-inspired jeans with a bright pink sweater and matching Chuck Taylor sneakers, but a silk scarf and ruffles peaking from the collar and sleeves of the sweater made the outfit on point for the 20-something princess.

Slim jeans became part of her princess-on-the-go look in the ’90s—complete with incognito baseball caps and sweatshirts. Hints of London’s ironic fashion influence shone through when she tucked jeans into suede and leather cowboy-inspired boots, or paired jeans with fringe boots and a varsity-style bomber jacket.

By the late ’90s before Princess Diana’s death in 1997, classic blue jeans and khaki-color denim became part of her activist uniform as she traveled to Angola and Bosnia to raise awareness about the damage caused by landmines. She often styled jeans with a white button-down shirt, Tod’s loafers and shimmering gold accessories.

Fashion watchers can expect to see more references pulled Princess Diana’s wardrobe: production for a film about her life starring Kristen Stewart begins in early 2021.