Princess Diana’s love affair with Christian Dior coincided with the new sense of freedom she found in her fashion choices in the mid ’90s. Away from the immediate glare of the royal spotlight, Lady Di’s wardrobe – all Versace tank dresses, Chanel suits, and John Galliano-era Dior slips – reflected a new sense of confidence, and worked perfectly for the philanthropic career she had carved out for herself. Her accessories also signified a true appreciation of luxury – beyond the brands expected of a British princess – and her personal relationships with the world’s most prestigious houses.
Her Lady Dior bag signified this boss woman status. The classic top-handle design, adorned with decorative metal letters spelling out Dior and evoking the lucky charms and talismans beloved by Monsieur Christian Dior himself, became a house icon as a direct result of the Diana effect. Originally called the Chouchou and inspired, in part, by Dior muse Mitzah Bricard, the ladylike boxy bag was gifted to Diana by the First Lady of France in September 1995, at the opening of the Paul Cézanne retrospective at Paris’s Grand Palais. The Chouchou was not yet on sale, and only in the possession of the world’s one per cent.
It was love at first sight. In November, Diana was photographed carrying her new Chouchou during a trip to Argentina; the image of her wearing a white Versace suit and black patent Dior bag, with a sprig of flowers in her hand, is ingrained in the public psyche. The princess went on to commission another in navy blue to match the colour of her eyes and, “because it suited [her] well” – Diana’s words – it was renamed the Lady Dior in 1996.
Still one of Dior’s most popular bags – micro versions were doing the Instagram rounds on influencers this summer – creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri thinks often of the woman behind the stratospheric rise of the Lady Dior. “I loved Diana’s sense of freedom in fashion, using clothing as a kind of empowerment; as a way to feel confident and ready to face any situation,” Chiuri tells British Vogue. “This is also true for Dior, a brand that today offers every woman the possibility of wearing clothes to consciously decide who she wants to be.”