[Divided into three blog posts, this is part one of the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," from my new, upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaїs Nin
My interest in Princess Diana went in and out over the years, but it began, as for many, in early 1981 at the engagement of a prince—the heir to a mythical throne who was considered one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. And his intended was a young, pretty girl who seemed to have a light about her. I don’t think anyone imagined, however, the impact of her real mission until much later.
Looking forward to the royal wedding for months, I watched Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in the summer morning anticipation of whatever it is that weddings, royal or otherwise, stir in us. I stayed in touch with Diana’s life because her wedding had influenced my own life by galvanizing an outdated bridal industry, changing the nature of weddings. Since I had opened a “bridal art-to-wear” store in Atlanta on the wave that followed Diana’s glittering event, my shop’s designers were called on to make versions of elegant, hand-beaded, trimmed with antique lace “Diana princess gowns” for our bridal customers.
Although there was something fascinating about the charismatic young princess, I had little interest after a few years in the gossipy presentation of Charles and Diana’s life and marriage. (“Nagging, moody wife drives exasperated prince back into the arms of the woman he had loved all along!”) There was, nevertheless, a sweetness that trickled out in the images and stories of Diana’s tenderness as a mother and Charles’ softening with fatherhood. And since the couple had kept global attention focused on the British monarchy, the next royal wedding a few years later (when Prince Andrew wed Sarah Ferguson) brought me back into the regal fold for a short time. The tabloid terrors that followed, however, all seemed too embarrassing to watch.
But Diana did catch my interest during those “soap opera” years when she seemed to follow her intuitive heart and I’d see images of her with children or the elderly or especially with AIDS patients—a huge break-through at the time—and there was that light again around her and the people she touched. Even during the media-hounded dramas and shenanigans, her compassionate attention seemed to carry that light along with her.
Perhaps nudged along because of my previous work in New York’s fashion magazine industry or perhaps because human beings are simply attracted by a woman’s remarkable beauty, but I perked up once again when Princess Diana, around the time of her divorce, became a striking fashion plate—enhanced by with her long, lean, toned body. Yet Diana held my attention in another way. It was following that particular rite-of-passage—divorce from her official royal life—when she appeared to move toward a bigger purpose and, in turn, I became curious how she might use the power and position of her world platform. Startling beauty and charisma like hers help sell compassion, but what else was weaving through Diana’s energy? Something beyond appearances was stirring.
My shop focused on the clothes and gifts for life’s rites-of-passage; not only weddings, but with our work to beautifully restore vintage Edwardian “whites,” we also dressed family celebrations that included christenings, confirmations and graduations. During this time, I became more interested in the nature of these passages throughout a girl and woman’s life. As my designers created the garments and accessories, I studied and learned about the ancient heritage of these intimate ceremonies of connection and transition as well as the importance of how costumes shaped the wearers’ inner and outer transformation. I watched as Princess Diana moved through the adult rites-of-passage of her life without the benefit of privacy or with little opportunity, it seemed, for self-reflection, but something had shifted. With the more polished yet womanly changes in her looks, clothes and stature (no longer hiding that she was a sexual woman); and with a glowing radiance (that had nothing to do with her glamour and royalty)—she seemed released in some way, projecting an “every woman” message. And women around the world took notice. ~
[Divided into three blog posts, this is part one from the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," in my new, upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. Part Two: "Diana as Messenger" will be posted soon! (For the other parts of this three-part post, click on "Why Diana?" in label list below.)]