Queen of cool: how off-duty Diana became styles new muse

Diana has always been a style icon but only now has she has become truly hip. Rihanna, Beyonc and Alexa Chung have all been referencing her looking and celebrating her at her most alive

For the first time ever, Princess Diana is cool. Diana has been many things the fairytale bride, the ill-treated wife, the innovator of retaliation dres and, eventually, the queen of hearts but hip is the one thing she has never been. At her wedding in 1981, and again at her funeral in 1997, she was a tabloid goddess. In between, she was a Vogue cover star. But she was never an avant-garde muse until now.

Virgil Abloh made his name as Kanye Wests creative director, and his Off-White label is now one of the hottest in the fashion industry. A profile in W magazine called him the king of social media superinfluencers and a canny translator of youth culture. His show in Florence last month was an installation blending style and poetry created in collaboration with the American artist Jenny Holzer; a political declaration that Abloh described as being about immigration and the plight of refugees. Abloh has art-directed an album for Jay-Z and designed limited-edition sneakers for Nike.

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Diana at Alton towers sporting the big-jacket looking. Photo: Rex/ Shutterstock

You get the picture: Ablohs point of view is a style hot take. Last week, he released on Instagram, naturally his moodboard for next season. With a caption read, One girl, 40 Off-White lookings in the works come September, the moodboard was a collage of photographs of Diana: Diana laughing in a green baseball coat at Alton Towers with her sons; Diana in denim dungarees at the polo; Diana leaving the gym in cycling shorts; Diana in a grey marl sweatshirt with a HARVARD slogan; Diana with a white polo neck worn layered under bright knitwear; Diana in a calf-length skirt.

Her status as a muse for Off-White officially induces Diana the coolest style reference of the moment. Whats more, Ablohs moodboard highlights how Dianas off-duty wardrobe overlooked in the homages to her glamour that focus on her blockbuster gown-and-tiara moments appears uncannily modern. That college-style baseball jacket? Resuscitated by Ashish at his London fashion week show this season. Denim dungarees? Worn by Alexa Chung( with nothing underneath) in the campaign for her latest collecting for AG. Cycling shorts? Kim Kardashian is on a mission to bring them back. Logo sweatshirt? Swap out Harvard for Kale and you have got one of Beyoncs most memorable lookings. The white polo neck as an underlayer? Straight out of the Cline catwalk playbook. The calf-length skirt? Im wearing one now. You likely are, too.

This is a new take on Diana, and the first one that postures her as cool. Diana as a style icon is not new, but her previous incarnations have been very different. We had Diana the red-carpet bombshell, glistening with diamonds and wafting Elnett, with glamour straight out of an episode of Dynasty( and the love-rat storylines to match ). That Diana was glamorous, but not hip. After that, the dreamy, engagement-era innocent Diana in the pie-crust collar was adopted by east London fashionistas. Chung turned this looking mass, when she resuscitated the pie-crust collar for her collect at Marks& Spencer last year. That seem was too heavily sardonic to count as true championing of Diana, and too self-consciously ironic to be sexy.

The new framing of Diana more sexy, dynamic and modern can be traced virtually four years, and it starts with Rihanna. In 2013 at about the time the singer was photographed wearing a two-tone baseball coat very similar to Dianas, as it happens Rihanna told Glamour magazine that the princess was her manner hero. She was like she killed it. Every appear was right. She was gangsta with her clothes. She got oversize jackets. I loved everything she wore. Last year, Rihanna was snapped wearing Dianas face on an oversized tribute T-shirt, worn as a minidress over thigh-high spike-heel boots.

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Diana with Charles( and white polo neck) in 1981. Photo: Rex/ Shutterstock

Since then, versions of Dianas off-duty appears have been heavily referenced by street-style starrings. Those blazers with the disproportionately wide shoulders that Balenciaga did last year, and which have evolved into the double-breasted numbers that will be infiltrating our wardrobes this autumn? Add white jeans, ballet pumps and car keys, and you have single Diana in the mid-9 0s. The rise of the one-piece statement swimsuit as the summer looking that trumps a bikini? Nobody did it better than Diana.( Think of that unforgettable image of her alone on a diving committee in a pale blue one-piece, taken in her last summertime .)

Diana-nostalgia in this new form is a mirror image of the sentimentality for the 80 s that Stranger Things tapped into. Just as Stranger Things celebrates a popcorny version of 80s Americana, big on knapsacks, Pop-Tarts and Spielberg references, so the new version of Diana celebrates a more carefree image of her life than the traditional narrative. This Diana is more about log-flume rides and Chelsea gym conferences than disloyalty, divorce and retaliation. A new generation of style consumers has only a sketchy recollection of Diana as the doomed young bride or the scandalously wronged woman. Two decades after her death, this generation is celebrating Diana at her most alive.

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