Princess Diana’s Dior Slip Dress at The ’96 Met Gala

The 2024 Met Gala is right around the corner on May 6th. The annual event is the annual fundraising event for Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. Looking at Met Gala looks from the 90s, people definitely dressed more low key, like most 90s fashion. Princess Diana’s slip dress from the 1996 Met Gala caught my eye–I’d actually never seen this look though it’s considered one of her more iconic looks. Along with the revenge dress, of course.

The Revenge Dress Part Two

Princess Diana at the 1996 Met Gala

This Met Gala on December 9, 1996 was Diana’s only appearance at the annual event. It’s worth mentioning that back in the day, The Met was not a who’s who of the latest trending celebrities. It was high society new Yorkers only. Adding more to the drama of the risqué dress was that her divorce from Prince Charles was finalized only months before in August. Some see the Dior slip dress in the same controversial light as The Revenge Dress.

Looking back at the 1990s Met Galas

Before we jump in to talk about Princess Diana’s look at the 1996 Met Gala, let’s talk about the need-to-know information from that year. Unlike modern themes which, some may say, are annoyingly specific, Met Galas of yore had much broader themes. Starting in 1971, the first theme was just “Fashion Plate.”

The 90s were actually a turning point where themes got very, very specific and included themes like, “Théâtre de la Mode – Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture.” Don’t know what that means? Me, neither. That being said, the mid 90s actually marked a return to the simpler themes of the 1970s and 1980s. It was simply, “Haute Couture.”

Here’s the themes that were featured in the 1990s:

  • 1990: Théâtre de la Mode – Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture
  • 1992: Fashion and History: A Dialogue
  • 1993: Diana Vreeland: Immoderate Style
  • 1994: Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress
  • 1995: Haute Couture
  • 1996: Christian Dior
  • 1997: Gianni Versace
  • 1998: Cubism and Fashion
  • 1999: Rock Style

Princess Diana’s Dior Slip Dress at the ’96 Met Gala

Diana’s Dior slip dress look for the ’96 Met Gala almost didn’t happen because she was afraid of embarrassing William, her son. However, Diana moved forward with what would become one of her most iconic looks. That night she donned a custom full length dark blue slip dress designed by John Galliano. An oversized pearl and sapphire choker necklace, diamond and sapphire earrings and matching bracelets.

The dress itself was from John Galliano’s first collection for Christian Dior and originally had a built in corset. However, when Galliano saw Diana at the Met Gal he realized she had removed the corset. “We were like, ‘Oh my god, she’s torn out the corset!’” Galliano told Wall Street Journal magazine. “It was a reflection of how she was already feeling at the time: liberated.”

Diana paired the dress with a purse originally known as the “Chouchou.” The small purse was a present from former First Lady of France, Bernadette Chirac, given in September 1995, at the opening of the Paul Cézanne retrospective at Paris’s Grand Palais. At the time, the purse was not yet released and therefore was very exclusive. After becoming so closely associated with Princess Diana, Dior renamed the purse, “Lady Dior.” As of 2024, the purse retails for $6,500, but there is a healthy resale market for the bag.

Remembering Diana

Princess Diana is one of my favorite 90s style icons, and I really do love her look from the ’96 Met Gala. While conservative by today’s standards, the look sent a message at the time. She was setting out on her own to live her life by her own rules.

Sources

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