Is her marriage miserable? Is she emotionally edgy? Even before the recent bios laid bare Diana’s private woes, fashion fans could tell that all was not merry with the most famous wife of Windsor. The Princess hacked off her hair, a sure sign of Something Changing. She banished the stubby heels that made her look only slightly taller than Charles in favor of 2½-inchers that pump her up to a full 6′. (Most are by Manolo Blahnik and the royal shoemaker Rayne.) She even—gasp!—took to wearing foreign designers in public, including suits by Chanel and Moschino, plus a dash of Kenzo, St. Laurent, Versace and Valentino for Continental spice.
But the Princess is hardly a turncoat. Her two favorite designers for official outings are London locals Victor Edelstein and Catherine Walker. Walker’s bright, solid colors and long torso jackets further sleeken Di’s slim line (because even a Princess of Wales can never be too tall or too rich), while Edelstein designs most of her elegantly simple, body-skimming evening gowns. “I love the way she has now settled on this flattering silhouette, with wide shoulders tapering to a narrow hemline and finished off with a huge hat,” Edelstein has said. Di’s clothes are royally attended by two dressers, who also record where and when each outfit has been worn and who has seen it before. She still gets unofficial advice from Anna Harvey of British Vogue, and some fashion experts feel she needs it. “She is too set in her ways,” says one. “Too ladylike for her age,” snipes another. Fiddle-faddle. Even in jeans and sweaters, her favorite off-Court clothes, Di dazzles.
No, it was not Sarah Ferguson’s year. When her marriage hit the skids, so did her self-esteem—and her wardrobe. We’re not talking just bad here; we’re talking royal dog. For much of ’92, Fergie resorted to department store leggings, baggy sweaters, careless hair, homely dirndls and floppy flats.
When she’s up, however, Sarah can look marvelous. As a mere Duchess, she has never been limited to British designers and has a closetful of Ralph Lauren and Yves St. Laurent. She has also recently trimmed her Rubenesque body and pre-Raphaelite tresses. She hit her stride during the summer in elegant miniskirts and dashing jackets on her dates with “financial advisor” John Bryan. But the sartorial jury is still out. Will Sarah’s frumpy side prevail now that she has much less access to the royal exchequer? Though Freebie Fergie has always angled designer duds at cost or less, she fancies $340 haircuts, handmade silk underwear and Cartier jewelry, and there’s doubt how she’ll manage on her single-mom allowance of a reported $285,000 a year. “She could have done better with the resources she had at her disposal while she was married to Andrew,” says a British fashion editor. Here’s hoping she stocked up while the stocking was good.
IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN
What can you say about a woman whose idea of radical change is a smaller handbag or a broader brim on her hat? Or who has five rooms full of clothes, some dating back to 1947, and who virtually invented recycling? “The Queen is quite economical,” says Ian Thomas, the current favorite designer of Queen Elizabeth II. Thomas—-who, it is whispered, is getting the royal nod because he is cheaper than her other couturiers, Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell—-is credited with spiffing up her image of late. But nothing modish, please. “She really doesn’t seem bothered by all these press reports on the suitability or otherwise of her wardrobe,” Thomas has said. “Her Majesty can’t be talked into anything she doesn’t want.”
Like his mum, Prince Charles is never trendy: “He just keeps wearing the same clothes until they come back into fashion,” says a British menswear editor. But he does wear them well. And, thanks to Di, he has unbuttoned just a tad, with slip-on loafers and natty Savile Row suits at $2,400 a pop. Still, polo groupies think he looks sexiest in damp riding duds. So, presumably, does best friend Camilla Parker Bowles. Unlike Di, Camilla is more horsey than clothes-horsey and, reports her husband, rarely spends her dressing allowance. Sniffs a British fashion writer: “She’s always wearing those waxed jackets.”