Fashion may not have been a priority, but she loved to experiment," Princess Diana's stylist Anna Harvey once said of her client, the woman she helped transform from kindergarten helper to royal figurehead. The Princess of Wales' style legacy belies her initial indifference - "upper-class English girls didn't know as much about clothes as they do now - there were no girls then," Harvey explains - with Diana's brands still booming in the market. The handbags - which were a window into the princess's personality, especially after she distanced herself from the monarchy in the 1990s - remain an emblem of the woman her designer describes as decidedly modern but never worried about being fashionable.
Following in the footsteps of Grace Kelly and Jane Birkin, after whom Hermès named its now iconic handbags, Diana inspired Christian Dior, Salvatore Ferragamo and Tod's to name classic leather goods in her honour. The Lady Dior handbag, originally known as the Chouchou but renamed in 1996 after Lady Di received one as a gift from Bernadette Chirac and from then on was rarely seen without it, is a popular house style to this day. Ferragamo's chain strap handbags, identifiable due to the brand's gold-rimmed Gancio clasp, became Lady Di's in retrospect, once it was revealed that royalty were fans of the accessory. Vogue's Sarah Mower once calculated that the princess owned more than 20 Lady Dis.
Dior's Lady Di handbag, formerly known as Chouchou, was gifted to her in 1995 and renamed after royalty a year later.
Tod's D bag has been reinvented since Lady Di found the brand's stylish handbag and began packing her personal items - from gym equipment to royal travel essentials - in its ample leather interior. Her additional D-Styling handbag, which slopes into the bag's territory, is a bestseller alongside the original. Lana Marks' Princess Diana handbag, an elegant model commissioned by Diana herself, is harder to come by, and rare skin versions retail for around several thousand pounds.
Considering her close relationship with Gianni Versace, it's perhaps surprising that there isn't a Medusa emblem handbag named in her honour. Still, the brand's distinctive top strap styles have become her modern alternative to the Launer handbags approved by the royal family and beloved by her veterans at the Firm. Diana's collaborations with Anya Hindmarch, meanwhile, showed the princess at her most discerning; the satin "low-cut handbags" became a kind of armour against the indiscreet gaze of the press. In light of her increasingly low-cut necklines (Diana was encouraged by blending into Gianni's circles), she hired Anya to make satin clutch handbags that she could hold against her chest when getting out of cars. Hindmarch embroidered the letter D inside the candy bags, which became her little secret.
A Versace bag from his friend Gianni, who said of Diana in 1997: "It's a moment in her life, I think, when she found herself - the way she wants to live." ALBERTO PIZZOLI
Of course, no famous handbag archive would be complete without a little Chanel quilt. Instead of committing to the classic Coco flap bag or 2.55 model, Diana preferred elegant numbers that were almost objects. Rumours that she disliked the intertwined CCs - because they were the initials of Charles and his mistress Camilla - proved unfounded, considering Diana's penchant for Chanel's exquisite outfits and accessories after her divorce.
As Harvey reflected on Diana's independence later in her life, "the heels got higher, the skirts shorter - it was almost a traffic light of clothing to signal her state of mind". Her handbags, still some of the most timeless to this day, were a signifier that she was treading her own path, a naturally elegant one.
The collection of Princess Diana's most loved handbags