How Princess Diana Defined Athleisure, According to ‘The Lady Di Look Book’ Author

In this excerpt from Lady Di’s lookbook Writer Eloise Moran reflects on the meaning of Princess Diana’s oversized cycling shorts and sweatshirt combo, and the London-based athleisure brand she couldn’t get enough of.

I can confidently credit Lady Di with being the first to make sportswear a thing. She was undoubtedly the first major figure to mix a casual sportswear wardrobe with what I like to call “f**k-off” handbags – a Gucci Bamboo suede tote, a Tod’s D leather shoulder bag and a one-of-a-kind Versace crocodile bag were among his favorites – his very expensive pieces of armor. (Later, after Lady Diana’s death, the Versace brand reproduced the princess’s exclusive handbag and named it “Diana”, in honor of the late princess and dear friend of Gianni Versace who was killed the same summer – 1997 was a difficult year).

Although some of Diana’s famous workout outfits have become a style phenom in recent years, the princess has deliberately recycled her gym outfits again and again in hopes the press won’t be able to get new photos. from her, leaving her to work in peace.

She couldn’t understand the fascination or the frenzy behind her engaging in such an ordinary thing. However, for the press, it was a sensation. Here’s a member of the royal family stepping out among the commoners showing much more than just his calves and ankles. It was simply unheard of at the time for a British princess to be caught up in training gear other than the usual equestrian outfits, let alone Polo Ralph Lauren sweatshirts emblazoned with giant ‘USA’ logos – signifying her ties with foreign allegiances, the more she adopted a new role of ambassador. Perhaps she also looked to the United States, a place where hard work rewards all your (supposedly) wildest dreams, as a symbol of where she aspired to be – a place of freedom and freedom to say, do and wear what you want.

Several days a week, the Princess, an eponymous “frustrated dancer”, trained at Sloane’s friend Chelsea Harbor Club with her personal trainer, Jenni Rivett, who began working with Diana in 1990. Eventually, Rivett l presented at Earl’s Court. Gym because it was “a serious gym, with no social purpose”, which Diana found refreshing – no velor headbands there.

The place was known for its queer clientele, and the gym’s owner, entrepreneur Jeremy Norman, said he thought Diana wanted to work there because she “really liked gay people”. He said: “She felt really comfortable around gay people, she could relate to them and she didn’t feel threatened by them in any way.” His social circle of Gianni Versace, Elton John and Wham! singer George Michael certainly supports this theory.

When Diana, who was known for her uncontrollable energy, wasn’t at the gym, you could find her rollerblading in Kensington Gardens with her trainer. “We were known to ignore some of the ‘no rollerblading’ advice,” Jenni said. “Once a police car spotted us, slowed down, then, realizing who it was, drove away.”

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Through healthy eating (apparently, she loved juices!) and exercise routines ranging from popular ’90s aerobics workouts (Mr. Motivator, anyone?) to brisk walks in the royal gardens, in 1994, just in time for her Serpentine appearance, she physically peaked. She was fit, strong, and growing more confident by the minute.

“I just encouraged her to eat healthy and I honestly believe exercise has helped her deal with her bulimia,” Jenni told The Daily mail. “I believe when her body became fit, strong and healthy, she felt empowered and ready to face those bad times head on.” In Diana’s 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, she insisted, “I’m free of that (bulimia) now.” Although we’ll never know for sure if Princess Diana has overcome her battle with illness, she looks visibly healthier than in photos of her barely emaciated and frail taken six years earlier.

While Camilla was enjoying the Princess’ sloppy seconds (I’m of course talking about Charles, not those Garlic Chicken Kievs – though I’m sure she was enjoying them too!), Diana was working on her Revenge Body , heading to the gym in London-label athleisure sweatshirts Sloppy Joe Essential Clothing, founded in 1993 by track and field designer Jackie Harris. Fresh out of a divorce herself, Harris decided to open a boutique and start making her own activewear, with the name inspired by her father’s favorite oversized sweatshirt, which her mother used to wear. to call his “Sloppy Joe”.

Harris told me of the morning Diana was first photographed wearing her sweatshirt: ‘My phone kept ringing and my friends were like, ‘Have you seen the front page? Diana is in your shirt. “” On the front page, along with a headline about the Princess’ last dalliance with the rugby player Will Carling, was a photo of Diana wearing a Sloppy Joe, her indistinguishable cycling shorts. She teamed this sporty sweatshirt with a pair of Nike Air trainers, a Versace crocodile bag and the Italian brand’s signature metal-rimmed sunglasses. It was a timeless mix of low-end and high-end fashion, which symbolically matched her status as an ordinary, relatable citizen, but still a princess with a lifestyle totally unattainable for most.

In recent years, Harris’ small indie label has seen the ‘Diana Effect’ come full circle, with a whole new generation pre-ordering the brand’s eponymous sweatshirts, wanting to get an authentic piece of the Diana look. Fans of the brand are often delighted to see that the sweatshirts are still made in exactly the same way as when Diana first wore them in 1996.

Lady Di’s lookbook by Eloise Moran is published by Mitchell Beazley and available to buy now

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