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Royal tour fashion favourites: Diana, Princess of Wales in Italy, 1985

Russ Quinlan, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Royal tours are always a source of excitement, not just for interesting locales and fun engagements but also for stand-out style moments. This summer, Royal Central is looking back at some of the best tour fashion moments from over the years.

The Prince and Princess of Wales embarked on a 17-day tour of Italy in April 1985, and while it might not be their best-known royal tour (Australia does get a lot of attention), it did deliver some very memorable highlights. This 17-day tour took Charles and Diana all over Italy, including Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice, Sardinia, La Spezia, and Sicily, and included an audience with Pope John Paul II.

Hop aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia and join the Royal Central team on a trip back in time for some fabulous 1980s fashion as we pick our favourites from this tour.

Kristin Contino, Chief Reporter:

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I feel like it’s only fair to kick off this tour with a ride in a gondola; it is Italy, after all. Would I wear this outfit? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s quintessential, Diana? Absolutely. This boxy, teal checked coat was designed by the Emanuels, the husband/wife team who designed her wedding gown, and it is PEAK eighties. Paired with an absolutely massive hat, it certainly made a fashion statement for the end of their grand tour of Italy. Not many people could pull this off – especially sitting in a gondola – but Diana, who was just 23-years-old at the time, definitely did it with style.

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You might be questioning my fashion judgement by this point, but I love this dress simply because it’s just so much fun. Designed by Jacques Azagury, this poofy number Diana wore in Florence reminds me of some of the taffeta-and-velvet outfits I wore for school Christmas concert as a child. Bows! Taffetta! Sparkle! Giant sleeves! It combines so many 1980s trends in one dress and really encompasses what I love about Diana’s eighties fashions: they were never boring. She wasn’t afraid to really go for it in terms of trends and have a lot of fun with fashion, and that’s something we don’t always see nowadays in the Royal Family.

Brittani Barger, Deputy Editor:

This was a tour in the mid-1980s, so the style is not something I would personally wear; however, it was right with the fashion of the decade. Diana wore a grey and white Jasper Conran creation while in Molfetta on 2 May. The floral designs were not too much and let Diana herself shine. It was a day where the outfit may not have had the sparkle we associated with Diana’s style, but it was successfully more demure and fitting for the occasion of fitting The Molfetta School for The Deaf. I don’t think anyone can deny Diana looked gorgeous in the outfit that day.

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While in Milan that April, Charles and Diana paid a visit to the La Scala Opera House, where she wore one of my favourite gowns of hers. The sleeveless gown was a Victor Edelstein creation and featured a more fitted bodice and flowy skirt. Pink is a colour that always flattered her, especially deeper shades on her skin tone. She topped it off with the Queen Mary’s Lover’s Knot Tiara (now donned by her daughter-in-law the Duchess of Cambridge) – a tiara that was a staple for such events.

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Lydia Starbuck, Associate Editor

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This pinstripe coat dress is one of my favourite ever Diana looks. In fact, this whole tour remains an iconic image of the princess for me. Every outfit seemed to stamp Diana’s reputation as a style icon. It was all very Eighties with this Catherine Walker coat dress epitomising the beginnings of the sharp, shoulder-padded look that would make its mark on the middle of the decade. But this simple look, set off by the Kangol hat, also underlines Diana’s knack for making a point with her clothes. It’s all rather maritime, and it was worn for a visit to a ship at the naval base of La Spezia.

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This white tuxedo skirt suit might have dated, but it is a fabulous look that really underlines for me just how much Diana was enjoying developing her own brand of royal chic at this point in her life. As she grew in confidence in her public role, her fashion picks began to ooze personality. This two-piece, by Jasper Conran, epitomises how the princess began to mix fashion and fun. Worn for an engagement in Florence, it even managed to overshadow some of the famous art the royals were there to see. This isn’t just an outfit, it’s a statement, and it still speaks now.

Jess Ilse, Senior Royal Reporter/Editorial Assistant

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This green tuxedo outfit, designed by Jasper Conran, does wonders for Diana’s style and colouring. She had fantastic taste and always stayed on top of trends, if not setting them herself! I love how bold her style could be, and this outfit, worn in Livorno on 24 April, is a slam dunk.

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Diana was dressed, literally, head to toe in red for a day of events in Florence. I love the long waist on the jacket and the red tights. It’s another standout look from a woman who knew how to dress to maximise peoples’ view of her, and it’s such a great pop against the grey of Prince Charles’s suit as well as the architecture surrounding them.

About author

Kristin is Chief Reporter for Royal Central and has been following the British royal family for more than 30 years. Kristin has appeared in UK and U.S. media outlets discussing the British royals including BBC Breakfast, BBC World News, Sky News, the Associated Press, TIME, The Washington Post, and many others.