A Deep Dive Into Princess Diana’s One & Only Met Gala Appearance

What she wore, who she hung out with, & what people said about it.

Princess Diana at the Met Gala 1996
Patrick McMullan/Getty

Usually taking place on the first Monday of May, the 2021 Met Gala has been postponed to September this year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art had to cancel its celebration of fashion last year completely, but promises that following this year’s “more intimate version”, the 2022 event will be bigger and better than ever.

While the world waits to see what 2021’s theme will hold, we thought it might be a good time t look back at one of the most talked-about moments in Met Gala history: when Princess Diana took to the red carpet for the first and only time.

Appearing at the 1996 gala honouring the legend of Christian Dior, the Princess of Wales unsurprisingly stole the show and debuted one of her most stunning looks three months after her divorce from Prince Charles. So while you count down the days until the next gala, let’s take a deep dive into Princess Diana’s legendary appearance.

The dress

The navy silk slip floor-length dress was a showstopper, which was accentuated by the black lace detail on its neckline and straps. However, the Princess of Wales was reportedly apprehensive of a then 14-year-old William’s reaction to the dress as it was quite revealing, according to royal biographer Katie Nicholl. Diana completed the look with a matching silk robe topper.

Patrick McMullan/Getty

The jewellery

Diana’s pearl and sapphire choker necklace (which she also famously wore when dancing with John Travolta at the White House in 1985) made its final appearance at the Met Gala before her passing. The necklace was originally built from a brooch gifted to her by the Queen Mother on her wedding day, which Diana eventually had made into a necklace. Her sapphire engagement ring also made an appearance.

Anwar Hussein/Getty

She also wore her sapphire and diamond cluster drop earrings to the event, which were reportedly given to Diana by the Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia as a wedding present. Prince William later gifted these earrings to Kate Middleton, who has worn them without the top circular sapphires on a number of occasions, including for an official portrait at Clarence House in 2011.

The bag

Diana accessorised the look with her favourite quilted Dior bag. Given to the Princess of Wales by Bernadette Chirac, France’s former first lady, Diana’s bag was the first of its kind to be made of leather and was produced in one night, per Tatler. Initially called the Chouchou, the bag was eventually renamed Lady Dior following Diana’s passing in 1997.

The date

Having only just arrived in New York City, Diana walked up the red carpet arm in arm with former Harper’s Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis who was also co-chairing the event. The two first met when Diana appeared on the cover of British Vogue, soon after her engagement to Prince Charles. According to Harper’s Bazaar, the two women became close friends following the breakdown of Diana’s marriage and Tilberis’ cancer diagnosis.

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Diana and Tilberis were escorted around the event by the then newly appointed head designer at Dior, John Galliano.

The reaction

As can be scene in this retro Hard Copy clip, Diana really was the talk of the evening. “All eyes were on Diana, Princess of Wales,” the presenter tells viewers, later referring to her as a “work of art.” A ‘royal watcher’ calls Diana “the belle of the ball” and we hear from celebs at the Met how exciting it was to see the royal attending the event.

Tragically, the Met Gala was one of the last major events Diana attended before her life was cut short in August the following year. However, her style and her legacy live on.