Princess Diana’s 1985 Murray Arbeid Gown

There are few names as synonymous with grace and style as Princess Diana. One of her most memorable looks, designed by Murray Arbeid, was worn by the Princess twice in 1985; first, to Windsor Castle's royal residence for Prince Edward’s 21st birthday party, a themed event titled "A Midsummer Night's Ball," held on June 22nd, and again on December 12th, to the Mansion House for the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers Banquet.

The black velvet, lightly boned, and strapless bodice carries down just past the knees and opens into a white taffeta quasi-mermaid silhouette supported by layers of tulle petticoats. Princess Diana complemented the gown with black gloves, sapphire earrings, and her pearl choker necklace created from a sapphire brooch gifted to her by the Queen Mother on her wedding day.

Princess Diana by Tom Wargacki, 1985 Tom Wargacki/Getty Images

Much like any one of Diana’s ensembles, this dress made headlines in the news circuit. However, this time, the subject matter regarded a much too familiar and widely relatable scenario: Natasha Fairweather borrowed a Murray Arbeid evening gown from her older sister living in London. Little did she know that Princess Diana had chosen to wear the same gown that night. Fairweather spoke to Vogue in 2021 about the incident and revealed her friends helped her seek out the Queen Mother for guidance on what action was necessary.[1]To her relief, the Queen Mother gave Fairfield the green light to go on with the rest of her night and not give the fashion faux pas another thought.[2] Fairweather recalls attracting lots of attention; with guests constantly asking her questions about the dress and how she came to be in this special situation.[3] She reminisces on her face-to-face moment with Diana: “When I noticed that Diana and Charles had gone to the dance floor, I went and danced very close to them so that they would notice. As I remember it, Charles pointed it out to her and she laughed; it certainly wasn’t a big deal.”[4] The next day, headlines titled, "Di-Dentical," labeled Fairweather as "Dishy Natasha."

Princess Diana’s humble and cheerful reaction exemplifies the characteristics that made the world fall in love with her. Diana will forever be analogous with beauty, sophistication, and style, but her gentle spirit and exuberance are what stick in the minds of those who loved her, and shape the legacy that remains bright today.