When I think about Princess Diana’s make-up, the first thing that comes to mind is the eyeliner.
To begin with, the girlish blue of her youth. Later, the heavy black kohl of her Martin Bashir Panorama interview, deployed to devastating effect as she gazed up through thick lashes and uttered the immortal line: ‘There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.’
Her eyes, huge and moist and outlined heavily in black against her gaunt, pale face, gave her the appearance of a wounded animal. It was exactly the effect she wanted to achieve.
In private, though, Princess Diana never wore much make-up: not by modern standards anyway. It wasn’t just that she didn’t need to — she was a genuine beauty — it was also that she saw it as a bit of a chore; work-related rather than a source of pleasure.
In public, she could be thickly painted. She once arrived at the offices of Conde Nast, publishers of Vogue, wearing a heavy layer of almost orange foundation. She apologised, saying that if she didn’t make sure her skin had the requisite sun-kissed glow and went out looking ‘normal’, the paparazzi would take pictures and everyone would accuse her of looking ‘pale’, ‘wan’ and ‘exhausted’.
It was for this reason Diana had thrice-weekly sunbed sessions, on a machine she kept at home.
Today, of course, such behaviour would be frowned upon for health reasons, but for Diana they served a useful purpose — allowing her to present a sunny disposition to the world even when on the inside all was dark clouds and thunder. Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes the Royal Family ever made was in thinking that, by approving her as a wife for Charles, they were getting themselves a pretty little brood mare with nothing but fluff for brains.
The exact opposite was true. She may not have been top of the class at school, but when it came to image management, she was an A-star pupil.
To Diana, hair and make-up were important insofar as they could be used to communicate a mood or a feeling. Otherwise, she had not the slightest bit of interest.
Her friend Rosa Monckton — Diana was godmother to her youngest child — remembers that make-up was not something they ever talked about.
‘What I do remember,’ she says, ‘is how relieved she was on the times we went on holiday together that she didn’t have to put it on.’
Now, we tend to think of make-up as a way of enhancing a woman’s looks, but if you look back across the arc of Diana’s life, it’s clear she used it as a powerful PR tool.
Those moments when she was most at ease, most herself, are the ones where she is also at her most natural, wearing hardly any make-up at all.
Careering down Loggers Leap at Thorpe Park in 1993 with her two young sons, she is drenched to the skin and laughing like a drain, her mascara pooling underneath her eyes like any other mother on a day out with the kids.
Four months since her separation from Charles was announced, at last she looks defiantly carefree and ‘normal’.
Or zipping out of the gym in those later years, hair slicked back, toned legs encased in cycling shorts, face flushed from her workout, health and vitality oozing from every pore.
Towards the end of her life, when she was beginning to assert her independence and as her confidence grew, we saw more and more of this Diana.
She became involved with the Halo Trust, famously walking through a minefield in Angola in January 1997.
Then 35, her hair soft and natural, her face almost entirely free of make-up, she had arguably never looked more beautiful, or more reminiscent of the bright, hopeful young girl smiling out of her engagement photo 15 years earlier. Diana was just coming into her prime.
MAKE-UP CHART USED FOR ICONIC SHOOT – AND HOW TO COPY IT TODAY
In the early days there was a dreamy, Pre-Raphaelite quality to the young Diana Spencer.
But it wasn’t long before the ‘princessification’ began — a process largely orchestrated by the Press and Palace to turn Diana into a sophisticated young lady worthy of her new status.
In part, this involved the handiwork of Clayton Howard, the veteran make-up artist Lord Snowdon often used for photoshoots. Howard first met a nervous Diana at Snowdon’s Kensington townhouse for the Vogue magazine shoot that would produce the official engagement picture.
Howard used Max Factor Sheer Genius foundation in Honey Touch and a Max Factor blusher stick in Frosted Coral.
On the eyelids, he applied Elizabeth Arden shades Rice and Timberland, with a white frosted eyeshadow on the brow. Navy Elizabeth Arden mascara and that blue eyeliner, also Arden, completed the look.
And we know all this because Howard created a bespoke face chart for her.