Designed by Gianfranco Ferré in 1994, Dior’s flagship bag was originally called the Chouchou (borrowed from a French idiom, it translates to ‘best in class’ or ‘favorite’). After France’s then-First Lady Bernadette Chirac gifted the bag to Princess Diana during the opening of the Cézanne exhibition, she was pictured carrying it on all of her royal engagements – and, not just the one given to her in Paris, but all its available variations. Making it her go-to grab bag, the Chouchou was featured along with Princess Diana (who, at the time, was the world’s most publicized woman) on the cover of every major newspaper, magazine, and tabloid. A photograph of her gripping it, while embracing a young boy at a children’s home in Birmingham, even became an unofficial Dior advertisement; with Princess Diana as the bag’s unsigned model, sales soared. The elegant, sophisticated style of the bag perfectly mirrored Princess Diana’s fashion sense and personality traits, which other women sought to emulate. As she was affectionately referred to as Lady Di throughout her engagement to Prince Charles, the brand fittingly renamed it the Lady Dior in 1996.
Princess Diana holding her Dior bag. Photo by Tim Graham photo Library via Getty Images for Vogue
The original Lady Dior bag from 1995.
Like its namesake, the Lady Dior’s look is famed. It is made completely by hand, taking seven craftsmen around eight hours to finish. To start, 130 pieces of lambskin leather are cut, sanded, and dyed. They are then sewn together in a Cannage quilt (inspired by the Napoléon III rattan chairs at Christian Dior’s first fashion show in 1947), forming cushioned diamonds. Once the pieces have been assembled around wooden molds and the bag has taken its structured, A-line shape, hybrid cone-dome feet, which are forged from 43 pieces of metal, are attached to its bottom panel. As a finishing touch, each Lady Dior is adorned with D.I.O.R letter charms (a nod to the lucky charms the superstitious Christian Dior always carried with him) that have been galvanized to ensure a long-lasting luster. The final result: a piece of haute couture artistry that is fit for a princess.
Since Princess Diana gave it her royal stamp of approval almost 30 years ago, the Lady Dior has withstood the test of time. Becoming one of the most iconic ‘IT’ bags, it has been updated by the house season after season.
Princess Diana in 1995. Photo by Getty Images for Vogue
The sketch of the Lady Dior bag from the Dior Fall/Winter 2019 collection. Photo by Vogue
Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images
In 2016, Dior launched its Dior Lady Art collection (From article by WWD) at Art Basel Miami, inviting seven different artists to use its top-selling style as a canvas for their work. While the bag had already been reimagined by artists for the Lady Dior “As Seen By” exhibition (From article by The fashionable truth) in 2011, this new collaboration allowed collectors to actually own the limited-edition pieces of handheld art. Since, the Dior Lady Art collection has been reiterated five times. Most recently, by Judy Chicago, Recycle Group, Chris Soal, Joël Andrianomearisoa, Claire Tabouret, Gisela Colon, Song Dong, Bharti Kher, Mai-Thu Perret, and Olga Titus (From article by Dior) alongside creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri. Also under Chiuri, the style has been rereleased as the Lady Dior My ABCDior Bag (From article by L'official) (which has a thicker crossbody strap that can be personalized with up to six letter or symbol pins) and the Lady D-Lite Bag (From article by HypeBae) (which uses 3D-embroidery technology to create a lightweight, sporty take on the classic in canvas for Spring/Summer 2020 (From article by Vogue) and crushed velvet for Fall/Winter 2020(From article by Vogue)).
Want to channel Lady Di’s signature look? All you need is her favorite accessory. Head to a Dior boutique, the only place where the Lady Dior is sold, to purchase one of its latest styles. Not exactly on the royal budget? Then, shop vintage! The Lady Dior has evolved over the years, but still dons all the classic elements seen on the bags toted around by Princess Diana. Either way, go ahead and give yourself the royal treatment you deserve!
Photo by Peter White/Getty Images