Why You Rarely Saw Princess Diana Wearing Gloves

It actually had nothing to do with fashion—the reason is much more heartwarming.

What is there to say about Princess Diana’s wardrobe that hasn’t been said already? Her style was so down-to-earth, unique, and elegant that future royals like Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle have worn many outfits that instantly evoked looks Diana wore.

But there was one significant thing the princess didn’t wear that helped cement her image as an approachable, caring member of the royal family. You may have noticed that Queen Elizabeth wears gloves all the time. Indeed, the very idea of a queen or a princess probably conjures up the image of a woman doing a dainty “royal wave” with gloved hands. And yet the People’s Princess herself chose not to wear gloves at social engagements. Learn why she always held a purse close to her chest, too.

Why didn’t Diana wear gloves?

According to the 2017 exhibition “Diana: Her Fashion Story” that was shown at Kensington Palace, Diana forwent gloves pretty much from the get-go of her royal career. The reason she didn’t wear them was simple: She preferred actually making physical contact with people she met. She thought a handshake or comforting clasp lost meaning when her hands were covered with gloves, and she wanted to connect with people as directly as possible.

And her choices made an impact! One iconic photo in 1991 showed her shaking the hand of an AIDS patient. It made front-page news and helped chip away at some of the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Groundbreaking gestures like this are part of why we’re still so fascinated with Princess Diana.

Are gloves part of royal protocol?

Were Diana’s gloveless hands an outright breach of royal protocol? Sort of, but it wasn’t very strict. Historically, royal women had indeed worn gloves, as a status symbol and a representation of purity. But that tradition was waning anyway come the 1990s. In fact, Diana’s fashion choice helped change the protocol, allowing gloves—or no gloves—to be more of a personal choice. And that’s just one of many rules Princess Diana changed for good.

Today, the reason Queen Elizabeth wears gloves actually has more to do with health and cleanliness. They keep her protected from germs while she’s shaking hands with statespeople and admirers, and she even keeps a couple of spare pairs with her. Next, get a look at 15 of Princess Diana’s most iconic fashion looks.

Sources:

  • Express: “Princess Diana never did this one thing during royal tours – for a heartwarming reason”
  • Grazia: “The Reason Why Princess Diana Stopped Wearing Gloves Will Make You Smile”
  • Marie Claire: “This is why Princess Diana never wore gloves”

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine. She is a proud Hufflepuff and member of Team Cap.