How Kate Middleton's Statement Skirt Suit Echoed Style Princess Diana Loved

Kate Middleton delivered a bold fashion statement on Monday when she made her annual appearance at the Westminster Abbey Commonwealth Day service wearing a new sharply tailored skirt suit from trusted fashion label Erdem.

Kate's suit formed part of Erdem's pre-fall 2023 collection and featured an exaggerated peplum jacket and fluted skirt in a navy and white floral print pattern. The bold, angular style is in keeping with the royal's more serious aesthetic that has been adopted since she became Princess of Wales in September 2022.

Kate has only rarely worn skirt suits before, opting instead more often for the classicly tailored coat dresses that she has become so closely associated with, usually designed by the house of Alexander McQueen or a label frequently patronized by her mother-in-law, Princess Diana, Catherine Walker & Co.

Kate Middleton Commonwealth Day Skirt Suit
Kate Middleton photographed wearing an Erdem skirt suit for the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey, March 13, 2023. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Neil Mockford/GC Images

Towards the end of her life, which was cut short at the age of 36 in a 1997 Paris car crash, Diana was increasingly seen in chic tailored skirt suits for daytime events and off-duty meetings, an almost streamlined uniform in keeping with the 1990s drive for simplicity.

After her official separation from King Charles (then Prince of Wales) in 1992 and final divorce in 1996, Diana began increasingly to patronize fashion designers outside of the U.K. One of her favorites, who also became a close friend, was Gianni Versace.

Versace created for Diana a number of elegant skirt suits and in 1995 they became the foundation of a special collection inspired by the princess.

After the deaths of both Versace and Diana, the designer's sister, Donatella, described to author Georgina Howell what made the royal's style so different.

"In 1995, my brother dedicated a collection to the princess, calling it 'Conservative Chic,'" she said.

"The look was epitomized by the slim knee-length shift dress in a pastel color that the princess likes to wear as she changed into a modern, independent, stylish woman. Those dresses emphasized her silhouette and slim figure. She was a woman who moved with the times and understood what suited her."

Princess Dana Skirt Suits
Princess Diana photographed attending an awards lunch at the Savoy Hotel, London wearing a Catherine Walker skirt suit (L) March 19, 1997. And the princess wearing a blue Versace skirt suit to visit The Royal Brompton Hospital in London, April 15, 1997. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The "Conservative Chic" Spring 1995 Versace runway show opened with a white skirt suit that was later worn by Diana on a visit to Argentina. The collection featured nine separate skirt suits in monochrome and pastel shades.

Along with Versace, Diana also owned skirt suits from the design houses of Catherine Walker, Chanel, Moschino, Louis Feraud, Tomasz Starzewski, Amanda Wakeley and David Sassoon.

Here, Newsweek rounds up some of Princess Diana's most stylish skirt suit moments.

Moschino, October 1991

Princess Diana wore a striking skirt suit in a contrasting red and black oversized houndstooth pattern for her arrival in Toronto, as part of a visit she was making to Canada with Prince Charles.

The suit was a favorite for the princess, having first worn for the royal family's Christmas Day celebrations in 1990. She would wear it for a third time publicly in 1992 for a visit to The National Hospital For Neurology And Neurosurgery in London.

Princess Diana Moschino Skirt Suit
Princess Diana photographed wearing a skirt suit by Moschino during a royal tour of Canada, October 23, 1991. Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images/Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Versace, May 1995

Selected from Versace's "Conservative Chic" collection, Diana wore a pale pink structured skirt suit to visit The Princess of Wales regiment in Canterbury in May 1995.

For the occasion, the princess wore the suit with a Jackie Kennedy-style pillbox hat. She would wear the suit again that year for a visit to Argentina.

Princess Diana Versace Pink Skirt Suit
Princess Diana photographed reviewing the troops of The Princess Of Wales Regiment wearing a pink Versace suit, May 20, 1995. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Versace, November 1995

For a visit to Liverpool in November 1995, Princess Diana opted for a statement egg-yolk yellow skirt suit with peplum waist cinched with a black belt.

The suit has inspired a number of recreations over the years, one was worn by Kate Middleton on an early royal engagement after her engagement to Prince William, this time in red.

Princess Diana and Kate Middleton Skirt Suits
Princess Diana photographed on a visit to Liverpool wearing a Versace skirt suit (R) November 7, 1995. And Kate Middleton (R) wearing a similar suit, February 25, 2011. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images/Samir Hussein/WireImage

Chanel, February 1997

Princess Diana was a frequent buyer of the Paris fashion house Chanel's ready-to-wear suits, and for an official visit opening the new renal unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in 1997, she opted for a pale pistachio green model with statement gold buttons.

Princess Diana Pistachio Chanel Skirt Suit
Princess Diana photographed wearing a Chanel Skirt suit for a visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital, February 14, 1997. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Chanel, April 1997

One of Princess Diana's most famous Chanel outfits was worn in the last year of her life and was a signature tweed ensemble that was made famous by the house in the 1950s.

The blue and white flecked suit was worn by Diana on a number of occasions, most notably to the confirmation service for Prince William at Windsor Castle.

Princess Diana Ice Blue Chanel Skirt Suit
Princess Diana photographed in London (L) April 21, 1997. And at the confirmation of Prince William (R) wearing an ice blue Chanel skirt suit, March 9, 1997. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Versace, June 1997

Princess Diana's last working tour abroad took place in June 1997 when she traveled to the U.S. to promote her campaign to ban the use and production of anti-personnel landmines.

For a Red Cross speech in Washington D.C. the princess wore a lavender purple suit with matching belt which contrasted her suntan and golden hair.

Princess Diana Versace Skirt Suit Washington
Princess Diana photographed in Washington D.C. wearing a Versace skirt suit, June 17, 1997. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek's royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek's The Royals Facebook page.

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Kate Middleton and Princess Diana
Kate Middleton photographed wearing an Erdem skirt suit to the Commonwealth Day service, March 13, 2023. And (inset) Princess Diana, March 19, 1997. Chris Jackson/Getty Images/Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images