“I like to be a free spirit,” Princess Diana once said. “Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” Over two decades since her untimely death, the public’s longstanding fascination with her—as a royal, a humanitarian, a style icon, and an unapologetic rebel—has yet to wane. The new season of The Crown, out today, is only sparking more intrigue around the ways in which she bucked royal tradition with a self-assured attitude and distinct codes of self-expression.
As a kid of the ’90s, I, like many, have always been taken with Princess Diana’s beauty, grace, and glamour. But of all her signatures, the one that has always stuck out to me was her ’80s-era proclivity for swipes of electric blue eyeliner; most strikingly worn with one of her sparkling diamond tiaras. Oh, the contrast! Yes, I know it was the ’80s, and that it was the banner decade for colorful makeup, but for a woman of her stature, to me it always seemed kind of punk, a means of subtly railing against the royal system.
Plus, her pared-back approach to a decidedly bold color statement brought a real-world sensibility to the look. “In the ’80s, blue eyeliner was about pulling out or brightening up naturally blue eyes,” explains makeup artist and Tatcha’s first-ever global director of artistry Daniel Martin, who famously gave Meghan Markle her natural wedding-day glow. “She kept it close to the lash line, enhancing the iris by creating this monochromatic tonal effect on the eye. She never took it up to her eyelid, which would create an entirely different effect all together. I think her wearing it in that way made it wearable for so many.”
While I, for one, love an aqua eye, and think of Princess Diana every time I smudge a cyan pencil across my waterlines for a quick dose of color, I know it can be a polarizing choice—and surely was for Princess Diana as the more-is-more ’80s gave way to the minimalism of the ’90s. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that upon meeting Princess Diana on her first Vogue photo shoot in 1991, makeup artist Mary Greenwell, who worked with her throughout the ’90s, convinced her to add more neutral eyeliner shades to her repertoire. “In the ’80s, a lot of people were wearing blue eyeliner, and she was so young! She could get away with doing whatever she wanted,” explains Greenwell. “She was experimental and absolutely loved makeup, but when she went out on the red carpet, we just tried to make her as glamorous and gorgeous as possible for the time.”
That being said, blue eyeliner certainly has its place, especially in the free-for-all that is the year 2020, where self-expression reigns supreme. “Right now, it’s about whatever you want to do, and making it look the best for you,” says Greenwell. “That’s what Diana always did.” Her tips for pulling off bold ticks of eyeliner, no matter how bright or understated the shade, is to keep the rest of the face fresh and vibrant: Clean skin enhanced with sheer foundation and feather-light swirls of blush and bronzer “to bring out the flush” in the face. “It’s about beautiful simplicity!” she says. That means different things to different people, but as The Crown mania sets in, a pull of Princess Di-blue eyeliner is definitely in the cards for this editor.