When The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook was published in September 1982, it struck a national nerve. The brainchild of Ann Barr then features editor of Harpers & Queen, and writer Peter York, the tongue-in-cheek guide documented a new breed of upper-middle-class Londoner dubbed the Sloane Ranger. Populating Chelsea’s Sloane Square, hence the name, Sloane Rangers were united by a shared love of the country and marked by an unmistakable wardrobe, consisting of Barbour jackets, pie crusts, wellies, and lots and lots of tweed. Sparking the interest of thousands, the handbook became an unlikely chart-topping success.
More recently, the tribe captured my imagination when I purchased the guide for a university project. Humorously divulging “what really matters in life”, from how to kill salmon to why you should eat jelly with a fork, the guide’s front cover is graced by the most famous Sloane of all, Diana, Princess of Wales. Almost thirty years on from its initial release, the brilliantly-illustrated pages of the handbook act as a time capsule, revealing the true extent of the impact the Princess had on fashion during her pre-marriage years.
As a young Sloane Ranger stomping through the streets of ‘80s London, Diana cared little for fashion trends, but she did have her preferences, and the garments she chose became the standard Sloane Ranger uniform. There are many stand-out looks worn by the then Lady Diana Spencer that I could have dedicated this love letter to. From the heart-printed midi skirt sported by a 19-year-old Diana at the nursery, she taught at, that famously looked sheer when hit with sunlight, to the royal-blue suit purchased off the rack at Harrods worn for the announcement of her engagement to Prince Charles. But, for me, an aspect of the late Princess’ style that I gain the most pleasure from is her penchant for novelty patterned jumpers. One oft-forgotten piece, in particular, that I gravitate towards is a llama-printed knit worn in May of 1981 during a “pre-honeymoon” photo-call at Balmoral Estate.
A bashful twenty-year-old at the time, Diana pairs the jumper with typical Sloane staples – velvet knickerbockers from Margaret Howell, a frilled neck blouse, and green Hunter wellies. Purchased from the Peruvian export shop, Inca, the brightly-coloured pullover triggers fond memories of the month I spent exploring the country back in 2017.