Looking back at Princess Diana's enduring fashion legacy

PHOTO: Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute dinner dance at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, Oct. 3, 1996.PlayTim Graham/Getty Images
WATCH Princess Diana's items to be displayed at Buckingham Palace

Princess Diana was just 36 years old when she died 20 years ago this week, but she created an enduring fashion legacy during her time in the spotlight.

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Diana grew from a 20-something in pastel colors on the arm of Prince Charles to an independent woman who made bold fashion choices until the day she died Aug. 31, 1997, in a car crash in Paris.

Diana’s most iconic fashion moments are currently on display at Kensington Palace in "Diana: Her Fashion Story,” an exhibit that showcases 25 dresses and outfits Diana wore from her early 20s until her death.

PHOTO: John Travolta twirls Princess Diana on the dance floor while at a White House banquet, on Nov. 9, 1985, in Washington. Tim Graham/Corbis via Getty Images
John Travolta twirls Princess Diana on the dance floor while at a White House banquet, on Nov. 9, 1985, in Washington.
PHOTO: A picture shows a Victor Edelstein evening gown worn by Britains Princess Diana for the State Dinner at the White House in 1985, when Princess Diana danced with John Travolta, at the Kerry Taylor Auction house in south London, on March 15, 2013. Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images
A picture shows a Victor Edelstein evening gown worn by Britain's Princess Diana for the State Dinner at the White House in 1985, when Princess Diana danced with John Travolta, at the Kerry Taylor Auction house in south London, on March 15, 2013.

"Fashion is such a good medium to talk about the princess because although she didn’t like to be known as a clotheshorse, she intuitively understood the language of clothes," the exhibit's curator, Eleri Lynn, told ABC News earlier this year. "[Diana] really used it to help her do the job at hand as a princess, humanitarian and patron of the arts."

Lynn noted that Diana also adapted fashion to suit her high-profile role as a humanitarian whose frequent interactions with everyday people and the downtrodden affectionately earned her the moniker "the People's Princess."

"When she was visiting children’s hospitals, for example, she would wear bright cheerful colors so that the children would find her approachable," Lynn said of Diana. "She very rarely wore gloves because she liked to hold hands and she stopped wearing hats after a while because she said, ‘You can’t cuddle a child in a hat.’"

PHOTO: Diana, Princess Of Wales, At Neves Bendinha Orthopaedic Workshop in Luanda, Angola, Jan. 14, 1997, with 13 year old Sandra Thijika from Saurino, whol lost her leg to a mine in 1994. Tim Graham/Getty Images
Diana, Princess Of Wales, At Neves Bendinha Orthopaedic Workshop in Luanda, Angola, Jan. 14, 1997, with 13 year old Sandra Thijika from Saurino, whol lost her leg to a mine in 1994.

One dress included in the Kensington Palace display is a Victor Edelstein velvet dress that shows the tiny handprints of Diana's sons, Prince William, then 3, and Prince Harry, then 1, embedded in the fabric as if the young princes were clutching their mother for a hug.

PHOTO: The Prince And Princess Of Wales in Germany, Diana wearing a dress designed by fashion designer Victor Edelstein, on Nov. 2, 1987. Tim Graham/Getty Images
The Prince And Princess Of Wales in Germany, Diana wearing a dress designed by fashion designer Victor Edelstein, on Nov. 2, 1987.

Diana was also an ambassador for British fashion, particularly Catherine Walker, a French-born, London-based designer whose gowns featured in the Kensington Palace display include a floral scoop neck dress Diana wore to a Christie's auction in 1997; the black halter necklace sequined gown Diana donned at Versailles in 1994; and the blush pink suit Diana wore to a children's charity event at the Savoy Hotel in 1997.

PHOTO: Princess Diana poses for photographs with Lord Hindlip, Chairman of Christies International and Christopher Bafour Chairman of Christies Europe at Christies auction house in New York on June 23, 1997. Reuters
Princess Diana poses for photographs with Lord Hindlip, Chairman of Christie's International and Christopher Bafour Chairman of Christie's Europe at Christie's auction house in New York on June 23, 1997.

It was also Walker who created the iconic white dress with a collared jacket that Diana dubbed her "Elvis dress." Diana first wore the dress to Hong Kong in 1989 and later paired it with her favorite tiara, the pearl and diamond Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara.

PHOTO: Diana, Princess of Wales wears the Elvis dress during a visit to the Culture Center in Hong Kong, Nov. 8, 1989. Tim Graham/Getty Images
Diana, Princess of Wales wears the "Elvis dress" during a visit to the Culture Center in Hong Kong, Nov. 8, 1989.

"She had a sense of experimentation and fun with her fashion," said Lynn. "What you see in her style is that often she had a bit of a playful sense."

When Diana traveled abroad, she was known for fashion that paid homage to the host nation.

Lynn said of Diana's style on official royal trips, "She was also representing Britain so her clothing did represent the best of British fashion but also [sent] diplomatic messages when she went on international travels."

PHOTO: Diana, Princess of Wales, wears an outfit in the colors of Canada during a state visit to Edmonton, Alberta, June 29, 1983.. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Diana, Princess of Wales, wears an outfit in the colors of Canada during a state visit to Edmonton, Alberta, June 29, 1983..

Diana's daughter-in-law, Princess Kate, the wife of William, has not been known to take daring fashion risks like her famous mother-in-law but is slowly introducing more daring jewelry, like Diana, and has, on occasion, made a nod to Diana's look.

Last month, Kate, 35, and her children, Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2, wore the colors of their host nations' flags when they arrived in Poland and Germany. Kate's dress in Germany, a cornflower blue coat dress, was designed by Catherine Walker, whom Kate, like Diana, has relied on for some of her most important engagements.

PHOTO: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge arrive at Berlin Tegel Airport during an official visit to Poland and Germany on July 19, 2017 in Berlin. Getty Images
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge arrive at Berlin Tegel Airport during an official visit to Poland and Germany on July 19, 2017 in Berlin.
PHOTO:Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge at Hamburg airport on July 21, 2017. Diana, Princess Of Wales, sits on the steps of the Marivent Palace in Palma, Spain with Prince Harry on Aug. 13, 1988. Getty Images
PHOTO:Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge at Hamburg airport on July 21, 2017. Diana, Princess Of Wales, sits on the steps of the Marivent Palace in Palma, Spain with Prince Harry on Aug. 13, 1988.

When Kate brought George home from the hospital in 2013, she chose a polka dot dress by Jenny Packham that bore a resemblance to the Catherine Walker polka dot dress Diana wore to bring William home from the hospital in 1982.

PHOTO: Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St Marys Hospital with Prince William on June 22, 1982, London. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and their newborn son George on July 23, 2013 in London. Getty Images
Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St Mary's Hospital with Prince William on June 22, 1982, London. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and their newborn son George on July 23, 2013 in London.

Diana's beloved Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara, a wedding gift from Queen Elizabeth, was first worn by Kate in November 2015 when she attended a reception at Buckingham Palace. Kate wore it again in 2016 and, most recently, in July at a state banquet for King Felipe and Queen Letizia of Spain at Buckingham Palace. Kate paired the tiara at the state banquet with glamorous pearl drop earrings that appeared to be the same ones worn by Diana on many occasions.

PHOTO: Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge departs at Buckingham Palace on Dec. 8, 2016 in London. Diana, Princess of Wales wears the Cambridge Knot Tiara at the British Embassy in Washington, Nov. 11, 1985. Getty Images
Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge departs at Buckingham Palace on Dec. 8, 2016 in London. Diana, Princess of Wales wears the Cambridge Knot Tiara at the British Embassy in Washington, Nov. 11, 1985.

Kate has also started accessorizing her outfits with some of Diana's dazzling jewels in addition to Diana's engagement ring, which William presented to Kate in 2010.

PHOTO: Kate Middleton and Princess Diana each pose in their official engagement photos.
John Stillwell/AP
Kate Middleton and Princess Diana each pose in their official engagement photos.

Kate selected a triple-strand pearl and diamond bracelet often seen worn by Diana to wear during her family's diplomatic tour of Germany in July.

Kate has also worn Diana's favorite sapphire earrings -- a single Saudi Arabian sapphire surrounded by 10 diamonds -- that coordinate with her engagement ring.

The earrings, bequeathed to William and Harry in Diana's will, were a gift from William to Kate shortly after their engagement in 2010. Kate has added her own style to the famous jewels by adapting them to a drop-style earring.

PHOTO: The Princess wears a white antique lace and lawn blouse with a high neck, and diamond and angel skin coral drop earrings, July 1, 1982 | Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, visits Ronald McDonald House Evelina London, Feb. 28, 2017, in London. Getty Images
The Princess wears a white antique lace and lawn blouse with a high neck, and diamond and angel skin coral drop earrings, July 1, 1982 | Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, visits Ronald McDonald House Evelina London, Feb. 28, 2017, in London.

Kate has not yet publicly worn Diana's most iconic piece of jewelry, a seven-strand pearl choker surrounding a large diamond-encrusted sapphire.

PHOTO: Diana, Princess of Wales, visits the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, October 1991. She is wearing a pearl and sapphire choker. Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Diana, Princess of Wales, visits the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, October 1991. She is wearing a pearl and sapphire choker.

The sapphire brooch was a wedding gift from Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that Diana transformed into the pearl choker that became one of her most iconic jewels.