Princess Diana is iconic for a lot of things. Her rocky path to Buckingham Palace for one, but also her legacy as a humanitarian and People’s Princess status, an unofficial title she’ll never have to rescind. But there’s also her style. Equal parts stunning and confident, Princess Diana was never afraid to test the waters with a bold fashion or beauty statement, especially if it promised an undercurrent of fun.
Case in point: Her love of blue eyeliner. It was a staple in her beauty arsenal all through the 80s and, no matter the hue—some days it was electric; others, a lighter pastel—it made her already-sparkling blue eyes totally pop.
But was this look an 80s-only trend where a punk rocker-ish vibe (go, Di) was celebrated and cool? Or something I could pull off, too?
I asked Boston-based celeb makeup artist Dani Wagener to weigh in: “I wouldn’t say blue eyeliner works for everyone, but I believe makeup is about what makes you feel your best,” she says. “To wear it like Diana, it needs to be well-blended into the lower lashline with a creamier product that is highly pigmented.” Wagener also adds that the tone of blue matters. (In other words, the Princess of Wales may have been able to pull off numerous shades, but experimentation is required to find the best shade of blue for you.)
With that advice, I was ready to expand my palette. Here, the results of my royal experiment.
1. Pastel Blue
The Diana Effect: OK, so pastel blue is definitely a harder hue to apply to the lower lashline so that it’s visible. (Based on my own bathroom application, I couldn’t help but imagine Diana—or Diana’s makeup artist—really pressing down to get the pigmentation vibrant enough to get picked up by the cameras.) In front of my makeup mirror, the color felt so subtle it was hard to see, but in the light of day, I was impressed by how much just a hint of blue made my eyes pop. A quick application trick from Wagener: “Take a tissue and dab any excess water from the eye area, especially your lower lashline, before you apply your liner. Then, after you apply, let it set for a moment before you re-apply.” I followed this advice and it helped significantly. I also tried to replicate Diana’s black liner on top. (For this, I drew from my own makeup bag—I swear by Stila’s Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner.)
The Verdict: Surprisingly, I was really impressed by the lighter pastel and its subtle effect. This is a look I could wear to the office or the grocery store.
2. Electric Blue
The Product: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Chaos ($22)
The Diana Effect: Hello, electric blue. My husband definitely did a double take when I walked out of the bathroom wearing this liner. (Of course, it’s a pandemic, so I really haven’t been putting all that much effort into my makeup as of late, so that may have been part of it.) Still, this shade is destined to be my new evening look when we come to a point in time where we can go out to bars, theaters and restaurants again. (Fingers crossed.) About the application: Electric blue is much easier to apply. I got the pigmentation after a single swipe. I did feel like people might think, whoa, she went a bit heavy-handed on her eye makeup wearing this in the light of day. But, overall, the look felt uber-dramatic, but also playful somehow. This was my favorite shade to experiment with—something I wonder if Princess Diana felt, too.
The Verdict: The bluest blue. This shade left me wanting to experiment with bright liners more. My eyes looked instantly more awake. Per Wagener, a rich turquoise (similar to this) is the most universally-flattering tone.
3. Midnight Blue
The Diana Effect: A navy liner this rich is a mood all on its own. In fact, this hue was instantly a go-to for everyday life—although I limited my application to the upper lashline on days when my only plans were Zoom calls. A hue like this promises immediate polish. It also requires a bit more precision with the application. (I really had to practice to overcome what, a lot of days, is a wobbly line.) Diana’s makeup artist Mary Greenwell told Yahoo Beauty a while back that the princess’s number one goal was to experiment with ways to bring her eyes out more. She also shared that Diana loved mascara. (Note to self: I need to invest in a more voluminous mascara to really pull off a liner this navy blue.)
The Verdict: This hue is the most likely to replace the Stila in my makeup bag. There’s a softness about it, and I really liked the overall effect. Now, I just need to take it a step further and mirror Diana’s sartorial choice, which also happened to be royal blue.