On September 24, 1996, shortly after her divorce from the Prince of Wales was finalized, Diana traveled to Washington, D.C. There, she attended a gala in support of the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University Hospital.
Diana wore a white lace halter gown from Catherine Walker for the event, which raised around a million dollars for breast cancer research. During the gala, Diana addressed an audience that included fashion designers like Ralph Lauren, Bill Blass, Donna Karen, Calvin Klein, and Oscar de la Renta, as well as Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Members of the Washington social world, including Katharine Graham, Elizabeth Dole, and Colin Powell, were in attendance, too. So were Larry King and Barbara Walters, who admitted that she’d love to interview Diana someday (but wouldn’t be asking during a social event).
In her speech, Diana (pictured here with Graham and Dole) spoke about the emotional challenges of a cancer diagnosis. The Associated Press reported some of her remarks: “It’s a word of just six letters but has the power to strike panic, fear and anxiety in the hearts of all,” adding, “From where I sit, looking in from the outside, I sense the fight back has begun. The story of breast cancer is no longer one of overwhelming tragedy but one of hope.” One of Diana’s close friends, Harper’s Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis, was in treatment for ovarian cancer during this period, and Diana reportedly was frequently in contact to provide support and encouragement. (Tilberis, who passed away in 1999, also escorted Diana to the Met Gala in 1996.)
With her white gown, Diana wore pieces from one of her most recognizable suites of royal jewelry: the sapphires she received as a wedding present in 1981 from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. She wore the earrings and bracelet from the suite, as well as a possibly-reconfigured setting of the watch.
The Saudi Sapphire Suite features a really interesting diamond cluster design, with a jagged sunray-style surround instead of the more traditional diamond brilliant halo. You can read more about the suite (and all of the Saudi jewels in the British royal vaults) over here!