The new exhibition at Kensington Palace celebrates the life of Diana, Princess of Wales through the evolution of her style. Tracing her initial foray into public life to the confident fashion choices of her later life. As curator Eleri says in her interview with Vogue: “Fashion is such a good way to talk about her because she was a very good silent communicator”.
In a time without social media and when video content wasn’t as prolific, it’s through fashion and how she was photographed that she could direct the spotlight on her to draw attention to the causes close to her heart.
She was the most photographed person in world, a timeliness style icon, whatever she wore people wanted to copy her. Fascinated by this style icon, and too young to follow her glamorous life as a child, I was keen to go the exhibition.
It starts with the Regamus nylon dress she wore as a Debutante to a ball (above right), and a series of chiffon, flouncy dresses, showing her early love for ruffles. Moving through a series of rooms featuring a number of high profile custom made pieces, a tweed suite by Bill Pashley worn on her Honeymoon, a tartan coat and beautiful pink chiffon blouse by Emanuel (below), which was featured in her first official royal portrait. The ‘Lady Di’ blouse wouldn’t look out of place today.
The Emmanuel’s wedding dress is a noticeable absence from the exhibition – not that it was meant to be there – but given this is her life in fashion that was a key moment and it’s one of the most famous dresses in the world. It would have been great to see alongside the other pieces.
This leads to a series of evening and cocktail dresses worn at official visits worldwide including the velvet gown she wore at the White House when she danced with John Travolta, designed by Victor Edelstein. The Murray Arbeid Flamenco dress and her sequined green ‘Mermaid dress” and high collared ‘Elvis Dress’ (above) both designed by Catherine Walker. A designer who features heavily throughout the exhibition, and Princess Diana reportedly had over 1000 dresses by her.
The exhibition culminates in a room featuring some of her most iconic dresses. The Atelier Versace gown by Patrick Demarchelier, for her Harpers Bazaar cover (above) and another Catherine Walker dress in green silk velvet, which she wore for her Vanity Fair photo shoot.
As Curator Eleri Lynn highlights in her interview after her split with Prince Charles ‘she wanted to be known as a work horse not a clothes horse’ marks a significant change in her style. We can see this shift in the second half of the exhibition, as it moves away from the elaborate ruffled and flowing dresses to the more streamlined shift dresses (although still intricate and interesting) and day suits designed by Catherine Walker and Versace.
It was a very solid collection of iconic outfits the Prince wore through out her time in the spotlight. And the exhibition is nicely complemented by a series of beautiful photos of the princess wearing the dresses in situ or for photoshoots. The walls are covered with quotes of those who designed for her and collaborated with her. As well as, the original designs of a number of dresses and a number of magazine covers.
It’s a shame there wasn’t a guidebook, I’m sure a lot of visitors would have bought one, myself included. There is the Special edition harpers Bazaar featuring an exclusive on the exhibition, but that’s really just a magazine feature on the exhibition. So I think they’ve missed a trick here.
If you are interested in the fashion of Princess Diana then it’s a fantastic opportunity to see these beautiful dresses in real life, and understand a little more about her she used fashion to
It’s certainly very interesting to see the juxtaposition of the elaborate, chiffon, flowing dresses and outfits of the beginning of her marriage, to the sleek, profession ‘working wardrobe’ curated with Catherine Walker after her divorce.
It’s an extremely popular exhibition and a lot of the advance tickets have sold out already. We waited for about 1.5 hours to get in and a good chunk of that was outside so make sure you have a coat! Unfortunately this really detracts from the exhibition experience and I’m not sure why they haven’t implemented a timed ticketing system like all other London exhibitions do to combat this.
• Allow about 2 hours to get in, just to be on the safe side
• At Kensington Palace (Glouster Road Tube is closest)
• Open from February 2017 until 2018
• Tickets cost £19 and that’s for entry to the palace and the exhibition
Open 7 days a week, 10.00-18.00 from Mar to Oct and 10.00-16.00 Nov-Feb