Culture | Royalty

Fashion exhibition celebrating the life of Diana, Princess of Wales

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Posted by , 9th March, 2017

From her first public appearances in 1981, Diana, Princess of Wales, captivated the world’s attention as a princess, as a bespoke fashion trendsetter and as a patron and advocate of charities.  Now, twenty years on from her death, a new exhibition celebrating her life opens at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years.

‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’ traces the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life.  From her earliest royal engagements, everything Diana wore was closely scrutinised, and the exhibition explores how she navigated her unique position in the public eye: learning to use her image to engage and inspire people, and to champion the causes she cared about.

bespoke fashion

Situated in Kensington Palace’s Pigott Galleries – ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’ displays exquisite and celebrated outfits from throughout the Princess’s public life.  The exhibition brings together an extraordinary collection of garments, ranging from the glamorous and glittering evening gowns worn on engagements in the 1980s, to the chic Catherine Walker suits and tailored shift dresses that made up Diana’s ‘working wardrobe’ in the 1990s.

From a lace covered party dress worn by a young Lady Diana Spencer for a ball at her family home, Althorp, in 1979 to the striking ice-blue bejeweled Versace gown selected by the Princess for a Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot, the exhibition charts the Princess’s fashion journey, exploring her working relationship with some of her key designers.  A ‘studio wall’ inspired display of original fashion sketches, created for Diana during the design process features sketches from Emanuel, Roland Klein, and David Sassoon.

bespoke fashion

The display features dresses worn on high-profile engagements right across the globe, showcasing the Princess’s understanding of how to deploy fashion as a diplomatic tool.  An example of the careful thought the Princess and her designers put into garments worn for official visits goes on display at Kensington Palace for the first time – this stunning cream silk crepe Catherine Walker gown was worn on an official visit in 1986, and is embellished with falcons – the national bird of Saudi Arabia.

Further exhibition highlights include the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981, and Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the Princess danced with John Travolta.  Catherine Walker’s famous pearl encrusted dress with a high collar, christened by the Princess as her ‘Elvis’ dress, is another highlight of the show.


Eleri Lynn, curator of Diana: Her Fashion Story, said, ‘Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the most photographed women in the world, and every fashion choice she made was closely scrutinised.  Our exhibition explores the story of a young woman who had to quickly learn the rules of royal and diplomatic dressing, who in the process put the spotlight on the British fashion industry and designers. We see her growing in confidence throughout her life, increasingly taking control of how she was represented, and intelligently communicating through her clothes.  This is a story many women around the world can relate to, and we hope many visitors will join us, to get a closer look at some of Diana’s most iconic outfits, on display in her former home.’

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Image credit: Kensington Palace

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