Twenty years since the death of one of our most iconic figures in recent history, Diana, Princess of Wales, a new exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story opens at Kensington Palace in celebration of her remarkable life
From the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances to the glamour and elegance of her later life, Diana captivated the world’s attention as a trendsetter. Now, 20 years on from her death, Diana: Her Fashion Story presents an extraordinary collection of garments – from the glittering ball gowns of the 80s to the chic Catherine Walker Suits and tailored shift dresses of Diana’s 90s ‘working wardrobe’.
From her earliest royal engagements, everything Diana wore was closely scrutinised. The exhibition explores how she learned to use her unique position to engage and inspire people, and to champion the charitable causes she cared about, through her fashion choices. For example, in 1986, on a trip to Saudi Arabia, she wore a stunning cream silk crepe Catherine Walker gown embellished with falcons – the Kingdom’s national bird.
Other famous ensembles include the blue tartan Emanuel suit, worn for an official visit to Venice in the 1980s, on display for the first time; the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowden in 1981; Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when Diana danced with John Travolta; and Catherine Walker’s famous pearl encrusted dress with a high collar, christened by the Princess as her ‘Elvis’ dress.
‘Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the most photographed women in the world, and every fashion choice she made was closely scrutinised,’ said Eleri Lynn, curator of Dana: Her Fashion Story. ‘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 British fashion industry and designers.
‘We see her growing in confidence throughout her life, increasingly communicating through her clothes. This is a story many women around the world can relate to, and we hope many visitor will join us to get a closer look at some of Diana’s most iconic outfits, on display in her former home.’
In spring, the gardeners of Kensington Palace will dedicate new planting in the garden to Diana, creating a temporary White Garden. Spring planting will include an elegant palette of tulips and scented narcisii through a carpet of ‘forget me nots’. In the summer, pots of classic English white roses will surround the central pond and the planting will become more exuberant with ornamental grasses, Cosmos daisies and billows of Gaura.
Tickets are £16.50 (concs £13.70) for visits until 28 February 2017. From 1 March 2017, tickets are £19 (concs £15). Kids go free (must be accompanied by an adult).
Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX; hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace
Enjoy the exhibition at an exclusive evening event with a glass of fizz, music and an opportunity to view the White Garden at sunset, plus pop-up talks on the inspiration behind the iconic looks on display. Takes place on 15 May, 11 June and 17 July from 6.30-8.30pm. Tickets £15.
Brunchtime lecture: Capturing the Royal Image
How did royal women use the media to cultivate their public image? How much could they control their public role and their private life? Join Historic Royal Palaces assistant curator Claudia Williams to discover the transition from Georgian portraiture and satirical depictions to photography in Victoria’s era and the rise of the paparazzi in the 20th century. 24 June, 11am-12.30pm. Tickets £15.
A Royal Visit package with the Balioni Hotel
Make the most of this landmark new exhibition with a stay at the Baglioni Hotel London and a private early morning tour, before the crowds descend, with one of the expert Palace explainers. The ‘A Royal Visit’ package, from £420 for two people, includes a one-night stay for two in a Deluxe room at Baglioni Hotel London with breakfast, one ticket per person to the morning tour of Kensington Palace (a private one-hour tour for up to 30 people at 9am before the palace opens, with access to the palace, gardens and exhibitions), plus a champagne afternoon tea for two at Baglioni Hotel London.
For information and to book see baglionihotels.com or call 020 7368 5700
Diana, Designing a Princess
This BBC documentary, screening on Saturday 25 February at 8pm, looks at some of Diana’s most celebrated and exquisite dresses, brought together for Diana: Her Fashion Story. Produced in collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces and presented by Brenda Emmanus, viewers are taken behind the scenes at the Conservation Studio at Hampton Court Palace as the dresses are prepared for display. Brenda also hears from historians, cultural commentators and the designers who dressed Diana, including Elizabeth Emmanuel and David Sassoon.