Princess Diana exhibition at Kensington Palace
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We journeyed to Kensington to experience Princess Diana’s fashion story

Diana at Kensington

Diana was known not only for being the Princess of Wales, but for her ability to captivate the world as a trendsetter and an advocate of charities.  It may be the 20-year anniversary of her untimely death, but many of us remember Princess Diana’s presence as if it were yesterday. In celebration of her life, her home of 15 years – Kensington Palace - has opened a brand new exhibition showcasing the People’s Princess’ style through her most iconic outfits. To give you a glimpse of what you can expect from the collection, we visited the Palace to experience her unique fashion story and discover the meaning behind each beautiful garment.

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Creating a style

Situated in the Pigott Galleries, a series of rooms display the carefully selected pieces which trace the evolution of a young, demure Lady Spencer to the more confident, glamorous Princess she became. As we begin our journey through the galleries, we travel back in time to Diana’s most iconic gowns. Worn on her earliest royal engagements as she was taking her first steps into aristocratic society, these pieces were designed by the likes of Catherine Walker, Bruce Olfield, Regamus and Gina Fratini. Composed largely of lace, silk and satin fabrics, a very delicate and feminine image of the young Lady Diana Spencer is first portrayed.

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Walking further into the gallery a studio wall features the original hand-drawn sketches of outfits put together by both Diana and her designers. It took Diana 16 years to refine her style, which becomes more apparent as you explore deeper in the exhibition. Simple plain suits and dresses begin to detract focus away from fashion and draw more attention to her charity work. However, it is clear that her later evening gowns became more opulent and experimental. 

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Exhibition highlights 

The separate displays show the development of Diana’s understanding of how to use her image to engage the public and promote the causes she felt particularly passionate about. Followed with such close scrutiny by the press, each piece she wore was carefully designed with much thought and consideration. From the dainty lace Regamus gown in 1979, to the striking ice-blue fitted bejeweled Versace gown in 1991, both designed with both a function and purpose in mind. As Diana refined her image, she received both good and bad reviews, but walking through the gallery it appeared as though she and her designers got it right more often than wrong. An example of getting it right includes the iconic midnight blue velvet gown the Princess famously wore at the White House while dancing with John Travolta in 1985. The boxy tartan wool day-suit, arguably less well received.

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Diana the diplomat

The exhibition provides an opportunity to see the high-profile outfits worn on international engagements, featuring designs which reflect Diana’s ability to use fashion as a diplomatic device. Such pieces include the Catherine Walker cream silk crepe gown, worn on a visit to Saudi Arabia in 1986. Modest, yet elegant, the gown is embellished with beautiful falcons down the train. With a high neckline and long sleeves, the ensemble adopted the local customs and reflected the Princess’ desire to demonstrate honour and respect to the country she was visiting.

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Verdict: an overall excellent opportunity to view Diana’s most iconic gowns under one roof. An absolute must-see exhibition for any admirer of the late Princess.

  • Tickets cost £19 adults, £15 concessions, children free.
  • Book tickets here
  • Diana: Designing a Princess is available to view on the BBC iPlayer until the 26th March 2017
  • For special exhibition events, contact the Palace on events@hpr.org.uk or 020 3166 6000  
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