Rainy day London was the reason I was walking through Kensington Park toward Kensington Palace to finally visit the Diana Her Fashion Story exhibit. I still remember watching the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer on television before leaving for school. It was when a young girl emerged from a Cinderella coach to become a princess with a wedding dress train that made memories in all little girls like me who dreamed of Disney Princess fairy tales. I also remember waking up to my radio alarm with the news of the the Paris crash and the death of the Princess at the young age of 36! It’s funny how your memory holds certain key points and yet I can never find my keys. So growing up in awe of a modern day princess who was a school teacher and then goes on to enchant (and change) the world was something.
In the age before social media, it was the magazines and the news shows that informed you about Princess Diana then Lady Di – her fashion, her causes and her life. In the years after her death and the deep dive into all the things that went wrong – the media hunger for photos and stories, the paparazzi that stalked for the best photo for the most money (essentially putting a bounty on her head), the people who clamored to buy People Magazine, etc. you realize how amazing she was to have withstood it all. The Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit opens with a family photo of Diana with her sons that I think we’ve all seen before. It’s her role as mother that was most important to her.
So much of Diana’s life in the spotlight was about the clothes “…the best ambassador for British fashion…”
Wonderful video to watch for background of the exhibit
Prior to her death, over 70 dresses were auctioned off to benefit AIDS and Cancer charities raising over $3 million. The Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit at Kensington Palace represents a small group of her dresses, suits and sketches set up to tell her story. The story of a woman who learned that the clothes could open the doors to so much more – to showcase her causes and unmask the pain of people suffering around the world.
While we may have seen the famous blue velvet dress from the dance at the White House with John Travolta, I had to laugh at the shoulder padded coat on display (a definite 80’s fashion trend that does not need a comeback). I may have had a similar checked interview suit with shoulder pads (ick!). The delicate young dresses showcase fabric, lace and innocence. You are then moved to a more formal Princess stage with gowns and tiaras before the glamour stage envelopes you. The fabrics, the design, the evolution of a primary school teacher to a worldwide icon is on display at the exhibit in 25 dresses, multiple fashion sketches, quotes and stories.
The exhibit is small with only a few rooms but they do allow photographs which is quite nice. The crowds are nicely controlled to allow all guests time to enjoy the fashion, read the plaques and remember their version of Diana.
For me, the fashion evolution was seismic and you see that in the sketches which start young and skew conservative, then move to princess gowns and then to glamour and celebrity. Each sketch tells the tale of the time through the name listed (Diana Spencer, Princess Diana, Lady Diana, Lady Di, Princess Di, Princess of Wales, Diana….) and the color choice and design.
The Diana Her Fashion Story exhibit is include in your Kensington Palace tour ticket so you can see both the public rooms of the Palace and for a short time (until end of February 2018) the Diana display.