“There are loads of movie stars and celebrities, but there will be only one Diana.” Elizabeth Emanuel, Fashion Designer (opening quote from the exhibit).
As I have mentioned a thousand times, I am a royal watcher, Anglophile, and a lover of fashion. So when I learned of the exhibit of Princess Diana’s clothes at Kensington Palace in memory of the twentieth anniversary of her passing, I had to go.
My nephew joined me on my sojourn since my husband could not get away. It was a much smaller exhibit than the Queen’s clothing exhibit of last year; of course the Queen’s exhibit had several decades of clothes to choose from, whereas Princess Diana’s exhibit only had three. Both were so well done.
As with all things Diana, I was left with a sadness of the life that was lost and even the craziness of the life she led. Heartbreaking. Yes, this was her fashion story, but no part of Diana’s story is covered adequately without acknowledging the sorrow of her life and her early death.
I had not toured Kensington Palace so that too was a treat. It is a beautiful palace, but it seems so exposed…Hyde Park on one side and a street on the other. I can’t imagine rearing children there.
There was an outer room that led into the exhibit. As I recall, it held six photos of Diana on one wall, a wall of windows, and a wall with a quote over the fireplace. It was stark.
The first room of the exhibit was breathtaking. It had white walls that featured cutouts of roses and was lit from behind. Panels on the walls told the story of her life. The room centered on a large display case featuring five of Diana’s dresses. One that stood out to me was a Dress she purchased off the rack in 1979 to wear as a debutante. It was pretty but simple.
Various placards told the story of Diana and her clothes. Titles included, “Creating A Style,” “Design Studio,” “Stepping Out,” “The Spotlight,” and “Working Wardrobe” and clothing displayed featured these themes.
Each dress had a sign with a photo of Diana in the dress and details about the dress such as the designer and fabric, as well as where Diana wore the dress.
The second room of the exhibit was a narrow hallway that had framed drawings of clothing designs created for Diana. Her comments and signature were on some.
The next room was small and held a narrow display case with mirrors on the back of the case. It held daywear, including the tan plaid suit worn for her honeymoon and a green plaid dress worn for an official visit to Italy. It was followed by a dimly lit room of the same size and layout that featured two evening gowns.
The room that followed featured two display cases. The first case featured elegant evening gown, and the second was filled with suits and day dresses. On the back wall was projected a large, looping video of Diana at various functions.
The final room featured a large circular display case and held six dresses. On the walls were some of the photos taken in anticipation of the Christie’s auction of 79 of Princess Diana’s dresses. Over 3.4 million pounds was raised through the auction to benefit cancer and AIDS charities.
The exhibit runs at least through the end of the year, so there is still time to make it! Weekends are generally sold out, so plan for a weekday visit. Get your tickets before you plan your flight or you may be disappointed. Photos do not do these clothes justice, so you must see them in person to appreciate the detail, workmanship, sparkle and color of these designs.
I will leave you with a quote from a placard in the final room:
“We will never know what Diana’s next chapter was to be. The Princess died on 31 August 1997 following a car accident in Paris. Her legacy still resonates today through the causes she championed and the people who lives she touched.”