Given my previous disclosures around my love of all things Diana I’m sure it is of no surprise that a visit to the new ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’ exhibit which has just opened at Kensington Palace was high on my list of London must-do’s while we were in town for the marathon.
The only thing that was surprising was my lack of forward planning – which is super unusual for me – with the realisation that tickets were sold out for the entire duration of our visit. Our helpful concierge at the HamYard Hotel (where we had the most brilliant stay, more about that in another post) was quick with a solution though, suggesting we buy a Royal Palaces membership which not only meant we could get automatic admission to this exhibition any time we wanted but we could also visit as many times as we wanted. Given the exhibition runs until Feb 2018 and they are rotating some other dresses through during that time, it not only solved my current dilemma but also meant I would have to go back for multiple visits to get my moneys worth from the membership! Perfect result, and it meant we can also visit some of the other palaces as well, not that we did that this trip. As Stuart rightly pointed out that most people don’t prepare for marathons by trailing their wives around palaces for days on end…
Admission issues resolved we fronted up at Kensington Palace early to beat the crowds (and if you’re planning a visit I’d definitely recommend getting there as close to the 10am opening time as possible, there were so many people there by the time we’d finished our look around and the staff said the afternoons were even busier).
Fittingly the exhibition started with just a few of the magazine covers that featured Diana, reminding just how much media coverage she generated in a pre-internet age.
Walking into the first section Diana’s early fashion choices really reminded just how young she was when she and Charles got engaged and then married. Lots of frills and flounces – it was also the 80’s and there were no shortage of options available to her that met that brief! – and someone clearly trying to find her own style, as pretty much all of us were at 19, never mind having to do so on the world stage.
And of course that iconic honeymoon tweed suit, instantly recognisable from the highly circulated images from their post wedding photoshoot, but which is really quite dreadful when you see it up close!
As she matured both in age and in the role, you could see the evolution in her style. Flounces and frills in light floaty fabrics weren’t fit for purpose, and she moved to much more tailored options that worked more functionally, and photographed a lot better. It was fascinating to be reminded of how she used her outfits to convey messages, very much in the way the Duchess of Cambridge does today, with nods to host countries and themes.
I always loved the dress she wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House, and it was there,
as was this white beaded creation that I remembered loving to bits at the time she wore it topped off with a spectacular tiara. So princessy!
I loved that they also included some of her absolute shockers, I remember being appalled by this completely shapeless boxy coat dress and it was just as bad up close.
Showing that at times the theming went a little to far, this flamenco inspired dress also wasn’t a favorite, especially worn with a mismatched pair of red and black elbow length gloves!.
There were a number of sketches that her favorite designers had taken in for meetings, some which included her comments and annotations. She was clearly a big fan of this hot pink suggestion that ultimately became the outfit she wore to Prince Harry’s christening.
The final section of the exhibition was devoted to the high fashion gowns that she’d worn for shoots with some of the leading fashion photographers of the time, with blown up images on the walls behind them.
After leaving the exibition (with some obligatory additions for my collection)
we walked out through her favorite garden, which the Kensington Palace gardeners have planted with a white theme in acknowledgement of the upcoming 20 year anniversary of her death.
I loved the exhibition and it was definitely well worth the visit. I’m a sucker for a fashion exhibiton, and love seeing clothes worn in so many iconic images up close. It was also refreshing to see how normally sized they appeared, a good reminder that this was from a time well before the cult of size zero.
The only thing that disappointed me was that there was zero utilisation of technology in any aspect of the exhibition. There are so many great tools that museums are using now to really help add colour and movement to their exhibition experience, but none of that was on display here. With so much material available Iwould have thought at a minumum including footage that showed how the pieces actually moved when worn would have really added to the experience, but it looks like the curator and I will have to agree to differ there! Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in London though between now and Feb 2018.