There was something very magnetic about Princess Diana, something that still pulls in huge crowds almost 20 years after her death. Perhaps it was her beauty, style or personal touch? Whatever the reason, people’s adoration of the ‘queen of hearts’ is causing very long queues at Kensington Palace these days. The reason for this is that they are desperate to catch a rare glimpse of her most iconic outfits that are now on display as part of the recently launched Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibition. Growing up, I simply adored Diana. I remember buying Vanity Fair as a teenager only because she was on the front cover. Like many people, I can recall exactly where I was when I heard the news that she had died in a car crash. And like millions of others, I remember going to her former home in Kensington Palace to lay flowers as a way of paying my respects. So when I had the chance to see the exhibition, I jumped at the chance of being able to trace the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits of her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life. There is something very special about being able to get so close to this extraordinary collection of garments, including the iconic velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the she danced with John Travolta. Her dresses are more than just cloth and thread – they embody special or sad moments in time for this formidable and unforgettable woman.
Other classics include Diana’s Elvis dress, which she wore to the British Fashion Awards in 1989, and again during a visit to Hong Kong, as well as the bold red skirt and jacket she wore attending the launch of the HIV/AIDs charity London Lighthouse appeal in 1996. Most of the outfits are instantly recognisable. You are bound to have seen them before on the pages of your favourite magazine or at home flashing up on your television screens. There are a lot of pieces by Catherine Walker on display, which is not surprising as its believed that Diana had more than 1,000 outfits by the designer, which she spent 16-years collecting. Visitors can also see a series of rare sketches that designers would had produced for Diana before making the actual outfits. Many of them still contain samples of fabric that would have once touched Diana’s fingers as she contemplated what to wear. It’s these little touches that make this exhibition popular. And there is no denying just how popular the exhibition actually is. On the day I visited, staff were turning away hordes of tourists because the palace was at its full capacity of visitors. And if you go on the website right now, then you will see that several days are completely sold out. I suspect the reason why the exhibition is proving to be so popular is that it allows people a chance to feel close to her. By seeing the dresses, you can gauge just how tall or slim she was and picture her standing right in front of you. Most importantly it highlights Diana’s real star quality. This was apparent when I saw the soft pink skirt and blazer by designer Catherine Walker, which she wore at the Savoy Hotel in London.The outfit itself looks nice but is very simple. However, Diana’s charisma was such that she bought the outfit to life and looked simply stunning in it. I suppose that was the special thing about Diana. It was her presence that drew people in, and now that she is sadly no longer here, it is the closest many of us will ever get to being that close to her.
- Entry to Diana: Her Fashion Story is included in Kensington Palace admission until 28 February 2018. Adult tickets are £19.00 (or £17.10 online). Children are free but must be accompanied by an adult. Concessions are £15.00 (or £13.60 online). Log on www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/ for more information.