Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Diana: Her Fashion Story...

Hello lovelies!

I recently visited 'Diana: Her Fashion Story' at Kensington Palace and wanted to tell you all about it.  I'd never been to Kensington Palace before, and if you want to visit and have never been either, it's worth noting that the exhibition is included in the general admission price, so you can wander freely around the open rooms at the palace as well as visiting the exhibition.  I would suggest booking online before your visit though, as there was quite a queue forming for those that were paying at the door.  The palace gardens are free to visit and are absolutely beautiful, so I'd certainly recommend a wander around those too! For the purposes of this fashion post, I'm going to concentrate solely on the Diana exhibition, so without further ado...

I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a royalist; I like that we have a Royal Family but I wouldn't say that I have a massive interest in them.  But there was always something about Diana.  I was only 11 when she died in August 1997, but I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the news broke.  I was a massive Spice Girls fan at the time and was up early awaiting their latest TV appearance.  When I turned on the TV, I saw the bulletin that announced that Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris and I remember running straight into my Mam's room to tell her.  We were a sad household that day; as I said before we aren't really royalists, but the charisma and compassion of Princess Diana resonated with everyone.  She really was the people's Princess.  The chance to view her wardrobe up close and personal was one that I didn't want to miss and it is absolutely stunning.  The exhibition itself is small but perfectly formed and catalogues Diana's fashion journey beautifully from her simple style in the beginning to her status as a style icon even now, almost twenty years after her death.

Creating a style

'Diana knew what she liked' and 'loved anything with frills and ruffles'-Vogue

Before becoming a Princess, Diana was unfamiliar with designer fashion.  Her wardrobe consisted of some simple staples and she borrowed a lot of what she wore from her friends.  After her engagement to the Prince of Wales, she began to meet and form friendships with designers who helped her to create a working wardrobe.  Her early style choices were characteristic of eighties fashion.

Regamus 1980-a popular brand for young aristocratic women

Gina Fratini for Hartnell, 1991
Worn for the ballet in Rio de Janiero
During the same trip, Diana removed her gloves and shook hands with an AIDs patient, removing the stigma attached to the disease and displaying her compassion for others in a single action.

Inspired by Grace Kelly's gown in Alfred Hitchcock's 'To Catch a Thief'
Catherine Walker 1987

Another Catherine Walker dress, from 1987, Diana wore this in an official portrait with Charles 

Bruce Oldfield, 1990

London designers and fashion illustration 

Diana's glamorous wardrobe put London fashion and British designers in the public eye and raised the profile of British fashion worldwide.  Her clothes had to be both practical and aesthetically pleasing.  Diana commissioned designers to create bespoke pieces for specific appearances; these designers would work closely with Diana, sketching out her ideas and pinning fabrics to each sketch allowing the Princess to make notes, suggest changes and highlight what she liked.  Together they would finalise each look.  The fashion illustrations featured in this exhibition are a thing of real beauty themselves!

Early public wardrobe

 Tweed suit (right), Bill Pashley 1981
Diana had two versions of this suit made in traditional British tweed.  The larger version, she wore on her honeymoon as it provided more room for manoeuvre for taking part in country sport

 Emanuel, 1981
Diana was loaned this by Vogue magazine for their shoot 'upcoming beauty'.  Shortly afterwards the 'Lady Di' blouse sold out on the high street!  She loved the blouse so much that Emanuel was chosen to design her wedding dress.

Emanuel suit, 1985
This suit was a commissioned piece for a visit to Italy.  Although the boxy look was fashionable, the suit was met with mixed criticism

The Spotlight

'Sometimes I can be a little outrageous which is quite nice.  Sometimes'-Princess Diana, 1985

Diana was unique in that she understood the rules associated with dressing as a royal but often broke with convention; she was a modern Princess.  She often made surprising and dramatic fashion choices, much to the delight of the press.  She abandoned the royal protocol of wearing gloves to greet people as she preferred to make human contact, was the first royal woman to wear trousers and she often wore black, which was usually reserved for mourning.  Many of her fashion choices were inspired by theatre and the arts which she loved and often saved some of her best outfits for attending these sorts of events.  It's clear to see that in her later years she understood clothing and what suited her; she was never afraid to be brave and bold with fashion.

 Murray Arbeid, 1986
This dress was inspired by Spanish flamenco and caused media furore when Diana paired it with one black glove and one red one

 Elvis Dress-Catherine Walker 1989
Although dubbed the Elvis dress, this dress was actually inspired by Elizabethan necklines; it was my favourite from the exhibition (and was also being returned after the weekend I visited so I'm so glad I got to see it) simply stunning!

 Victor Edelstein, 1985
This is the dress Diana was wearing when she danced with John Travolta at the White House

 Catherine Walker, 1990-the embroidery was strategically placed so that it could be seen from behind

 Another Catherine Walker piece (and another of my favourites) 1986
Diana carefully selected her looks to honour host nations.  This dress was embellished with falcons, the national bird of Saudi Arabia, worn when she visited the country.  The high neckline and long sleeves also respected local customs

 Catherine Walker 1986, from the 'Dynasty Di' (named as a reference to the glamorous outfits worn on the television show of the same name)

Victor Edelstein, 1985
The dress shown here has a few fingerprints, said to be from the young Prince's clinging to her legs

Working Wardrobe

'She would never wear a hat to a hospital because she said you couldn't cuddle a child with a hat on'-Philip Somerville, Milliner

Diana was a working woman; she attended around 130 engagements a year and each posed a different set of fashion requirements.  As seen in the previous section (see the white gown with birds), Diana liked to use fashion to display diplomatic messages overseas, but in a stark contrast her other outfits were more cheery and informal.  She had a great connection with children and often chose bright colours and accessories and she would allow the children she met to play with them.  By the late 80s and early 90s, Diana worked more closely with Catherine Walker to create silhouettes that were more streamlined and flattering to her tall frame.  Jasper Conran said that in meeting Walker, Diana had found a designer that could give her exactly what she needed and who concentrated on her; from this her style was born.

After her separation from Charles in 1992, Diana wanted to focus more on her charitable commitments and to be seen as someone who was a 'workhorse rather than a clotheshorse'.  She simplified her daytime look to more executive suits and shift dresses to match this image change.

 Catherine Walker, 1997
Worn for the Courage and Bravery Awards

 Catherine Walker, 1996

Catherine Walker, 1997
This was worn for a Bond Street shopping trip

From a suggestion made by Prince William, Diana decided to auction seventy-nine of her dresses off at Christie's in New York in June 1997, raising £3.4 million for AIDs and Cancer charities.  This was the end of an era; she closed the door on her royal life and style and opened another which allowed her to focus on her charity work.  Mario Testino photographed Diana for Vanity Fair to promote the sale at Christie's in which she wore some of the dresses featured in the auction.  The images are famous and show Diana as the true beauty she was both inside and out.

 Catherine Walker, 1992, smoking jacket tuxedo style dress

Catherine Walker, 1994-known as the 'sexy' dress-Diana wore this for a UNESCO charity event at the Palace of Versailles

Catherine Walker, 1990-a simpler piece and a break from the previous overdone fashion of the eighties

 The dress Diana wore for the auction was another Catherine Walker piece (1997) which was short and embellished but understated in comparison to the auction pieces.

I couldn't finish this post without talking about this stunning Versace dress.  Diana worked with more foreign designers once her royal duties ended.  This stunning work of art was an Atelier Versace piece; Versace was a favourite of Diana's.

Diana was a wonderful royal who will certainly leave a lasting legacy for both those who remember her and for those approaching this exhibition with fresh eyes.  The collection gives the viewer a real feel for how she grew into an iconic fashion figure, with function and practicality considered in each outfit she chose.  Her main focus was how her clothes would work for her when she met people; as long as she could make a connection with people fashion increasingly became a sideline.  She always looked beautiful-in the beginning as 'shy Di' and in the end as 'the people's Princess'.  Beauty shines from within and after learning so much about her its clear to see that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out.

 Scenes from the white garden, in Diana's memory


'Diana: Her Fashion Story' runs at Kensington Palace for the next two years and I'd highly recommend it, it's a sight to behold!  This is not a sponsored post, I visited the exhibition of my own accord.  The information used to write it came from the exhibition, but I'd also recommend  the catalogue, available from the Palace shop.


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