I recently went to the Fashion Rules exhibit at Kensington Palace with my beautiful (inside and out) sister, Jane. We have been to Kensington Palace before, but my sister was a huge fan of Diana, Princess of Wales and adored her fashion sense, so whilst she was in London, we had to go.
Princess Diana (1961 – 1997) by Mario Testino, 1997
hanging in Kensington Palace, where she had her apartment
The 1980s – Diana, Princess of Wales
Sadly, the fashions on display from Diana were from the 80s, and as we all know, fashions from that era were horrific!
Lady Diana Spencer on the cover of Vogue in 1981
My poor sister was a little disappointed. I have to say that I was too, but I was there to see the clothes of The Queen and Princess Margaret, rather than Diana’s. I was never a big fan of Diana, having mainly been in camp Charles, especially after the Martin Bashir interview (cringe factor 5000), but I have to agree, her fashions in the 90s were extremely elegant and following the divorce, she blossomed.
“Less is no longer enough.
Now it’s glamour; glamour; glamour; glamour.”
Bruce Oldfield in Vogue, August 1981
Asymmetric dress by Catherine Walker, 1991; Red sequin and drop waist dress by Bruce Oldfield;
Wide shouldered, dropped waist dress by Jacques Azagury, 1985
The 1970s and 60s - Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret (1930 – 2002) by Lord Snowdon (her husband), 1967
hanging in Kensington Palace, where they once had an apartment
I didn’t really know much about Margaret. When I was a child I didn’t pay much attention and by the time I did she was in failing health. In her younger days, however, she had been very glamorous indeed. Being younger sister to The Queen she had fewer restraints on her style and could be more “a la mode”, where The Queen had to stay within traditional lines. I think the Princesses dresses were my favourite in the exhibition – this is a good thing, because there were more of hers than Princess Diana’s or The Queen’s.
Left: Evening dress worn at a London Film Premier in 1951. Designer unknown
“The plunge neckline and halter neck straps were quite a departure from the demure style traditionally adopted by royal women” Anonymous quote on the card at the exhibit.
Right: Evening dress, by Norman Hartnell, 1977, worn to present an award to ABBA in the 1970s.
Left: Caftan and turban in silk, by Carl Toms, 1976. Worn by Princess Margaret in Mustique.
Right: Short day dress with antique lace panels. Designer unknown. Worn by Princess Margaret c. 1960s
“As a rule, ladies of the Royal Family
wear light coloured clothes because such
colours are more discernible against a crowd.”
Something very telling of this era is the use of fur. No self-respecting Royal or other fashion icon would wear fur now.
Left: fur coat of Princess Margaret, by Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, c.1960s
Right: The Queen’s silk coat with fur trim, by Norman Hartnell, 1972
1950s – The Queen
The Queen c. 1950s
photograph found on the website of Katherine Elizabeth Millinery
I am a big fan of our Queen, I think she is a remarkable woman. This is probably because she has always been there in my lifetime as matriarch of our nation and as such I love her like I might a great aunt! The Queen’s clothes are from the 1950s. This was a very glamorous era following the war, but a wonderful demureness was retained. Most noticeable, besides the opulence of the gowns, was how tiny the Queen’s dresses were. Wow, what I’d give for a waist like that…
Formal gown, duchesse silk satin with beaded embroidery by Norman Hartnell, 1963
Worn by The Queen at the opening of the New Zealand Parliament
More of the Queen’s gowns from the 50s
One of the things that struck me about the collection of the Queen’s clothes were just how much she has been through/seen in her lifetime. So much has changed since she came to the Throne.
“That it is possible for some of you to see
me today is just another example of the
speed at which things are changing all around us.”
HM The Queen – first televised Christmas Broadcast, 1957
And finally, here’s a picture of the new generation of Royals living in apartments at Kensington Palace. Spot the guest appearance of another Kate!
Portrait of William and Catherine, by Mario Testino, 2010
hanging in Kensington Palace
The exhbition is on until the Summer of 2015, so you have plenty time to go see the dresses up close to appreciate the beauty in the detailed embroidery and beading. I’d recommend it, if you’ve never been the the Palace before. If you have, the £15 entrance fee may put you off, because the exhibition is quite small.