Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace’s latest exhibition adds to its permanent collections, which give prominence to Queen Victoria, and the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments.
Fashion Rules is a display of rare and handsome dresses worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, introducing a modern element to the Palace.
Celebrating each royal at their most fashionable, the exhibition includes the haute 1950s wardrobe of The Queen, 60s and 70s diaphanous fabrics and short hemlines from Princess Margaret, and some of Princess Diana’s less-than-subtle 80s outfits.
The 21 dresses are immaculately displayed in glass cases, spread across five rooms, and are complemented by film and imagery, providing the context for their outfits. These garments reflect the trends of the day, and show how royal women negotiated the etiquette of dressing fashionably within the “rules” of a royal wardrobe.
The first room showcases an impressive display of Her Majesty The Queen’s couture gowns, which illustrate her evolving style and adaptation of trends, making polite references to the countries she toured.
Visitors are greeted by an exquisite 1963 beaded Norman Hartnell gown, in oyster duchesse satin, featuring a nipped-in waist and five types of intricate beading. Another dress, by the same designer in the early 1950s, is on show for the first time in 15 years. Created in peach silk, this piece typifies the post-war look with its full skirt and sweetheart neckline.
These masterpieces show how The Queen’s dresses were frequently light in colour, so she stood out in the black-and-white film footage of the time, and give us a taste of her best-loved silhouettes.
Princess Margaret’s dresses reflect the rule breaking of a more liberal era. The exhibition focuses on her collaboration with Marc Bohan, then creative director at Christian Dior. A luxurious Dior fur coat is given prominence, along with an Indian sari silk dress and matching turban, worn on holiday in Mustique, in the 70s.
One dazzling frock, with a plunging neckline and halter-neck straps, marked a departure from the demure style traditionally adopted by royal women. More Hollywood glamour than royal wardrobe, its risqué nature was widely reported by the press when they captured the Princess smoking a cigarette.
The final room contains choice items from the wardrobe of Diana, Princess of Wales, spotlighting her adventurous exploration of the 80s signature looks – providing colour, sparkle and shoulder pads in abundance.
This collection includes an elegant crepe, one-shouldered Catherine Walker column dress, juxtaposed with a garish blue gown by Jacques Azaguty, featuring a dropped waist, oversized bow, padded shoulders and sparkling embroidery on imitation velvet – possibly the show’s guilty pleasure.
Fully representative of this decade, these creations are accompanied by film footage conveying the huge impact the Princess’s outfit choices had on her public image, and the Vogue covers she starred on.
For fashion history fans, Fashion Rules is a fantastic exhibition showing off some incredible artistry, as well as reminding us of the people and politics behind these beautiful dresses.
With thanks to Kensington Palace.
Photos: Rebekah Absalom
For further information and to book tickets visit here.