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Kensington Palace to host new exhibition on Diana, Princess of Wales

Kensington Palace is to host a new exhibition about Diana, Princess of Wales to mark 20 years since the death of the Princess, including a new temporary garden which is being installed in the grounds of the Palace in celebration of her life. The choice of a garden being built here, next to the home where the Princess lived for over 15 years is an appropriate one, especially as Kensington Gardens themselves contain the Diana Memorial Playground for children, which opened in 2000. The near-lying Hyde Park also contains the Diana Memorial Fountain, opened by The Queen in 2004.

This exhibition will replace the restyled exhibition of last year, “Fashion Rules”, which showcased examples of clothing of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. Alongside elegant dresses designed for The Queen’s state visits by British couturier Hardy Amies and Princess Margaret’s ‘New Look’ as represented by accessories designed for her by Hermes, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, the dresses of Diana, Princess of Wales that featured in “Fashion Rules” were largely example signature looks chosen from favoured designers such as Catherine Walker and Bruce Oldfield, testifying to the Princess’s role as a modern trendsetter in British design both at home and abroad.

Kensington Palace’s new exhibition entitled “Diana: Her Fashion Story”, will open at the Palace’s Pigott Galleries on 24 February 2017. The aim of the exhibition is to tell the Princess’s life story through her clothes – many of which were designed with a remarkable sensitivity for the occasions for which they were made – tracing how Diana learnt the art of expressing herself through the way she dressed and how this art was perfected, beginning with her earliest public appearances, charting the evolution of her own personal style as she grew in both confidence and taste. The Princess’s close involvement with the creation of her dresses and outfits will also be explored through sketches made during the design process itself.

According to a press release in November 2016, Eleri Lynn, curator of ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’, said: “Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the most photographed women in the world, and every fashion choice she made was closely scrutinised. Our exhibition explores the story of a young woman who had to quickly learn the rules of royal and diplomatic dressing, who in the process put the spotlight on the British fashion industry and designers.”

As the Princess’s movements and activities were observed with ever greater scrutiny, the way she dressed inevitably remained a subject of intense world interest. But these dresses do more than simply tell the story of a life: they represent Diana’s own journey in self-realisation, as she cultivated and developed her public image and did so, through her clothes. We see the Princess’s early wardrobe, watching it gradually transform – like the woman herself – into the sophisticated confidence of her later years. Importantly, the dresses that will be displayed, range from what was known as Diana’s ‘working wardrobe’ – largely Catherine Walker suits from the 1990’s worn by the Princess as practical daywear – to the sumptuous evening gowns of Victor Edelstein, for example. One of the highlights of this exhibition will undoubtedly be the Edelstein dark blue velvet dress, worn by the Princess at the White House when she famously danced with the actor John Travolta. The exhibition will also feature a suit which was only recently acquired by Historic Royal Palaces – the independent charity that maintains Kensington Palace – at auction. Another key item on display will be the Emanuel pink engagement blouse worn by the Princess in 1981 when she was photographed by the late Lord Snowdon.

Close to the Orangery at Kensington Palace is to be found the so-called Sunken Garden, which the Princess would have known well during her lifetime. To commemorate twenty years since her death, the gardening team at the Palace will now create a new temporary garden in spring and summer in her memory, which will be called ‘The White Garden’. The garden will take the Princess’s life as its inspiration, using the two seasons to create a foliage consisting of first tulips and forget-me-nots amongst other flowers, gradually blending into a garden of English white roses, daisies and ornamental grasses.

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian and writer, specializing in Queen Victoria's family, Russian royalty and the Habsburgs. An independent scholar of royal studies, she has studied historic British and European royalty for nearly twenty years, speaking on the subject for both TV and BBC radio.


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