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British Royals

Princess Margaret’s 21st birthday dress to go on display at V&A

The Christian Dior gown worn by Princess Margaret in her iconic 21st birthday portrait will go on public display when the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition opens 2 February at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

The largest exhibition about the House of Dior ever put on in the UK will feature more than 500 objects from 1947 to the present day. A section called “Dior in Britain” highlights Dior’s strong connection to England and his British clients, including Princess Margaret.

Of special interest is a look at the early Dior fashion shows staged in grand locations across Britain, including Blenheim Palace. Princess Margaret, who Dior said was “so very charming,” was often a guest at these shows. She was a loyal Dior customer throughout her lifetime and known to have a close relationship with the designer.

Princess Margaret’s children Lady Sarah Chatto and David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon, came face-to-face with their mother’s famous gown when they attended a gala dinner to celebrate the new exhibition on 29 January. They viewed the exhibition along with their spouses, Daniel Chatto and Serena Armstrong-Jones, the Countess of Snowdon. The earl gave a speech at the event recounting memories of Princess Margaret and her “favourite dress of all.”

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The Princess’s off-the-shoulder dress was worn at her 21st birthday party in 1951 and again in the Sir Cecil Beaton photo taken to mark her birthday. Featuring draped tulle, intricate embroidery, sequins, pearls, and a nipped-in waist, it’s representative of the designer’s New Look aesthetic. The once-white gown has discoloured over the years and is on loan from the Museum of London following conservation work.

Along with Princess Margaret’s gown and more than 200 rare haute couture garments, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams will showcase items such as accessories, photography, magazines, makeup, perfume, and Mr Dior’s personal possessions. The exhibition has been updated and reimagined for the V&A after the Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve exhibition in Paris.

Oriole Cullen, Fashion and Textiles Curator at the V&A, said: “More than seventy years after its founding, the V&A’s exhibition celebrates the enduring influence of the House of Dior and reveals Dior’s relationship with Britain.”

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams runs from 2 February – 14 July 2019. You can purchase tickets here.

About author

Kristin was Chief Reporter for Royal Central until 2022 and has been following the British royal family for more than 30 years. Kristin has appeared in UK and U.S. media outlets discussing the British royals including BBC Breakfast, BBC World News, Sky News, the Associated Press, TIME, The Washington Post, and many others.