Classic dresses from the collection of HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales will come together for a brand new exhibition at Kensington Palace, set to open on July 4, which will provide “a new take on the story of the monarchy in the late twentieth century,” according to exhibition organizer, Historic Royal Palaces.
The show entitled, “Fashion Rules: Dress from the collections of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales,” will showcase “rare and exquisite” dresses, and with a little help from photography and film, will take visitors back to the 1950s through the 1990s, to explore how these royal icons reflected and inspired fashion, according to a press release.
“This exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to get up close to these wonderful dresses and be transported to the times in which they were worn,” said Cassie Davies-Strodder, curator of the exhibition.
On display for the first time is a Dior gown from the collection of the Queen’s younger sister, Princess Margaret. The gown, which the late Countess of Snowdon wore at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebration, and other mini dresses to be displayed, are meant to capture the spirit of the liberal 1970s era, according to exhibition organizers.
The display will also feature some of Diana, Princess of Wales’ iconic dresses including a ballerina length blue dance dress by Jacques Azagury, on display in the UK for the first time. This is also one of the dresses Diana put on auction at Christie’s in 1997 to raise money for her charities, which is widely reported to be her teenage son, Prince William’s idea.
According to the auction’s lot description, the dress was worn by the late Princess of Wales—still remembered today for her significant impact on women’s everyday fashion— to a visit to Florence in 1985, and to Toronto in 1986. With its bow at the hip and shiny embroidered beads, the exhibition seeks to show Diana’s take on 1980s and 1990s fashion.
In March, Historic Royal Palaces confirmed to the British Press that the charity bought two of Diana’s dresses from a recent auction: a pink sequined crepe dress designed by Catherine Walker that the fashion icon wore in Brazil in 1991; and a black Bruce Oldfield velvet dress which she wore for an official portrait by Lord Snowdon and at the gala opening of Les Miserables in 1985. The charity said it hopes to display at least one of these dresses at the summer exhibition.
The dresses from the Queen’s collection will show how she made reference to the countries she visited and how her style evolved to adapt to the changing times. It will feature a strapless peach silk Norman Hartnell gown with a full skirt and sweetheart neckline, last seen on display 15 years ago, from the collection of a young Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s. Viewers will then see a 1961 Hartnell gown with a narrower skirt, showing the Queen’s changing style.
Kensington Palace was home to both the Princess of Wales and the Countess of Snowdon. The palace was Diana’s London base, where she spent a lot of time raising the young Princes William and Harry. Princess Margaret lived in Kensington Palace’s Apartment 1A until her death in 2002.
“Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales all have a special connection with Kensington Palace, making it the perfect location to celebrate these modern royal women in their fashion heyday,” Davies-Strodder said.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Catherine, are expected to move in to Princess Margaret’s former apartment after renovations are completed. If it all goes according to plan, the palace will soon be home to both these iconic dresses and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s child, Diana’s first grandchild, due in July.
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that manages the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace. Last year, the charity displayed some of Diana’s dresses at Kensington Palace in an exhibition entitled, “Diana: Glimpses of a Modern Princess.”