Let’s start off this post with a strange-ish confession: I’m kind of a hardcore Princess Diana fan. OK, I don’t have a creepy collection of Diana merchandise in my bedroom or anything along those lines. I’ve not seen any documentaries or feature films, or even read any books about her. Maybe hardcore is not the right word – basically you will only know about my love for Lady Di if you ask me about it. And now that you’ve asked (JK, but while we’re at it), I totally remember what I was doing the day she died – I was only 10 years old and her death made me miserable!
As 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of her death, it was only natural that an exhibition like this would happen – and I was totally thrilled that it did. I loved Diana for her media persona, but as my love for fashion has only grown over the past few decades, this was a dream come true. Because oh my, Diana is one of the greatest style icons ever!
Said exhibition, “Diana: Her Fashion Story“ has been taking place at Kensington Palace for the past few months – I couldn’t really get anyone interested in coming with me other than my mother. Luckily she came to visit me in November, and even though she isn’t that into fashion she’s a hardcore Lady Di fan like me, which (I think) made the exhibition interesting for her.
I took a ton of pictures but thought it would be nice to include pictures of Princess Diana in some of the dresses that can be seeing at this exhibition, so apologies for the amount of pictures, I couldn’t help myself!
First up, kudos to Kensington Palace for allowing the visitors to take pictures. The exhibition starts off with various sketches from designers’ creations for Lady Di – I personally love fashion illustration and found these sketches beautiful and interesting, I could have looked at them for ages. But the exhibition was sadly super crowded, which made it a little harder to enjoy.
Princess Diana’s life was under scrutiny for less than 20 years – from 1981, the year she married Prince Charles, to 1997, the year of her death. It’s technically not the longest amount of time ever, but Lady Di was the most photographed woman in the world and therefore the evolution of her style has been excruciatingly documented. There are basically two Lady Di’s – 80’s Di, and 90’s Di.
The exhibition included many of her 80’s ensembles – she may have initially been known as Shy Di but there is nothing shy about her 80’s style! Big lapels, ruffles, Victoriana detailing, doily vibes, baby pink, hot pink… it seems like no one who lived through the 80’s escaped the bold and brash maximalism that decade is known for, not even Princess Diana herself. But if there’s anyone who could be forgiven for it, it’s Princess Diana. I mean, you gotta give her credit for coming out of her shell with such a bang.
Diana wore many of her dresses more than once, including this satin piece by Catherine Walker. Diana wore this dress twice in 1987, as well as in 1988 – to a film premier (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”, can you believe it?), and to a dinner for the President of Turkey. She also wore it to a formal banquet for the President of India in 1990 and for an official portrait with Prince Charles.
This chiffon dress embellished with pearls, lace and beads, was designed by Zandra Rhodes. Diana wore this dress in 1986, to the Torvil And Dean Ice Show and to a state banquet in Kyoto, Japan.
This eighties-tastic tartan piece was designed by Emanuel (who also designer her wedding dress) and was worn by the Princess during a visit to Italy in 1985.
This flamenco style ball gown with a black velvet strapless bodice and red taffeta skirt was designed by Murray Arbeid. Diana wore this gown in 1986 to a film premier in London and to the American Cup Ball. She wore it again in Spain the following year.
Princess Diana might not be remembered for wearing red, but I think red, together with black, was her colour. Then again, she was a striking woman who could pull off anything, even wearing two different coloured gloves. The scarlet red silk dress with a bodice embroidered with beads pictured above was designed by Bruce Oldfield and was worn by Diana on an official visit to Saudi Arabia.
Image via Marie Claire
I really loved seeing this blue velvet dress of hers (designed by Victor Edelstein), in which she famously danced with John Travolta on the 9th of November of 1985 at the State dinner at the White House hosted by Ronald and Nancy Reagan. It goes to show how clothes can become a fundamental part of our lives and memories. I’m sure Lady Di must have been thrilled to have a little dance with 70’s heartthrob Travolta – and that twirl in her dress probably made it all the more special.
She wore this dress again in 1987 and in 1991, to the Royal Opera House for a charity event, but it will always be remembered as the Travolta dress.
Diana wore this pink sequined ivory crepe gown by Catherine Walker on the 23rd of April in 1991 whilst on a State visit to Brazil, at a banquet given by President Collor at the Itamaraty Palace.
No one did sequins like Lady Di… Designed by Catherine Walker, who became Diana’s go-to designer and friend, this beautiful V-neck gown embroidered with turquoise sequins was worn twice by Diana – in 1986 to a film premiere, and in 1990 to the Diamond Ball.
Image via Daily Mail
This is one of my favourite Lady Di looks. From the pastel pink suit (by Catherine Walker) and nails to the pearl earrings, beige bag (by Versace) and Jackie O. vibes, I love how everything matches so perfectly. It’s so chic it hurts!
I love the artistry on this dress by Catherine Walker, I think it’s one of the most original dresses she ever wore. So effortless yet so different thanks to the embellished bird silhouettes (I think they’re supposed to be falcons). Diana wore this on a visit to Saudi Arabia.
Diana wore this black crepe evening dress, designed by Catherine Walker, to an official visit to India in 1992.
Of course, the exhibition couldn’t not include what Diana is probably best known for – her LBD’s. Because no one wore LBD’s like Lady Di. OK, so these dresses weren’t always black, but I’m freely using the term LBD in the sense that these dresses were stunning shift dresses that to this day have a timeless feel.
90’s Diana is probably the most iconic Diana of all. Minimalism is synonymous with this decade and Diana’s style reflects that – gone was the excess and bright shades of the 80’s and in came a more streamlined and sexier silhouette mixed with softer hues. Slim and tall, Diana was stunning and fitted dresses were made for her.
This super chic and kinda sexy dress was yet another perfect, oh-so-Lady-Di creation by Catherine Walker.
This is probably one of my favourite Little Blue Dresses of Lady Di’s – it matches her eyes perfectly! She wore it to the Royal Albert Hall for a performance of Swan Lake by the English National Ballet on the 3rd of June of 1997.
The exhibition also included images from as well as the dresses worn in the now iconic photoshoot Diana did with fashion photographer Mario Testino (my fave!) for Vanity Fair magazine. The shoot and accompanying interview was intended to reflect a new Diana – it was also a chance for her to model a handful of the 79 dresses she had auctioned that year for charity. The issue came out in July 1997 – Diana died the following month.
The dress photographed above was designed by Catherine Walker – Diana had worn this gown to a State Banquet for the King and Queen of Malaya in 1993.
This beautiful embellished dress was also designed by Catherine Walker.
This dress was also designed by Catherine Walker and was worn exclusively for the Vanity Fair photoshoot.
Diana wore this gorgeous Atelier Versace dress when photographed by fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier in 1991. The photograph would then be used as a cover image by Harper’s Bazaar magazine in November 1997 to pay an homage to the princess following her untimely death.
After what felt like an endless search on Google Images, I couldn’t help but share a few gems from Lady Di’s extensive style file that weren’t in this exhibition but that I personally love to bits.
Image via Marie Claire
I just love Eighties Di – she embraced the eighties like there was no tomorrow. I love her use of bright colours, enormous lapels and playful prints. I mean, hello red and polkadots.
I’ve never had a thing for business wear and have mixed feelings about lilac but this suit is EVERYTHING. The nude heels and bag, the belted waistline on the blazer… it’s perfect, really. The fact that this picture would have been taken over 20 years ago proves just how timeless this look is.
Image via Elle UK
I couldn’t not include this beautiful picture of Lady Diana pulling off the trickiest colour combination of all, pink and red. So eighties, so OTT, so unattainable and yet so 2017 (and hopefully 2018 too!).
This ensemble was designed by Catherine Walker (the hat was by milliner Philip Somerville) and she wore it upon her arrival to Kuwait during her tour of the Gulf States, in March of 1989.
Image via Vanity Fair
How adorable is this outfit? It’s so painfully cute and so easy to reinterpret RN (gingham was big last year, and I’m sure it’ll be big this summer too). I love the oversized Jamaica pink jumper matched with the gingham capri trousers – it’s matching heaven and makes me desperate for a pair of pink gingham trousers. I might even through in a white pair of penny loafers.
I urge those who love fashion to look up Lady Di’s fashion on every possible platform – it’s a visual feast for the eyes. It is especially a treat for those who like me love the eighties and bright colours (I know you’re out there somewhere). Princess Diana might not have quite found her style in the eighties, but her choices were daring and bold, and the results were often a display of delightful flamboyance.
As for the exhibition, I would hesitate to recommend it to those who are not necessarily Princess Diana fans. Like I said I loved Lady Di and I love fashion, so this was a perfect event for me – however, given that she wore so, so many incredible looks in less than 20 years, it’s a shame there just weren’t more pieces featured (I think there were about 30 pieces on show altogether). But nevertheless I enjoyed exploring some of her most iconic fashion moments – it also served as a reminder that, while she truly loved fashion and it became a part of her identity, it will never overshadow any of the work she did to make a difference in this world. She was a style icon, but above all she was the queen of hearts.
Exhibition imagery photographed by me on November 21st, 2017 – other imagery found via Google Image Search!
“Diana: Her Fashion Story” is still on at Kensington Palace