As one of the most photographed women in the world, Diana had a significant influence on British style and fashion. She has endured as the embodiment of a modern princess through her public image. She cultivated this image using photography, clothing and her unique talent for connecting with people to further her charitable aims. The dresses, which will be displayed alongside fashion illustrations and photographs, will reflect some important and memorable moments in Diana’s public life – from the famous black strapless evening gown by Emanuel which the Princess wore during an early official engagement with the Prince of Wales, which has never been on public display before, to a stunning sleek black cocktail dress by Gianni Versace which she wore several years later. The exhibits offer glimpses of a Princess who captured the Nation’s hearts.
This beautiful and evocative display will explore the Princess’s evolving style. Her early public appearances revealed an awkward young woman but she soon developed her own personal taste in clothes. Millions of people got to know the Princess through her red carpet moments, grand photographic portraits and informal snapshots at her home at Kensington Palace. An evening dress which created a splash in the newspapers, a shocking pink Catherine Walker gown and a popular demure cocktail dress by Bellville Sassoon Lorcan Mullany, photographs and fashion illustrations will trace Diana’s evolution from young woman to Princess.
The display will showcase the dresses at their best. Interiors designer and stylist Finola Inger has created an elegant and theatrical set which will include a bespoke wallpaper by renowned artist Julie Verhoeven inspired by some of the Princess’s key fashion moments.
Deirdre Murphy, curator, said: “We have carefully selected this collection of exquisite dresses to illustrate to visitors Diana’s evolving style and the important role fashion played in creating her public image. As the princess’s former home, Kensington Place is an ideal setting to showcase these gowns – the atmosphere of the display will be truly magical.”
- Black silk taffeta gown by Emanuel. It was worn on Diana’s first official engagement with the Prince of Wales on 9th March 1981 to Goldsmiths' Hall, City of London, for a fundraising event in aid of the Royal Opera House. The designers of this dress went on to design the Princess’s wedding dress. The dress has never been on public display in the UK before. Generously lent by the Museo de la Moda, Chile.
- Classic formal dinner dress of ivory silk crepe by Catherine Walker. Ordered for a State Banquet for the King and Queen of Malaysia in 1993. It was also one of the dresses Mario Testino chose to use in his famous photo-shoot in advance of the Christie’s charity auction in 1997. Generously lent by the Museo de la Moda, Chile.
- Fuchsia and purple silk chiffon sari style dress by Catherine Walker. It was worn in Thailand for the Royal tour in February 1988. The Princess completed the outfit with orchids and bougainvilaea flowers in her hair. Originally sold at Christie’s charity auction in 1997. The dress has never been on public display in the UK before. Generously lent by the Museo de la Moda, Chile.
- Black and white cocktail dress by Bellville Sassoon Lorcan Mullany. Worn on a number of occasions including the London Symphony Orchestra’s 85th Anniversary Concert at London’s Barbican Centre (1989) and a gala performance at the London Coliseum (1991). Originally sold at Christie’s charity auction in 1997. The dress has never been on public display in the UK before. Generously lent by the Museo de la Moda, Chile.
- Black ribbed silk shift evening dress by Gianni Versace. Worn to the London premiere of Apollo 13, at UIP House in Hammersmith 7th September 1995. The Princess also owned a version of the dress in white. Originally sold at Christie’s charity auction in 1997. Generously lent by Suzanne and Jess King.
Diana is part of Historic Royal Palaces’ £12 million major project to transform the visitor experience of Kensington Palace in time for Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics. The re-opening of the palace on 26 March 2012 will also include an exciting new presentation of the magnificent State Apartments; a major permanent exhibition dedicated to Queen Victoria in her own words and improved visitor facilities (including a new entrance, café, shop, Clore Learning Centre) and beautiful landscaped public gardens reconnecting the Palace to Kensington Gardens.