A nipped-in waist in the 50s, short skirts and diaphanous fabrics in the 60s and 70s, sparkles and shoulder pads in the 80s – these were the fashion rules we all dressed by, even members of the Royal Family.
Take a nostalgic look back at recent decades of dress through the wardrobes of three royal women in their fashion heydays: HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, Princess Margaret in the 1960s and 70s and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s.
Five rooms of elegant displays explore how these women reflected the trends of the day, negotiating the rules of dressing fashionably within the 'rules' of a royal wardrobe. Featuring 21 couture dresses, the exhibition includes film and photography to set the scene of the times in which these gowns were worn.
Turn the pages of this magazine to discover more.
HM The Queen in the
Grace and elegance
The fashion 'rules' for The Queen in the 1950s were full of grace and elegance. Evening gowns were long with full skirts and nipped-in waists forming an hourglass silhouette. The dresses were embellished with beading and lace and worn with long evening gloves. The Queen also had other 'rules' to consider – from 'diplomatic' dressing to wearing light colours to ensure she stood out in in black and white photography.
Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies
The Queen's patronage of London couturiers Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies helped to build the capital's reputation as the design centre for fine evening gowns and impeccable tailoring. Hartnell would design her coronation gown in 1953.
Princess Margaret in the
60s & 70s
Bold colour and 'slim look' dresses
The young Princess Margaret followed fashion closely and her style was widely imitated. Shown here together for the first time, her clothes reflect the rule-breaking of a more liberal era and the greater freedoms of her role. The Princess embraced bold bright colours and the new 'slim look' seen in the purple Dior evening gown worn for The Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations.
Marc Bohan for Christian Dior, Carl Toms
Princess Margaret was loyal to Marc Bohan at Christian Dior and like Jackie Kennedy wore his elegant 'slim look' evening dresses. In the 1970s she spent much time at her Caribbean residence on the island of Mustique and favoured Eastern-inspired kaftan designs for the hotter climate, such as the one by Carl Toms displayed in the exhibition.
Diana, Princess of Wales
in the 80s
Sparkles and drama
The wardrobe of Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s was full of sparkles, drama and glamour. She popularised many key looks of the time such as wide shoulders, dropped waists, bold trimmings and sparkling embellishment. Whatever the Princess wore had a huge impact on her public image and on British fashion.
Catherine Walker, Zandra Rhodes, Murray Arbeid
The Princess' fashion choices were scrutinised across the globe and her faithful patronage of home-grown designers and much-imitated style was credited with almost single-handedly reviving the British fashion industry, making designers such as Bruce Oldfield and Catherine Walker household names.
Exclusive iPad app
Available on-site when you visit
We’ve collaborated with New York-based FiftyThree to create a bespoke version of the award winning iPad illustration app Paper.
Put the 'fashion rules' into practice - create beautiful fashion illustrations based on each era's shapes and colours and inspired by the dresses on display – then share your creations with your friends.
Fashion Rules is included in Kensington Palace admission. Members go free.