A nipped-in waist in the 50s. Diaphanous fabrics and short hemlines in the 60s and 70s. Sparkles and shoulder pads in the 80s. These are the fashion rules we all dressed by – even members of the Royal Family.
Exhibition at Kensington Palace
Featuring rare and exquisite dresses from HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, this exhibition will provide a feast for the eyes and a nostalgic glance back at recent decades.
Elegant dress displays will explore how these royal figures were representative of the spirit of each decade, reflecting and inspiring everyday fashions. Photography and film footage will take us back to the optimistic 1950s, rebellious 1960s and 70s, through to the extravagant 80s.
HM Queen Elizabeth II and the 1950s
Starting with the young Queen Elizabeth in the 50s, we will look at her evolving style and the way she adopted the fashions of the time and made reference to the countries she visited in the clothes she wore. An exquisite strapless peach silk Norman Hartnell gown from the early 1950s, on display for the first time in over 15 years, typifies the post-war look with its full skirt and sweetheart neckline. The narrower skirt of a later 1961 Hartnell gown shows the Queen's style changing to adopt the rules of a new decade and is fashioned in the colours of the Pakistani flag, the country where it was first worn.
Princess Margaret and the 1960s and 70s
The wardrobe of Princess Margaret, the Queen's younger sister, reflected the rule breaking of a more liberal era. From the bold jewel-like colours of her more formal dresses, such as the never before displayed Dior gown worn for the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations, to her more informal wear, including a stunning full length kaftan of ivory sari silk worn on holiday in Mustique in the 1970s, Margaret's wardrobe captured the greater freedoms of the time.
Diana, Princess of Wales and the 1980s
Finally, we will explore the style of Diana, Princess of Wales. For the first time, we will showcase her adventurous exploration of the signature looks of the 80s and 90s – from frills, shoulder pads and big hair to asymmetrical shapes and bold colours. A ballerina length midnight blue and purple dress by Jacques Azagury, on display in the UK for the first time, captures distinctive early 80s fashions with its dropped waist, oversize bow, wide shoulders and sparkling embellishment. Whatever the princess wore it had a huge impact on her public image.