Diana’s Fashion Story

A couple of weeks ago I  visited the exhibition of Princess Diana’s dresses at Kensington Palace in London. It traced the development of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits when she was first dating Prince Charles to the later more confident and glamorous style of her later life.

Included was a display of fashion sketches which showed the process of design.

I also had a look around the fabulous state rooms Kensington Palace before visiting the display of Diana’s dresses – the rooms were beautiful however I particularly enjoyed viewing a number of the 18th Century costumes created in paper which were on display.

The paper outfits were inspired by costumes dated about 1775 – they included a number of gowns and a gentleman’s outfit . They were beautifully designed and very impressive.

The ‘Diana Fashion Story ‘display had about 25 outfits in total.  The costumes were beautiful and it was wonderful to see dresses worn by Princess Diana herself  – I have included a few of my favourite outfits below – 

The ‘Travolta Dress’ an off-the-shoulder midnight blue velvet evening gown.

The “Travolta dress is a dress once owned by Diana, Princess of Wales. It was worn for the first time at a gala dinner at the White House in November 1985. It is named after the American actor John Travolta, with whom the Princess danced. 

Ice Blue Silk Gown with beading 1991 Atelier Versace

As Princess of Wales Diana has adopted the royal tradition of wearing clothes by British Designers.

Following her separation from the Prince of wales her royal duties ended and she started to work with foreign designers.The Italian designer Gianni Versace was her favourite. This dress was worn at Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot in 1991. This dress is amazing – I love the style, colour and bead-work it was certainly my favourite dress in the exhibition!

Black Silk Velvet and Beaded Evening Dress

The Princess wore this dress for an UNESCO charity event at the palace of Versailles in December 1994. Catherine Walker recalled this was the first ‘sexy’ dress she designed for Diana. The fashion would embrace her new look.

Pink Satin Evening Gown white white raw silk collar and cuffs by Catherine Walker 1987

When the Princess posed for an official portrait by Terence Donovan she needed a dress which stood out next to the prince of wales ceremonial uniform. Catherine walker devised this stately yet feminine gown for Diana to wear.

Strapless White Silk Crepe de Chine Dress and jacket embroidered with sequins and pearls. Catherine Walker 1989

The press dubbed this the ‘Elvis dress’ because of similarities to Presley’s Las Vegas   outfits. In fact, Catherine Walker took inspiration from Elizabethan necklines when creating the distinctive collar of this jacket.  Walker later commented ‘she shone in the dress and the dress shone around her’.

Catherine Walker Sequinned sea-green evening gown 1986

This was originally worn by Diana to the Vienna Burgtheater while on a state visit to Austria in 1986. The dress was one of a large group order Diana submitted to the designer the month before the trip for which she didn’t ask to see any provisional sketches, trusting Ms Walker to select and make the dresses as she saw fit based on her knowledge of what Diana would like and need.It was called her ‘Dynasty Dress’ as it had the sparkle and big shoulders with pads which were popular in the 1980’s.

Catherine Walker Grey satin dress with simulated pearl embroidery

Catherine Walkers Designs for the Princess became simpler throughout the 1990’s. This reflected general trends in fashion away fro the excesses of the 1980’s. The international best-dressed list praised Diana for a ‘non-dowdy modern style of royal dress. It was worn for a Vanity Fair Photo Shoot in 1997.

Catherine Walker Blue Shift Dress 1997

This day dress displayed here is the only one that Diana did not wear to an official event. She chose it for a shopping trip to Bond Street in Central London. After sixteen years in the public eye, Diana had found her style for both formal events and casual outings.

Catherine Walker Cream Silk Crepe de Chine dress embroidered with sequins 1986

The Princess carefully chose her look to honour host nations of the national bird of Saudi Arabia when the Princess visited there. The high neckline and long sleeves also respected local customs.

It was still wonderful to see outfits worn by Princess Diana herself.  Anyone with an interest in costumes, fashion, history and the royal family would certainly enjoy this event!

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