Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

It’s hard to think of the Queen and Princess Margaret as fashion trendsetters, in the same way you can’t imagine your Gran rolling down Carnaby Street in the swinging 60’s, but as the young princess became Queen in 1952 that is apparently what happened. Clothing rationing had come to an end and the Queen and her sister helped popularise the ‘New Look’ of Christian Dior, characterised by generous amounts of cloth and feminine cuts, shedding the war time uniform and austere dresses.

But of course they did it with British designers instead.

Fashion rules, Queen dress at Kensington Palace

Designed by Normanc Hartnell, 1963. Worn by the Queen in New Zealand

The dresses on display explore the ‘Rules’ of royal fashion from the 1950s to the 1980s, including the use of British designers, fifties femininity, embellishments and diplomatic sensitivity. Princess Margaret’s dresses show the extra freedom she had in her choice of designs, with much more Hollywood glamour making its way into her wardrobe.

Hollywood glamour for Princess Margaret, Kensington Palace exhibition

Dress worn by Princess Margaret, 1951

The ’60’s and ’70’s were typified by alternative fashions rather than couture, but you can see in this exhibition how the influences of the day entered Royal designs, with brighter colours, shorter hemlines and eastern influences. And who wouldn’t want a silk caftan and turban specially made for your fancy dress party in Mustique?

Dress for Princess Margaret by Carl Toms, Kensington Palace Royal Fashions exhibition

Silk caftan and turban made for Princess Margaret by Carl Toms, 1976

norman Hartnell design dress and coat worn by the Queen

Matching coat and dress designed by Norman Hartnell. Worn by the Queen in 1972 and 1974.

The 80’s room consists of four dresses once owned by Princess Diana and is pretty fabulous. It doesn’t really do justice to Princess Diana as a fashion icon, but the video goes some way to show the variety of dresses she wore. The small selection here show some real 80’s classics with the blue dropped waist dance dress being pretty special. As a child of the 80’s these may make me cringe more than most, but I really still don’t understand why anyone thought them attractive.

Jacques Azagury dress for Princess Diana at Kensington Palace Royal Fashions exhibition

Dance dress designed by Jacques Azagury, worn by Princess Diana in 1985

It’s a very interesting and very well curated exhibition with lots of details, videos and quotes alongside the dresses and all in a wonderful setting at Kensington Palace. I actually went along just to see this exhibition, but ended up exploring all the palace had to offer and as a taster, and because it fits so well with the Royal fashion theme here’s Queen Victoria’s wedding dress and riding kit… but more of that later

Wedding dress, Victoria Revisited at Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria’s wedding dress on display at Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria's riding kit on display at Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria’s riding kit on display at Kensington Palace

Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace is open until summer 2015

Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens
London W8 4PX

£15 entry (includes all public palace rooms and exhibitions)


6 responses to “Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

    • Its worth it (although I did get in free with my Arts Pass so that helped) – I actually felt a little star struck going into the room where Queen Victoria was born!

  1. My husband and I visited the Royal Fashion Rules Exhibition and were disappointed by it. The promotion for it suggested it was going to be a fantastic exhibition but it was anything but this. Yes, some of the clothing on display was beautiful and yes,there was an interactive component to the exhibition. However, if one simply wanted to view the royal dresses (and there were only 21 view) and read the small information boards accompanying the dresses, it was a very limited offering. The supporting videos were very short and did little to add value to the exhibition. We felt this exhibition promised much but under delivered; it represented poor value for money. In comparison, we paid slightly less to go to David Bowie Is at V&A and found that exhibition to be stupendous. It comprised 300 odd items that were imaginatively and creatively curated. It took us four hours to go through that exhibition; the Royal Fashion Rules exhibition took us 25 minutes to go through.

    • ah, yes, if you were expecting something on the Bowie Is scale then you would be very disappointed, that was pretty spectacular. Whereas this is more understated elegance, which is quite fitting really.

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