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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace is open until summer 2015
London W8 4PX
£15 entry (includes all public palace rooms and exhibitions)