Up close it sparkles. That’s something you would only know when you get within a few centimetres of the late Diana, Princess of Wales’ iconic wedding gown. Shimmering, impactful, and with that extraordinarily long train (shown off to full effect here), it is without doubt the main attraction at Kensington Palace’s new fashion exhibition, Royal Style In The Making.
The dress is the second in the exhibition, but more than steals the show – as it was always intended to. Designed to be seen on television, the ivory gown created by the relatively new-to-the-fashion-scene Emanuels featured bows, taffeta, petticoats and exaggerated shoulders, and was said to have been inspired by both Queen Victoria and Queen Mary’s style. This desire to reference bygone Queens and Princesses is a thread of continuity that runs throughout the exhibition, highlighting how royal women frequently look back rather than setting trends.
Centred around the big five designers that have been important to recent generations of royal women, the Queen Mother, the Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, the exhibition takes a look at how each couturier made their mark on royal fashion.
As well as the Emanuels’ section, there’s also one on David Sassoon, another of Princess Diana’s favourite designers, who helped her hone her image. Her ‘going away’ dress is shown here, a pink skirt suit with bows, alongside multiple sketches and letters sent from the Princess to the designer.
There’s also a focus on Norman Hartnell, perhaps the most famous royal designer of the past century, known for his work on the Queen’s wedding dress and coronation dress. Before Hartnell, came Madame Handley-Seymour, the English designer who honed her craft making skillful copies of Lanvin and Chanel. She was a favourite of Queen Mary and was chosen to make the Queen Mother’s wedding dress and coronation dress, the toile of the latter being on display.
The exhibition ends with a stunning Georgian-inspired ball gown made for Princess Margaret by theatrical designer Oliver Messel. It’s the only piece here that really rivals Diana’s extravagant bridal look – and is very Daphne Bridgerton.
Royal Style In The Making is open at Kensington Palace now. To book, visit hrp.org.uk
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