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Regal Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

Zoe Craig
By Zoe Craig Last edited 41 months ago
Regal Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace
A case of beautiful dresses worn by HM The Queen opens the new Fashion Rules show at Kensington Palace
A case of beautiful dresses worn by HM The Queen opens the new Fashion Rules show at Kensington Palace
Worn in by The Queen in Nova Scotia during a visit to Canada in 1959, this grey silk organza gown is embroidered with a pink mayflower motif, the provincial flower of Nova Scotia. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013
Worn in by The Queen in Nova Scotia during a visit to Canada in 1959, this grey silk organza gown is embroidered with a pink mayflower motif, the provincial flower of Nova Scotia. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013
A case of dresses worn by The Queen. The striking green and white dress was worn in Pakistan: again the colours used by the designers are a nod to that nation's flag's colours
A case of dresses worn by The Queen. The striking green and white dress was worn in Pakistan: again the colours used by the designers are a nod to that nation's flag's colours
Worn by The Queen for the opening of the New Zealand parliament in 1963. Norman Hartnell was renowned for his intricately detailed beading. This gown of oyster-coloured duchesse satin is embroidered with pearls, beads, diamante and sequins. The scissor cut skirt creates fullness, revealing further embroidery underneath. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013
Worn by The Queen for the opening of the New Zealand parliament in 1963. Norman Hartnell was renowned for his intricately detailed beading. This gown of oyster-coloured duchesse satin is embroidered with pearls, beads, diamante and sequins. The scissor cut skirt creates fullness, revealing further embroidery underneath. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013
This brightly-coloured, short, A-line dress and jacket, worn by The Queen in 1972, is in keeping with fashions of the time. Its simple, single-colour design ensures The Queen is visible in large crowds. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013. Image Historic Royal Palaces / Robin Forster
This brightly-coloured, short, A-line dress and jacket, worn by The Queen in 1972, is in keeping with fashions of the time. Its simple, single-colour design ensures The Queen is visible in large crowds. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013. Image Historic Royal Palaces / Robin Forster
Worn by Princess Margaret at a film premier in London in 1951. This glamorous party frock, (plunging halter-neck design) marked a departure from the demure style traditionally adopted by Royal women. More Hollywood glamour than Royal wardrobe, its risque nature was widely reported by the press who were even more excited to find the Princess smoking a cigarette while wearing it. Historic Royal Palaces © Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto.
Worn by Princess Margaret at a film premier in London in 1951. This glamorous party frock, (plunging halter-neck design) marked a departure from the demure style traditionally adopted by Royal women. More Hollywood glamour than Royal wardrobe, its risque nature was widely reported by the press who were even more excited to find the Princess smoking a cigarette while wearing it. Historic Royal Palaces © Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto.
Made from luxurious Indian sari silk, this ensemble was designed by Carl Toms for Princess Margaret to wear to a fancy dress party in 1976. Kaftans and turbans were often worn by the Princess in the 1970s as "ethnic" clothing flooded into fashionable London boutiques. Historic Royal Palaces © Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto
Made from luxurious Indian sari silk, this ensemble was designed by Carl Toms for Princess Margaret to wear to a fancy dress party in 1976. Kaftans and turbans were often worn by the Princess in the 1970s as "ethnic" clothing flooded into fashionable London boutiques. Historic Royal Palaces © Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto
This evening gown by London-based designer Bruce Oldfield is fashionable with its wide shoulders and dropped waist while being modest with long sleeves, a high neckline and full-length skirt making it appropriate for Saudi Arabia, where it was first worn by Princess Diana in 1986. © Linda Sarna and Roberta Hurtig / Historic Royal Palaces / NTI Newsteam
This evening gown by London-based designer Bruce Oldfield is fashionable with its wide shoulders and dropped waist while being modest with long sleeves, a high neckline and full-length skirt making it appropriate for Saudi Arabia, where it was first worn by Princess Diana in 1986. © Linda Sarna and Roberta Hurtig / Historic Royal Palaces / NTI Newsteam
The case of dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, in the final room of the Fashion Rules exhibition
The case of dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, in the final room of the Fashion Rules exhibition
Conservators put the finishing touches to a dance dress by Jacques Azagury 1985 as worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. Historic Royal Palaces © PEOPLE Magazine/Time inc
Conservators put the finishing touches to a dance dress by Jacques Azagury 1985 as worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. Historic Royal Palaces © PEOPLE Magazine/Time inc
Worn by Princess Di for a state banquet in Kyoto, during a royal visit in 1986. The colour of this shimmering evening dress by Zandra Rhodes referenced the cherry blossom in flower at the time of the royal visit. © From the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection of Historic Royal Palaces
Worn by Princess Di for a state banquet in Kyoto, during a royal visit in 1986. The colour of this shimmering evening dress by Zandra Rhodes referenced the cherry blossom in flower at the time of the royal visit. © From the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection of Historic Royal Palaces

Kensington Palace has a new exhibition to complement its permanent collections on Queen Victoria, and the King's and Queen's State Apartments. Fashion Rules is a display of dresses worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana, bringing a modern element to the Palace, part of which is currently being renovated for the arrival of the next royal clothes horse, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Across five bijou rooms, more than 20 dresses create a potted social history of design and diplomacy from the optimistic 50s, through the adventurous 60s and 70s to the garish "Dynasty Di" of the 1980s.

The comparisons and contrasts are fascinating. The first room, filled with masterpieces by designers Hartnell and Amies, show how The Queen's dresses were frequently light in colour, so she stood out in the black-and-white film footage of the time. The exquisitely beaded Norman Hartnell dress which opens the show gives a great impression of a diminutive monarch with a love of nipped-in waists and full skirts. The sheer classiness of the gowns on show are a real contrast to Diana's dresses, a few rooms later, which appear garish and gaudy in comparison. Here, the dropped waists and long hemlines serve as a reminder of Diana's elegant 5ft 10 frame as well as the "more is more" ethos of the decade. The bright near-MTV colours, too, speak of another age.

But there are similarities too. A gorgeous ivory dress with wide emerald straps and a flash of the same green in a theatrical bustle was worn by The Queen in Pakistan, echoing that country's flag. Later, an insipid asymmetric Catherine Walker column dress belonging to Princess Di was the result of her not wanting to reflect any of the colours from the Brazilian or Argentinian football teams as she toured Brazil during the the 1990 World Cup finals.

In the centre sits choice items from the wardrobe of Princess Margaret; surely the outfits which have seen the most fun. From antique lace-infused minidresses to sumptuous fur coats to slightly bonkers "fancy dress" kaftans and turbans, these are the dresses that met ABBA and Louis Armstrong, partied in 70s Mustique, and raised a few eyebrows. A gorgeous halterneck with a slightly plunging neckline is a perfect example of the differences between the sisters' styles. More Marilyn than monarch, this is a dress that delighted the press, not least because Princess M was spotted smoking a cigarette while wearing it.

For fashion history fans, this is an excellent exhibition showing off some amazing artistry as well as reminding us of the people and politics the behind these pretty dresses.

Fashion Rules is at Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea, W8 4PX until 4 July 2015. Tickets included in admission price: between £11.40 and £15. Visit hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace to find out more.

Last Updated 14 July 2013

indrajit sen

brilliant!