Stunning New Exhibit of Princess Diana's Gowns Opens: Find Out Which One 'Cemented Her as an Icon'
When it comes to royal dress code, Princess Diana was the queen of glamour
The exhibit features dresses worn by the late princess, including a few pieces from some of her favorite designers – Bruce Oldfield and Catherine Walker. There are also fun accessories from fashion-forward Princess Margaret, who loved designer Christian Dior and asked royal couturier Norman Hartnell to create outfits in the style of what became known as the French designer’s “New Look.”
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Libby Thompson, curator of the exhibit, tells PEOPLE, “Diana, Princess of Wales is still a really great draw for our visitors here,” adding that about 80 percent of the people who come want to feel that Diana “is a presence here.”
“She had a huge impact on fashion during her life,” Thompson continues. “Catherine Walker famously said that she almost transcended fashion. Her role as a royal woman meant she had to dress to certain rules. But she took parts of fashion that she liked and adapted it to really suit her and suit an occasion.
“Many, many people wanted to copy her. Everyone wanted to get the Diana look and that s still prevalent today. People still look at her as an icon.”
One key dress on display is the Catherine Walker green velvet dress with a halter neck that she was photographed wearing by Mario Testino in 1997. “It really cemented her as an icon,” Thompson says.
As for the Queen and Princess Margaret, “We wanted to delve into it a bit deeper into what we’d started with [the previous exhibit] Fashion Rules,” she says. “We have mixed it up a little bit and it s more thematic and really gives people an insight into these women a bit further.”
Also on display is the gown royal trendsetter Queen Elizabeth wore for her official portrait to mark her 1977 Silver Jubilee. The shot was used as the basis of a pop art screen print by Andy Warhol, as well as the image that helped make the cover design of punk band the Sex Pistols’ hit, “God Save the Queen.”
The exhibit also shows how the women chose their dress styles and colors “diplomatically, Thompson adds. They also had to pay incredible attention to detail, “because these women were photographed so much, the details would show up.”
The daring plunging back on a long black evening gown Bruce Oldfield designed for Diana in 1985 is also highlighted. “It is sleek and quite daring for a royal lady,” says Thompson.
Next to it is a petite pink and black lace dress worn by Margaret in 1953 that looked fabulous in black and white photos during that time.
Sponsored by Estee Lauder Companies, the exhibit opens Feb. 11.