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Princess Diana's iconic dresses on show for anniversary

Thursday February 23 2017

Dresses worn by the late Princess Diana will go on show from Friday on the 20th anniversary of her death in new exhibition charting her style reign. PHOTO | FILE

Dresses worn by the late Princess Diana will go on show from Friday on the 20th anniversary of her death in new exhibition charting her style reign. PHOTO | FILE 

AFP
By AFP
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LONDON

Glittering gowns, elegant suits and bold mini-dresses worn by the late Princess Diana will go on show from Friday on the 20th anniversary of her death in new exhibition charting her style reign.

"Diana: Her Fashion Story", hosted in her London residence Kensington Palace, follows her evolution from the demure outfits of her first public appearances to the glamorous gowns of her later life.

The show charts how she not only rewrote the rules of royal dressing with a more informal style but also expressed herself through her fashion choices, before her 1997 death in a car crash in Paris.

"Each of the dresses is like a mini biography... They're not just what she wore but they tell stories," Libby Thompson, a curator, told AFP.

Dresses made by desinger Catherine Walker in
Dresses made by desinger Catherine Walker in 1987 (2L), and Gina Fratini in 1990 (2R), worn by worn by Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales in Hong Kong in 1989, are pictured during a press preview of the forthcoming exhibition entitled "Diana: Her Fashion Story", at Kensington Palace in London on February 22, 2017. PHOTO | AFP

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Fellow curator Eleri Lynn said: "We see her growing in confidence throughout her life, increasingly taking control of how she was represented".

Some of the highlights include the discreet pale pink Emanuel blouse she wore for her engagement portrait in 1981 and the dazzling ink blue Victor Edelstein velvet dress she wore when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985.

A dress by designer Victor Edelstein, and worn
A dress by designer Victor Edelstein, and worn by Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales at the State Dinner at the White House in Washington in 1985. PHOTO | AFP

So iconic is the "Travolta" dress that it sold for Sh32 million (£250,000, $310,000) at auction three years ago.

Another gown, a silk velvet dress she wore for private events at Buckingham Palace during the 1980s, is sure to charm many visitors.

Tiny fingerprints believed to belong to one of her sons — Prince William and Prince Harry — have been found on the material, preserved through the last 30 years.

A collection of dresses made by desingers
A collection of dresses made by desingers Regimes in 1979 (L), Bruce Oldfield in 1990 (C), and Catherine Walker in 1987, all worn by worn by Britain's Diana, Princess of Wales in Hong Kong in 1989, are pictured during a press preview of the forthcoming exhibition entitled "Diana: Her Fashion Story", at Kensington Palace in London on February 22, 2017. PHOTO | AFP

TAKING RISKS 

The show will also highlight how throughout her years as one of the world's most photographed women, Diana revealed herself to be a diplomatic dresser.

The "Gold Falcon Gown" is a perfect example.

She wore the Catherine Walker cream silk dress embroidered with gold falcons — the national bird of Saudi Arabia — during a visit to the country in 1986.

But it was by breaking the codes of royal dressing and embracing a more practical style that Diana transitioned from the Princess of Wales into the "People's Princess" — the term used by then prime minister Tony Blair after her death.

"She was taking risks, pushing boundaries with her fashion," Poppy Cooper, the exhibition's producer told AFP highlighting how Diana wore black and trousers at formal events.

Both were highly unusual choices for royal women.

"Lady Di" also abandoned the protocol of wearing gloves, except during a 1987 visit to Spain where she wore one red glove and one black glove, causing "a media frenzy" according to Cooper.

She also developed a more informal "working wardrobe" of chic Catherine Walker suits and tailored shift dresses to champion the causes she cared about.

"She wanted to be known as a workhorse, not as a clotheshorse," Cooper added.

These outfits, designed to convey approachability, she wore on charitable outings including meeting people with HIV and visiting children in hospital.

Following her separation from Prince Charles in 1992, Diana threw the rulebook away again by adopting a bolder look featuring many figure-hugging mini dresses.

The cream silk mini she wore while attending a charity auction of her more memorable dresses in 1997 is testament to that.

Held in Kensington Palace, her residence for 15 years, the exhibition will extend to the gardens where her sons have said they will add a statue of Diana to mark the anniversary of her passing.

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