The long-awaited official look-back at Princess Diana’s fashion opened at her former home inKensington Palace in London Friday, allowing her legion of fans to relive happy memories of her life as the Princess of Wales nearly 20 years after her death.
Diana: Her Fashion Story, one of a number of events marking the anniversary of her death, traces the forever-young princess (she was 36 when died Aug. 31, 1997, in a Paris car crash) from her days as a naive teen aristocrat in demure clothes to her later status as a knock-em-dead global fashion goddess.
The exhibit, which runs through 2017, was mounted by Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that runs some of the museum-palaces of the United Kingdom. Tickets for the two opening days have already sold out, suggesting interest in Diana will never die.
The exhibit doesn’t include everything she ever wore; she auctioned off many of her outfits for charity before she died, and more were auctioned to collectors after she died. But there are 25 outfits, plus designers’ sketches of their outfits.
Some of these frocks were especially memorable, if for nothing else than that they were all too reflective of deep-1980s fashion.
Take a look:
The White House dress
Americans will remember fondly Victor Edelstein’s inky blue silk velvet gown that she wore to dance with John Travolta at a state dinner with Prince Charles at President Reagan’s White House in 1985. The next day, dramatic photos of the two poised on the dance floor dominated front-pages around the world.
The Elvis dress
Except for the tiara, this strapless white silk crepe dress and high-collared bolero jacket, all-over embroidered with sequins and pearls, reminded some of the white jump suits Elvis Presley wore during performances in the years just before he died.
This outfit, for an official visit to Hong Kong in 1989, was designed by Catherine Walker, who was one of Diana’s favorites; she died in 2010.
Power suiting, Diana-style:
A working princess needed a chic suit, and why not in stand-out poppy red? Diana turned to Walker again a year before her death for this red day suit to launch an AIDS charity appeal in 1996. Walker called these outfits a “royal uniform” for Diana, who was an early leader of the campaign to fight AIDS and support its victims.
The tartan box
For some reason, Diana chose to wear tartan on a 1985 visit with Prince Charles to Venice. The boxy suit by Emanuel, designer of her wedding gown, featured a coat and skirt in green, blue and black wool, plus a big hat. The look was supposed to be trendy at the time but critics did not consider it one of Diana’s fashion successes.
The honeymoon tweed suit
Who could forget, in the ecstatic aftermath of the 1981 wedding of Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, their honeymoon picture posed in the great outdoors of Scotland at the royal Balmoral estate, beloved by Charles but not so much by Diana as it turned out later. At the time, in August 1981, Charles wore the traditional kilt worn by royal men while in Scotland; Diana wore a casual, comfortable brown tweed woolen day-suit by designer Bill Pashley.