Fit for a Queen
Fashion Rules—a new exhibition at London’s Kensington Palace showcasing twenty-one gowns once worn by Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Diana—provides a peek at the royals’ wardrobes. “These three women were perhaps the most high-profile dressers of their time,” offered the show’s curator, Cassie Davies-Strodder. “Whatever they wore was photographed by international press and seen worldwide. The influence they had on fashion was bar none, and from a historical perspective, we felt it was critical to highlight that.” Now open to the public, the show comes before the much-anticipated September release of Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Diana biopic, in which Naomi Watts stars as the People’s Princess.
Sponsored by Estée Lauder, the exhibition’s opening party was held on Thursday evening at the Palace (once home to Queen Victoria, Princess Diana, and now the Duchess of Cambridge and Wills). And while the historic home’s new renovations—including a majestic stone hall with a thoroughly modern blue light sculpture by Loop.pH, quirky wallpaper boasting illustrations of Diana by artist Julie Verhoeven, and brick walls adorned with Mario Testino-lensed portraits of Princess Di—nearly overshadowed the dresses, several stood out. Key pieces include a gold caftan and turban worn by the party-loving Princess Margaret for a fete in Mustique (above), five gowns worn by the Queen in the fifties (below), and several Bruce Oldfield looks for Princess Diana. Oldfield himself was in attendance, joined by Poppy Delevingne, Tali Lennox, Minnie Driver, and Mr. Selfridge‘s Jeremy Piven. Designers Manolo Blahnik, Erdem Moralioglu, Richard Nicoll, Henry Holland, and Marios Schwab also stopped by to survey the scene.
Davies-Strodder explained the pressure placed on designers to adhere to the royals’ rules—God forfend a dress should start a war. “There was extraordinary responsibility on the royals and their couturiers to get it right,” she said. “For the Queen’s trip to Pakistan, the couturiers had to sew in colors of the Pakistani flag and create a dress that was representative of the dress modesty in that country.”
So does Davies-Strodder think Ms. Middleton will have the same sartorial influence? “It’s early days yet for her. Consider that the Princess Diana pieces are already 25 years old. But it’s safe to say that whatever she wears, Kate Middleton will hold the same fascination as her predecessors.” No pressure there, then.
Fashion Rules is open now through the summer of 2015 at Kensington Palace in London.