On royal dressing and fashion rules

If you enjoyed watching Princess Diana’s Dresses: The Auction, you might fancy Kensington Palace’s new summer exhibition, Fashion Rules (sponsored by Estee Lauder Companies).

Showcasing the regal style of Diana, Princess Margaret and HM The Queen, it reveals the ‘rules’ of royal style throughout the decades. My favourite outfits are Princess Margaret’s 1950s gowns. As the most glamorous royal at the time, there was less pressure for her to wear British designers so she fully indulged in the likes of the plunging Dior hourglass gown pictured above (worn to her 21st birthday party in 1953) and the Marc Bohan for Dior fur coat, below…

Although the three royals featured are very different, their similarities are threaded together by the ‘rules’ of the exhibition and by royal protocol. Formal gowns would often be pale-coloured to stand out in a crowd during the years before colour photos and TV and their style would have to allow for the wearing of insignia and sashes.

The rules also take into account the changing times and mood of the nation. Hence the vibrancy and change of the 1960s and 70s is reflected in a loosening up of royal style in which Margaret would wear shorter length dresses while the hippy movement inspired ethnic textiles and kaftan-esque shapes. Here’s a kaftan and turban by Carl Toms worn by Princess Margaret to a fancy dress party in Mustique…

No doubt, the 80s extragavanzas worn by Princess Diana will be big crowd-pullers. Here you’ll find the heavily embellished, big-shouldered, drop-waisted creations created by Bruce Oldfield, Murray Arbeid and Zandra Rhodes (below) and popularised by Diana. It’s interesting how dated these now look compared to the classic New Look shapes of the 1950s gowns…

For me the appeal of the recent glut of royal exhibitions comes from their historical value. Even anti-royalists can find value in the knowledge to be gleaned about the history of Britain and culture in these exhibitions. There’s also a fun creative and interactive element that has been incorporated for exhibition-goers of all ages via the exclusive Fashion Rules on Paper app. You can sketch your own version of the royal gowns on the wifi-enabled iPads which will later be uploaded to the dedicated Tumblr.

Post-exhibition, make sure you have a wander round Kensington Gardens, then recharge your batteries nearby at Cafe Diana. Here’s The Very Simon G loving the decor…


PS: if you didn’t catch Princess Diana The Auction, you can still watch on catch up

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2 Responses to On royal dressing and fashion rules

  1. OH MY GOD, who is that devastatingly handsome man at the end of this post??? LOL

    Love Margaret’s outfits too, so amazing!

  2. Selma says:

    The kaftan and turban are definitely my favourites from the collection. Princess Margaret certainly knew how to dress for a big occasion.

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