It’s a delight to dissect the fashion choices of the British royal family – those with a keen eye for clothes can learn a lot about some otherwise guarded figures, learning to appreciate how outfits have been chosen to give exactly the right impression for the occasion.
Now, those wishing to explore the royals’ wardrobes in greater depth – or to revisit past sartorial successes – have an unprecedented opportunity to do so. Fashion Rules is a new exhibition that has just launched at Kensington Palace, comprising a truly sensational selection of garments from the repertoires of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales.
These include exquisite dresses, gowns and accessories tailor-made for ceremonial occasions according to long-standing traditions. However, other exhibits demonstrate how even the royals’ dress sense hasn’t gone untouched by the influence of contemporary trends.
The opening section of Fashion Rules takes a look at how in the first two decades of her reign, a young Elizabeth II established herself as a modern monarch and the iconic new face of the British Commonwealth. The Queen found herself required to make ceremonial visits to a variety of exotic locales; accordingly, she dressed to impress.
A 1961 gown designed by Norman Hartnell is particularly striking – it’s decorated in the colours of the Pakistani flag. That’s not to say that it doesn’t bear the hallmarks of the 60s too – the narrow skirt belies the fashion of the time.
Next up is the wardrobe of Princess Margaret through the 60s and 70s – an eclectic array of costumes that show how the Queen’s sister embraced the era’s adventurous, experimental new styles. Highlights include a stunning Dior gown, made bespoke for the princess for the celebrations that accompanied the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.
Finally, the exhibition explores Princess Diana’s fashion choices in the 80s – showing how this highly-photographed public figure shared the decade’s taste for frills, bows and shoulder pads.
Kensington Palace is a stone’s throw from the High Street Kensington tube stop, close to many luxury London hotels and other landmarks.