Diana: Her Fashion Story

Things to do, Exhibitions
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(5user reviews)

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Diana's life story told through dresses

Diana’s fashion story – like her life story – ended just as things were getting good. Thrust into the limelight aged 19 as the fiancée to the heir to the throne, she only owned one dress: she had to learn about fashion and discover her sense of style in the public eye. This exhibition charts the way that style evolved, which is also the way her life evolved.

As an ingénue her wardrobe was incredibly romantic and hyper-feminine: all flowing fabrics, soft diaphanous pleats, pastel shades and frills. She was every-lacy-inch a fairytale princess. However, even early on Diana used fashion to send a message, showing herself to be a new, softer side of royalty. Eschewing gloves – and royal convention – she shook hands with HIV patients in what was just the beginning of her work with Aids charities.

A thoroughly modern princess, Diana was the first female royal to wear trousers to a public event and as she grew to enjoy fashion, she began to play with contemporary trends making them suitable for public life. The tux trend, also worn by Cindy Crawford, was tempered by Belleville Sassoon into a cocktail dress.

One of the most photographed women ever – Diana’s image could increase newspaper circulation by 40 percent, which might explain why she’s still on the cover of the Mirror every other week – she became increasingly media savvy, learning what would look good on camera. Designer Catherine Walker, who created over 400 dresses for the princess, thought about how a dress would look from every angle. For a trip to Riyadh, Diana wore a dress decorated with a spiral of beaded falcons – the national bird of Saudi Arabia – so that every camera pointed at her would capture this diplomatic detail.

Free of the shackles of the Royal Family, she bonked a rugby player and was almost engaged to Dodi Al Fayed. Confident and happy, her wardrobe reflected her freedom becoming ever bolder. Shot by Mario Testino in 1997 to promote a sale of her dresses, relaxed and smiling broadly, she looked her most beautiful.

Disappointingly absent from the exhibition are her wedding dress and more significantly, the so-called ‘Revenge Dress’ by Christina Stambolian which she wore the day that Prince Charles admitted he had cheated on her with Camilla Parker Bowles. Arguably her most iconic look, it was the sartorial equivalent of flicking two fingers at her ex in-laws.

To reach the exhibition you have to walk through really-quite-stuffy Kensington Palace, and perhaps deliberately, the dedicated Diana area stands in stark contrast. Modern, airy and light – with laser-cut panels and plinky, plonky piano music, it has the atmosphere of a spa. A bit like the architectural embodiment of how Diana seemed compared to the rest of the Windsors.


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3 out of 5 stars

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The exhibition is set out in a good way and flows pretty well.  The commentary about each room is also interesting.  However, something didn't quite work for me and I left feeling that the exhibition didn't quite meet its full potential.  There were some iconic pieces in the collection, but not as many as I would have hoped.


The problem with London is that there are too many brilliant exhibitions to be found throughout the year. Ok, so that’s not actually a problem at all…unless you then happen to visit one that’s not up to par which is sadly how I left Kensington Palace feeling about Diana: Her Fashion Story.

The clothes themselves are gorgeous; the detail on them, the cut, the fabrics and the colours all beg to be leaned into and scrutinised especially by any home seamstresses and the fact that Diana must have been a wonderful muse to dress is apparent. Sadly though, there just aren’t enough of them and the exhibit itself took me barely half an hour to make my way through. You might think it unfair to compare a smaller show in a very different location to the spectacles that the V&A continue to put on so successfully but when they’re charging the same prices i.e. £15 for an adult ticket, I think those comparisons are totally justified.

The layout of the clothes is well done with most of the spaces offering 360 degree views and they’re grouped logically over several rooms which show the evolution of her style beautifully – there are times she seems like a little girl playing dress-up in the early days! – however there’s not much physical space to manoeuvre around and I did find myself struggling to move along and read all the detail with so many other people trying to do the same.

There are some lovely quotes from fashion royalty and some stunning photos of her, the best of which really show a fun, lively, normal looking woman and perhaps if I was more of a mega fan (and there were several there the day I visited believe me!) then I wouldn’t have felt quite so disappointed but sadly, if you had the time & money to spend on a single exhibition in the capital right now, this wouldn’t be the one I would steer anyone towards.


This was a super disappointing exhibition - it had 2 rooms of dresses with no real explanation of her style or commentary on the impact of the fashion. You do get access to the Palace with the ticket but £20 is a lot. 

They had a brilliant opportunity to make an impact with this exhibition but I thought it was very dull and didnt use much multimedia to bring across the dresses. 

I had an art fund card so I got in for free or otherwise it would be 1 star. 

beautifully curated exhibition, indeed! I am not very much into royals and things like this, but from a fashion history perspective this was really interesting for me! My favourite piece is the dress with embroidered falcons that Diana wore to Saudi Arabia

This is a small collection but perfectly curated. It's bittersweet to see such familiar images of an iconic figure who was lost so tragically in her prime. I felt quite emotional seeing the last Testino photo shoot when she was radiantly beautiful. The dresses are gorgeous but strangely are more dated than last years exhibitions on the Queen's fashion. The 1980's Dynasty style have not aged as well as the 1950's Hartnell classics.

I was surprised to see a significant number of items were on loan from Chile. A must for all royal fans, anyone who remembers the 80/90's & fashionistas.

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