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Princess Diana: Her Fashion Story Retold after 20 years

Undated Portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales wearing Catherine Walker's ivory silk crepe evening dress and jacket. One of Diana's most iconic outfits is back in Britain, eight and a half years after it was sold at auction just months before her tragic death in a car crash. The outfit which the Princess called her "Elvis Dress" raised £81,203 for charity in a glitzy New York auction in June 1997. Now it has been donated to London's Victoria and Albert Museum by The Franklin Mint, the American souvenir company that bought it and created a Diana doll wearing a replica. See PA story ROYAL Diana. PRESS ASSOCIATION photo. Photo Credit should read: Terence Donovan/PA.
Diana at Serpentine Gallery

Coded message: Princess Diana flanked by Lord Palumbo wore this black frock on her first social engagement at the Serpentine Gallery after her separation from Prince Charles

Diana, Princess of Wales communicated strong subliminal messages through her wardrobe and sense of style. From the cropped spartan khaki pants and sleeveless blue blouse with Red Cross emblem she wore when she cuddled a landmine victim to the glamorous off-the-shoulder frock she wore to the Serpentine summer party to mark her divorce from Prince Charles.

To commemorate two decades since her passing some of her most iconic dresses and fashion ensembles will form the centrepiece of an exhibition at Kensington Palace. A floral garden tribute will also echo the carpet of flowers left in front of Kensington Palace after her tragic death in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.

Diana: Her Fashion Story will trace the evolution of the Princess’s style, from the demure, romantic outfits on her first public appearances, to the glamour, elegance and confidence of her later life. From her earliest royal engagements, everything Diana wore was closely scrutinised, and the exhibition will explore how she navigated her unique position in the public eye: learning to use her image to engage and inspire people, and to champion the causes she cared about.

Cover girl: Diana’s last fashion shoot in Vanity Fair celebrating her newfound independence after divorce

Diana fans can also expect to see her ‘working wardrobe’, a staple of designer Catherine Walker suits which she wore in the 1990s. The exhibition will feature the glamorous evening gowns she wore on engagements in the 1980s. The Princess’s relationship with her favourite designers will be explored through a display of some of their original fashion sketches, created for her during the design process.

Highlights will include the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981, and Victor Edelstein’s iconic ink blue velvet gown, famously worn at the White House when the Princess danced with John Travolta. A blue tartan Emanuel suit, worn for an official visit to Venice in the 1980s, will go on display in public for the first time. The suit, a rare survival of the Princess’s daywear, was only recently rediscovered and acquired by Historic Royal Palaces – the charity that maintains Kensington Palace – at auction.

White Garden

Kensington Palace flowers

The White Garden will be created as a tribute echoing the carpet of flowers at Kensington Palace after her untimely death

Whilst living at Kensington Palace, her home for over 15 years, the Princess admired the changing seasons and floral displays in the historic Sunken Garden. She would often stop to talk to the gardeners who tended it. In 2017, the gardeners will dedicate the new planting in the garden to Diana, creating a temporary White Garden.

Complementing the exhibition of her most iconic fashion pieces, the garden will be planted with flowers and foliage inspired by memories of the Princess’s life, image and style. Spring planting will include a palette of tulips and scented narcisii through a carpet of ‘forget me nots’. In the summer, pots of classic English white roses will surround the reflective pool in the centre of the garden and the planting will become more exuberant, with glowing ornamental grasses weaving through Cosmos daisies and billows of graceful Gaura. The garden is being cultivated for Spring and Summer 2017. Tickets will be available from online from early December.

Diana: Her Fashion Story is on at Kensington Historical Palaces  from 24 February 2017.

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