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New exhibition featuring rare and exquisite dresses opens at Kensington Palace
Conservator prepares a male court suit from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection for a display in the State Apartments.

LONDON.- A nipped-in waist in the 50s, diaphanous fabrics and short hemlines in the swinging 60s and 70s and sparkles and shoulder pads in the 80s, these are the fashion rules we all dressed by, even the royals.

This summer, Historic Royal Palaces will present a glamorous exhibition with a new take on the story of the monarchy in the late twentieth century. Featuring rare and exquisite dresses from HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana Princess of Wales, this colourful and exuberant exhibition will provide a feast for the eyes and a nostalgic glance back at recent decades.

Elegant dress displays will explore how these royal figures were representative of the spirit of each decade, reflecting and inspiring everyday fashions. Starting with the young Queen Elizabeth in the 50s, the display will look at her evolving style and the way she adopted the fashions of the time and made reference to the countries she visited in the clothes she wore. An exquisite strapless peach silk Norman Hartnell gown from the early 1950s, on display for the first time in over 15 years, typifies the post-war new look with its full skirt and sweetheart neckline The narrower skirt of a later 1961 Hartnell gown shows the Queen’s style changing to adopt the rules of a new decade and is fashioned in the colours of the Pakistani flag, the country where it was first worn.

The wardrobe of Princess Margaret, the Queen’s younger sister, reflected the rule breaking of a more liberal era. From the bold jewel like colours of her more formal dresses, such as the never before displayed Dior gown worn for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, to her more informal wear, including mini dresses and a stunning full length kaftan of ivory sari silk, worn on holiday in Mustique in the 1970s, Margaret’s wardrobe captured the greater freedoms of the time.

Finally, we will explore the style of another royal woman who influenced fashion in recent decades, Princess Diana of Wales. For the first time, we will showcase Diana’s adventurous exploration of the signature look of the 80s and 90s – from frills, shoulder pads and big hair to asymmetrical shapes and bold colours – whatever the princess wore it had a huge impact on her public image at the time. A ballerina length midnight blue and purple dance dress by Jacques Azagury, on display in the UK for the first time, captures distinctive early 80s fashions with its dropped waist, oversize bow, wide shoulders and sparkling embellishment. As images of the Princess could circulate round the globe in an instant, she had a significant impact on British style and fashion that still endures in memories of her today.

Cassie Davies-Strodder, curator of the exhibition, said: “This exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to get up close to these wonderful dresses and be transported to the times in which they were worn. Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales all have a special connection with Kensington Palace, making it the perfect location to celebrate these modern royal women in their fashion heyday”.

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