Exhibition of Princess Diana's dresses opens in London

Posted by catherineivey on February 28th, 2017

It was a canny, modern royal move. From the day of her engagement when a luckily-timed "upcoming beauty" Lord Snowdon photo shoot for Vogue triggered a nationwide binge on pink chiffon blouses, Lady Diana Spencer's fashion choices were a global obsession.

Michelle looking understated and elegant in her signature Louis Vuitton. Source: Getty

image:Balklanningar Online

And for the next two years visitors to Kensington Palace in London can relive that obsession, at a collection of dresses notorious, glamorous and poignant, culminating with a small sample from the 79 cocktail and evening dresses sold at that auction just two months before she died.

That packed Christie's auction in Manhattan broke a house record for a piece of clothing: the off-the-shoulder, ink-blue velvet dinner dress she wore when she danced at the White House with John Travolta went for US2,500 (8,600).

That dress is part of the Kensington Palace display, along with 24 others, stretching from the demure outfits of the early days, to the confident glamour of her later life.

They have been lent back to the palace from private owners across the world, along with a few items retained by the royal household.

Some were mistakes (for example, the infamous green tartan 'horse blanket' worn on an official visit to Italy in 1985, then never seen again).

But most were lauded. In 1986, at the America's Cup Ball at the Grosvenor House Hotel, she wore a black velvet bodice with red silk taffeta skirt, paired with one red and one black glove. It was riotously successful. And in 1989 a black and white silk satin cocktail dress, worn to a night at the Barbican, was a playful interpretation of a masculine tuxedo.

For charity she went practical, with children she went floral, and when shopping on Bond St she was spotted in an executive-style, sexy blue shift dress. Her influences ranged from Grace Kelly to Madonna.

She wanted to be known as a "workhorse not a clotheshorse", Ms Cooper says, but she was acutely aware of the attention on her wardrobe, and hoped to exploit it to draw attention to the charitable causes she cared about.

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