The highly anticipated style exhibition Diana: Her Fashion Story is set to open at Kensington Palace, the late Princess’ former home, this weekend.
According to the show’s curator Eleri Lynn, it not only charts Diana’s fashion evolution throughout her years in the public eye, but also shows how the Princess used her clothes to break with royal protocol, conveying the ‘approachability and warmth’ that made her so beloved by the British people.
Speaking to People magazine, Lynn reveals that when Diana first got engaged to the Prince of Wales, her wardrobe was actually very limited, but she quickly learned what would work in a public capacity. She had a great design eye and a real knack for fashion. Although she wanted to focus on her work, she wanted to use fashion to help that.’
The curator adds that ‘when she was visiting hospitals, for example, she would wear cheerful clothes that would convey warmth and often chunky jewellery so that children could come and play with them.’
By choosing not to wear gloves on royal engagements, Diana broke with tradition, feeling it was more meaningful to have direct contact with the people she visited.
‘She abandoned the royal protocol of wearing gloves because she liked to hold hands when visiting people or shake hands and have direct contact,’ Lynn explains. Hats, too, soon had no purpose for Diana on public engagements because, as she put it, ‘You can’t cuddle a child in a hat.’
The Princess was famously photographed shaking hands with an AIDS patient in 1991, without wearing gloves, an image which made front pages around the world and helped to go some way to clear up many of the misconceptions about AIDS and HIV that existed at the time. ‘HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug,’ she was quoted as saying. ‘Heaven knows they need it.’
After separating from Prince Charles, Lynn explains, Diana’s style became less showy and more simple, as she wanted her charitable projects to take centre stage. ‘In the 90s you really see her fashion is pared back and simplified. Following her separation from the Prince of Wales, those close to her recall she wanted to be known as a work horse, rather than a clothes horse, and she knew that to focus attention on her work she needed to simplify her daytime look,’ she says.
Diana: Her Fashion Story opens at Kensington Palace on February 24th