From romantic and girlishly demure to knock-out, drop-dead glamour, the late Princess Diana's journey from naive teen to global fashion goddess will be on display at Kensington Palace next year, nearly 20 years after her shocking death.
Diana: Her Fashion Story will open Feb. 24 at the palace, the former home of the late Princess of Wales and the current home of both her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, and her two grandchildren, Prince George and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge.
The exhibit, the first Diana-focused show at the palace in 10 years, will trace the evolution of Diana's look and explore how she learned to use her image and her fashion to help showcase the causes she cared about, according to Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that operates royal palaces and estates that also are open to the public as museums.
The exhibit will explore "the story of a young woman who had to quickly learn the rules of royal and diplomatic dressing, who in the process put the spotlight on the British fashion industry and designers," says Eleri Lynn, curator of the show. "We see her growing in confidence throughout her life, increasingly taking control of how she was represented, and intelligently communicating through her clothes. This is a story many women around the world can relate to."
The exhibit will also feature a temporary White Garden, dedicated to her life, image and style, in the palace's historic Sunken Garden, which will be planted with such flowers and foliage as tulips and scented narcisii, a carpet of forget-me-nots and pots of classic English white roses.
But the main event will be the celebrated outfits from throughout Diana's short public life, from 1981 until she was killed in a Paris car crash on Aug. 31, 1997, at age 36. From glamorous gowns worn in the 1980s after her 1981 marriage to Prince Charles, to the chic Catherine Walker suits she wore on engagements in the 1990s, the exhibit will explore Diana's relationships with her favorite designers through some of their original fashion sketches created for her during the design process.
Familiar highlights will include the pale pink Emanuel blouse worn for Diana’s engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981; and Victor Edelstein’s inky blue velvet gown that she wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1985.
Some outfits are going on public display for the first time, such as a blue tartan Emanuel suit (David and Elizabeth Emanuel also designed her memorably pouf-y wedding gown) that she wore on an official visit to Venice in the 1980s. The suit, a rare survival of Diana's day-wear, was only recently rediscovered and acquired by Historic Royal Palaces at auction.
Diana's clothes and artifacts have been traded at auction for years; just weeks before her death, she auctioned off some of her outfits in New York to raise more than $3 million for charity, at the suggestion of Prince William.
The Travolta gown has been bought and sold multiple times; among the most recent was an auction in London in 2013 when it sold for more than $360,000 to an anonymous British man who wanted it to cheer up his wife.