As opening nights go, this was a glamorous ‘do’.
Bring together a couple of hundred of fashion’s finest in-crowd with names galore from designers to actresses and it-girls, on a balmy Summer’s night in London, to celebrate the opening of an exhibition devoted to the gowns worn by HM The Queen Elizabeth, HRH The Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales and volia!, you have a fashion party.
The exhibition (sponsored by Estee Lauder Companies) focuses on the changing styles of each Royal and how they influenced fashion in turn. It’s a short resume on the changing more social and fashion mores of each decade and how each of the Royal women made (and are still making) their mark by the designers they choose, the dresses they commission and the occasions they elect to wear them to.
HM Queen Elizabeth II is featured in the 1950s. Opulently beaded and structured gowns look stately as well as stunning and feature designers such as Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies. The featured film and the gowns in the exhibition, illuminate how Britain and a new Monarch had to evolve to changing social and political climates as well as remaining a symbol of power and balance.
HRH Princess Margaret features outfits from 1950s through to the ’70s though she is fashioned largely in the ’60s. Margaret’s style, ever a fashion icon, can be seen changing with her maturity and changing role. So, we see outfits from the time of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee (some by Marc Bohan at Dior) as well as hippie influenced ’70s gowns that the Princess wore in her beloved Mustique.
The 1980s belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales and gowns featured tend to be from her earlier life as a new Royal. Wide shoulders, beading, low slung hip lines, ruching and lots of zsusch are shown in the gowns by Catherine Walker and Belville Sassoon. This is in contrast to the easy and relaxed ‘later’ Diana portrait pic by Mario Testino (shot for Vogue UK) that hangs in the gallery leading into the exhibition. It’s almost a tale of two women, one and the same.
Criticisism? There just isn’t enough gowns on show to fulfil the avid fashion seeker’s interest. As it is, some of Princess Diana’s gowns had to be borrowed from private collectors. It’s a surprise that there isn’t an archive with a vast wardrobe’s full of the late Princess’s wear.