A Visit to Kensington Palace: The Diana Exhibit

My recent trip to Kensington Palace, or KP as Diana called it, was a lot of fun. I took this picture by those famous gates that were covered in flowers in the days after Princess Diana’s death:

That still seems to be top of mind to people walking by; I overheard a couple of ladies talking about those mountains of flowers and how this spot became a place for people to congregate.

As you may know, there were some extensive renovations done recently and the palace re-opened to the public last March. The entryway for visitors of the tourist variety is a glass gazebo-like structure that commemorates Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee:

Once inside, there are currently three temporary exhibits on and this post will focus on the first one I visited. It is called Diana: Glimpses of a Modern Princess. I started out here, since this exhibit is on the main floor and remarkably, is actually part of Apartment 1A, Princess Margaret’s old apartment which will be the home of William and Kate. Click here for our post on that.

The outside of the exhibit has this great portrait taken by Mario Testino which shows  Diana wearing one of the five dresses included in the exhibit:

And there’s this delightful “D” painted on the wall:

Here’s a closer look. Note the Spencer tiara, ballet slippers, Jimmy Chu shoes, English rose, and cause ribbon:

Next you walk down this hallway into the exhibit which has wallpaper depicting Diana during some iconic moments of her life. There’s a Daily Mail article that goes through which pictures the wallpaper depicts. Check it out here. The drawings were done by fashion illustrator Julie Verhoeven:

Note the high ceilings and window for natural light:

Here’s a close up of the wallpaper:

When I was walking by, I noticed the little lamb near the depiction of Diana in her wedding dress. There it is jumping over a clothes hanger above. Could that be a reference to Diana’s comment to her private secretary Patrick Jephson that she felt she was  “a lamb to the slaughter” while walking up the aisle in St. Paul’s? Click here for an article on that. Rather bold, and yet in all the articles I read about the exhibit  and this wallpaper I saw no mention of it. Hmm…

Anyhow, here’s the entry way into the room with all the dresses:

You will be greeted with this explanation:

And onto the dresses! The room is set up like this. That’s a sleepy guard standing in the background:

There are two dresses in that centre case. The first one is the one that Diana wore on her first engagement with Prince Charles.

Princess Grace was there that night as well:

The second dress is this beautiful one by Catherine Walker which is a favourite of mine:

Here’s the back view, which I hadn’t seen before:

This silk chiffon gown is by Catherine Walker as well, and was first worn on a visit to Thailand in 1988.

Here is the accompanying description:


and a photo from the Thailand trip. This dress is one of the ones depicted on that wallpaper:

This dress was designed by Bellville Sassoon:

Gotta love this sassy illustration:

There are also pictures and and an additional sketch displayed in this cabinet:

The fifth dress is this black Versace number which shows how Diana’s style became especially sophisticated in the final years of her life:

Here is a photograph of Diana in the dress:

The other display of note in the exhibition room is this mantlepiece, which features some well known pictures of Diana out and about. This mantlepiece really makes me wonder what this room originally was. A den, perhaps??

This exhibit just runs until November 4, 2012 if you have a chance to go.

Also, I thought it was interesting that the gift shop has all sorts of Princess paraphanalia on sale…including a book entitled The Dumpy Princess. Seems a bit too Disneylandish to me, but I guess you gotta keep sales up somehow.

Some more books for sale…including the Tina Brown biography on Diana…which again seems a bit much:

To end, here’s a lovely photo of the garden in the afternoon:

Any thoughts or favourites of these dresses?

Royal Designer: We count down our Top 5 Catherine Walker Looks for Diana

via the Daily Mail

Catherine Walker, a designer who was entirely self taught, has the rare distinction of having regularly dressed the Princess of Wales throughout her public life. Princess Diana was wearing a green Catherine Walker dress when she left the hospital with Prince William in June of 1982 and, sadly, she was laid to rest wearing a black Catherine walker dress which Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell said would make Diana “covered in love.” Walker herself passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer in September 2010.

In memory of the gorgeous work she did for Diana, here our top 5 favourite looks designed by Catherine Walker, with insights from Walker herself from the book Catherine Walker: an Authorized biography by the Private Couturier to Diana, Princess of Wales. It is a great read if you haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet yourself.

All right here we go:

#5 Black Jet Dress

via the Daily Mail

Diana looks amazing in this little number which she wore to an evening at Versailles. Walker explained,

“This was a special dress for me, as I am always very aware of the events in my home country and I was honoured that the Princess chose to wear one of my dresses to the Palace of Versailles…it was our first “sexy” dress and, predictably, it received considerable coverage.”

Diana was certainly making a statement here.

#4 Crepe Shift Dress with Gold Double Belt, Harrow, July 1997

Via Vogue.uk

This is such a timeless, classy dress that perfectly shows off the Princess’ figure. It would look perfectly tasteful today. Walker said,

“I will always remember this simple shift dress and will always keep a replica in my archive. The Princess had ordered it a couple of years before wearing it here. It was her last daytime engagement.”

#3 Strapless Ice Blue Chiffon Dress, Cannes, May 1987 

 This was Diana’s Grace Kelly moment: it was inspired by a gown worn by Kelly in To Catch a Thief and she wore it to her first and only visit to the Cannes Film Festival. How fun! Unfortunately Walker did not mention this dress in her book, but it is such a dreamy dress we just couldn’t leave it out!

Via TheStar.com

Unsurprisingly, this dress still has major appeal. In May of 2011, this dress sold at auction in Beverly Hills for $276,000.

#2 Ice Blue Taroni Silk Crepe Shift Dress with Embroidery,  Christie’s Gala, London, June 1997

This is another ice blue wonder by Walker (pictured at Diana’s right). Diana was promoting the auction of her old gowns and this was the perfect dress for the occasion in our opinion – youthful, fun, and fresh. And we LOVE the aquamarine cocktail ring on her finger. Wonder if that will show up on Kate’s hand eventually?

Walker said of this dress,

“I always try to give my embroidery a three-dimensional quality not only by tilting the image in perspective but also with the texture itself. Here the bugle beads and diamante are so dense that they rise from the surface of the fabric like florets made of sugar.”

-Via The Daily Mail#1 Sequin and Pearl Dress and Bolero, Hong Kong, November 1989

This dress has stood the test of time and we’re sure will still look stunning in the decades to come. Diana commissioned this dress for an official visit to Hong Kong in November 1989. Catherine Walker wrote,

I chose pearls because they seemed so appropriate for the Orient. Although the inspiration for the collar was Elizabethan, it led people to rename the dress “the Elvis dress”…At the time there was much speculation as to how many pearls had been hand embroidered onto the dress. We have no idea although some newspapers estimated 20,000. What is not apparent from the pictures is the weight of the dress, which was immense.”

We thought it was interesting that Kate Middleton’s mother Carole chose Catherine Walker to wear to her daughter’s wedding, and in our favourite colour for Diana no less!  This is the perfect Mother of the Bride ensemble. Well done, Carole.

via the Daily Mail

While we’re on the subject, the Duchess of Cambridge was seen in her first Catherine Walker ensemble on her Royal Tour of Canada. More on that in another post!

Vivienne Westwood: Royal Pot Stirrer

Vivienne Westwood strikes a poseAs you may have heard, famed British designer Vivienne Westwood has spoken out against the Duchess of Cambridge’s style. She told the Sunday Times Magazine, “It seems to me that her image is “ordinary woman” therefore, High Street shopper. And I just think she should be “extraordinary woman”, wherever she gets her clothes from.”

Back in February of 2011 when Westwood was asked if she was designing Kate’s wedding dress. Her response was especially icy: “I would have loved to have dressed Kate Middleton, but I have to wait until she catches up a bit somewhere with style.”

Ok, so is she just making these comments off the cuff or does she know that saying such things will get her lots of press? My guess is she has an “I don’t give a damn what people think” attitude (displayed to perfection in the picture above) and this isn’t a calculated move on her part. After all, she’s a bit of a kook and made similar comments about Diana when she was alive, and like Kate Diana wasn’t running to her for clothing afterwards. This is something that no reporters seem to have cottoned on to yet.

Westwood told Woman and Home magazine, “The princess isn’t a trendsetter. She’s someone ruled by the trends, which is sad because she’s a stunning woman. I hate her shoes – those horrible little pumps that are neither one thing or the other. It’s as though her clothes are supposed to tell you she’s both a feminist and sexy at the same time. It’s a compromise and it’s doesn’t work.”

Having said that, though, she still said of Diana: “Oh, I’d love to dress her. Perhaps one day she’ll come to me. It would be great for her if she did. You’d see some results. I could maker her the most stylish woman in the world.”

To date, Kate hasn’t been seen wearing Westwood and as far as I can tell Diana never wore Westwood either, at least not publicly. So as I said, these comments clearly didn’t help out Westwood’s cause.

Westwood does have Princess Eugenie in her corner, though, which is quite remarkable after the debacle of the Westwood frock she wore to Kate and William’s wedding in April.

She’s turned things around since then with great Westwood dresses that really flatter her figure. For example, the black gown she wore to the pre-wedding dinner at the Mandarin Oriental on April 18th was gorgeous, as was the black corseted dress she wore to Petra Ecclestone’s wedding. She aslo wore a stunning red gown to Elton JOhn’s red tie and tiara ball.

I think Princess Eugenie may just be the sole British royal that Westwood gets her hands on.

I just can’t see Kate going to her anytime soon, especially after her rather rude comments and also since Westwood is now Eugenie’s go to designer.

What do you think?