Diana, Princess of Wales’ famous wedding dress will go on display at Kensington Palace as part of an exploration of the fine art of designing for royalty, for the first time in 25 years.
The temporary ‘Royal Style in the Making’ exhibition opens on June 3 in the newly-conserved Orangery at Kensington Palace and will explore the “unique relationship between fashion designer and royal client”.
The Historic Royal Palaces showcase will feature never-before-seen items from the archives of some of the most celebrated royal couturiers of the 20th century, set alongside examples of the glittering gowns and stylish tailoring created for three generations of royal women.
One of the highlights from the exhibition will be Princess Diana’s wedding gown designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel for her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 1981. The dress will be showcased complete with its spectacular sequin encrusted train, which at 25 feet dramatically filled the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral, and remains the longest in royal history.
The dress on loan from The Duke of Cambridge and The Duke of Sussex is one of the most famous in bridal history and features a fitted bodice overlaid at the centre both front and back with panels of antique Carrickmacross lace that had originally belonged to Queen Mary, the groom’s great-grandmother.
It will mark the first time the wedding gown has gone on show at Kensington Palace for 25 years and will allow fans to see the bridal look popularised by the Princess in the early 1980s, with its large puffed sleeves, bows, ruffles of taffeta, and full skirt is supported on a mountain of stiff net petticoats.
Kensington Palace to hold ‘Royal Style in the Making’ exhibition this summer
The exhibition will also offer visitors insight into how some of Britain’s finest designers worked with the royal family on coronation gowns and royal wedding dresses, helping to shape the public image of the British monarchy while also promoting British fashion to a global audience.
Alongside garments, there will also be original sketches, fabric swatches and unseen photographs from the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, which features more than 10,000 items of dress and design history cared for by Historic Royal Palaces.
Among the star items going on display will be a rare surviving toile for the 1937 coronation gown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, consort of King George VI. Created by London-based court designer Madame Handley-Seymour, a favoured couturier of the dowager Queen Mary, the silk satin gown with its golden national emblems was the perfect choice to embody continuity at the start of an unexpected new reign. The toile is an extraordinary full-size working pattern of the completed gown, and features the stunning design for the embroidery hand-painted onto it, highlighting the attention to detail required in planning for such an important state occasion.
Matthew Storey, exhibition curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said in a statement: “Our summer exhibition at Kensington Palace will shine a spotlight on some of the greatest talents of British design, whose work has been instrumental in shaping the visual identity of the royal family across the twentieth century.
“We’ll be exploring how the partnership between each designer and client worked and revealing the process behind the creation of a number of the most important couture commissions in royal history. While one of the highlights will undoubtedly be Diana, Princess of Wales’s showstopping Emanuel designed wedding dress, - which goes on show at the palace for the first time in 25 years – we’ve got some real surprises up our sleeve for fashion fans!’
The ‘Royal Style in the Making’ exhibition will run from June 3, 2021, to January 2, 2022, at Kensington Palace, London.