Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana’s wardrobes are being showcased at Kensington Palace, exploring how they navigated the ‘Fashion Rules’ of each decade. Each of them, constrained by fashion trends, media criticism and pressure to favour home grown designers. We take a look back in time at some 21 never-seen-before dresses that were worn by the Royals in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when they were at their most fashionable. As you wander through the decades, black and white film clips set the scene of the times.



During the 1950’s, it was the end of the clothing rationing and Queen Elizabeth’s support of British designers helped to build London’s reputation as a hub for the fashion industry. One of the most exquisite pieces, greeting you as you enter the softly lit exhibition, is a intricately detailed beaded gown designed by Norman Hartnell. The extravagant embellishment on this oyster coloured duchesse satin gown demonstrates Hartnell’s incredible skill. A nipped in waist reflects the trends of this era and the full skirt reveals the layers upon layers of embellishment.


All five of the gowns worn by the Queen emphasise her petite frame and tiny waist; reminiscent of one of the huge trends of the 50’s. They are all pale in colour to make sure they stand out against the crowd and on black and white film. The emerald straps on an ivory gown worn when visiting Pakistan represent the colours of the flag – highlighting the demand on each outfit to fit each royal engagement.



While the Queen’s fashion was constrained by having to dress appropriately, her younger sister Princess Margaret had the freedom to adopt the fashions of the swinging 60’s and 70’s.  Wearing an elegant Dior gown on her 21st Birthday and a romantic lace short dress reveals her dramatic fashion statements. On a visit to Mustique in 1976 Princess Margaret wore a beautiful Indian sari silk kaftan and turban designed by Carl Toms echoing the hippy culture that emerged in the 70’s. She became a trend setter, described as ‘one hip chick’ by Louis Armstrong.


The final room is a small selection of dresses worn by Princess Diana showing the classic styles of the 80’s; dropped waists, sparkle and drama. Princess Diana embodied the big hair, big shoulders and sparkling embellishment of this era earning her the label ‘Dynasty Di’. Upon her marriage to Prince Charles, Diana was fast becoming a fashion icon of her time.dres1

Although Diana didn’t seem to be compelled by the ‘rules’ of being a royal, on a state visit to Brazil, Catherine Walker when designing this number, was given strict instructions not to design anything in blue, green, yellow or white as Brazil had just lost to Argentina in the World Cup in 1991. During the 90’s Diana then introduced a more sophisticated style to mirror the changing fashion.

There’s no denying that these ladies are a fashionable bunch, taking you through the decades they will bring back memories of your fashion highs and lows or be inspiration for the next generation, the Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace exhibition is a must see for fashion fiends and royal rooters.

By Jessica Wykes

Related Posts

Leave a Reply