The dresses tell the story of a life cut short: first the frilly debutante frocks Princess Diana wore before she married Prince Charles, then the elaborate gowns that stunned the world, and finally the power suits she favored shortly before her death. It's been 20 years since Diana died in a Paris car crash at the age of 36, but the public's fascination with her life—and her clothes—lives on. A new exhibition that opens Friday at Kensington Palace, her home for many years, will give the public a chance to see extraordinary fashion pieces up close for the first time. The display opens with a lacy party dress Diana wore to a ball at her family home, Althorp, in 1979 and includes many of her most famous outfits, the AP reports.
The workmanship is refined, some of the designs are simple in concept and execution, while others clearly took careful thought and meticulous preparation. One room features designers' sketches for Diana dresses, offering insight into the vision behind many of her choices. Deirdre Murphy, senior curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, said Diana was unique in the way she used clothes to communicate—and also a risk-taker willing to challenge the unwritten conventions of royal dress. She said Diana captured the "mystique" of being a princess even as she occasionally dressed down in jeans and a baseball hat: "Somehow women all over the world saw a piece of themselves in the princess." (Read more Princess Diana stories.)