Power dressing for the people: Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace

By Vanessa Teo

The Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace is a great way to delve into the lives of three of the most influential women of the 20th century, and learn how power dressing has always been key to promoting public image. Take a tour of the classic collections of HM Queen Elizabeth II in the 1950s, check out her sister Princess Margaret’s exotic taste in the 60s, and discover the late Princess Diana modelling high-end fashion, in the 80s. In the five rooms of the exhibition, hosted within the notable Kensington Palace, you will find 21 unique couture dresses and learn how dressing for the people was an important element in promoting a royal’s public image. Princess Diana, for example, would always ask herself what a particular outfit communicated, before choosing to wear it, and you’ll learn about the unspoken royal ‘rules’ of dress that she was expected to follow. The Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace explores three of the most influential decades in fashion, brought to life by three of the most popular women in the public eye. Starting with HM Queen Elizabeth II, you’ll discover that her ‘brief’ was to remain classic, conventional and classy at all times, with nipped-in waists and full floor length skirts. Accessorised with long evening gloves and fine jewels, HM Queen had to appear demure but well dressed, and avoid anything extravagant or over-the-top. Unlike her ancestors, who battled to achieve a balance of dressing for both power and majesty, Elizabeth II triumphed in diplomatic accoutrement. The theme of ‘power dressing’ dates right back to the 16th century. Elizabeth I was known for eccentric and overt symbolism, as you can see from her famous rainbow portrait in which images of eyes and ears are in the pattern of her dress. You can find out more about Elizabeth I’s elaborate wardrobe (and more on ‘Tales from the Royal Wardrobe’ as shown recently on BBC4) on Dr Lucy Worsley’s blog. The royal monarchs were experts at propaganda and their clothes played an essential part in the PR machine. Power dressing was crucial for maintaining status – especially after the invention of the printing press. In many ways, not much changed from the 1500s to the 1950s. The royals were still very much in the public eye, although now having to contend not only with the press, but with (national and international) television and the dreaded paparazzi. In short, the royal wardrobe has always spoken volumes. Although the royal family nowadays meets expectations (they are well-dressed symbols of power), there have been a few that strayed from convention. Princess Margaret wasn’t heir to the throne and therefore not expected to perform as many royal duties as her older sister, HM Elizabeth II. In the 1960s, Christian Dior’s new influence on cosmopolitan culture and fashion was immense and this exotic French designer became one of Princess Margaret’s main inspirations. With a natural flair for fashion, she was the more adventurous of the two sisters and was allowed to experiment with her style in a way her elder sister couldn’t. In the 60s and 70s Princess Margaret showcased the figure-hugging ‘slim look’ dresses, in bold colours – a world away from the floor length full gowns of the previous decade – echoing the more liberal years and a significant move away from the conventional dress of her royal peers. Princess Margaret wasn’t the only rebellious royal in history. Before her, there was a stream of others so extravagant that for one, his excess led to his execution. Charles I’s lack of control in the clothing department went some way to provoking the Civil War and eventually his death. He is a prime example of a ruler who used power and wealth poorly when it came to choosing his wardrobe. Instead of dressing for the people, he dressed for himself and his courtiers – immediately turning any supporters against him. What our three women in Fashion Rules have shown us is that you can express yourself, your power and your personality as a royal – but make sure you follow the (albeit unspoken) rules. Princess Diana was a champion of loud 80s fashion, and even more daring than Princess Margaret. Her wardrobe was full of shoulder pads, sequins and velvets and it’s not surprising that the ‘People’s Princess’ helped popularise the brave looks of the 80s. She elicited the sympathy, love and support from the public and dared to break a few rules along the way. She also helped revive the British fashion industry, with her support for UK designers. HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana embodied a huge milestone in royal dressing, and redefined the symbols of power. It’s amazing to think that only 200 years prior, mantua-clad ladies paraded around State Apartments with 6ft wide hips to demonstrate their wealth. Even crazier is the demand that 800 freshwater pearls be sewn into one of Elizabeth I’s 1,326 dresses! The royals once used their monarchic status to wield unnecessary luxuries in order to demonstrate their power – now, it’s about being underrated, conventional and even mainstream, in order to garner respect. The monarchy learnt from their mistakes (unpopularity, the Civil War – even execution) and understood over time how best to manage their public appearance, with one of the main lessons being – keep the public on your side. HM Queen Elizabeth II was (and still is) an expert in power dressing, while her sister Princess Margaret exhibited status with her flawless taste. Remember Princess Diana’s green velvet dress that sold for over £222,000 at Christie’s? Clearly, her fashion rules weren’t a bad thing either. Learn more about the history of royal dress at Kensington Palace: Fashion Rules. Entry with no further payment with The London Pass.

Continue reading


Who to follow on Instagram for London Fashion Week

Stay on-trend during London Fashion Week with these stylish Instagrammers London Fashion Week kicks off on 16 September and the capital is expected to get even more stylish as more than 5000 fashion-loving folk arrive ready to see what the designers have in store for SS17. With 83 designers showcasing at over 100 different events between 16-20 Sept, it can be difficult staying on top of what and who to watch. But there’s no need to camp outside LFW’s Brewer Street HQ to keep abreast of the latest London trends. We’ve scoured the social media sphere and found the top Instagram accounts to follow during LFW. Just announced! @sophiawebster has designed this season's @londonfashionweekend tote bag. Find out more & buy your ticket to attend at londonfashionweekend.co.uk #LFWend A photo posted by British Fashion Council (@britishfashioncouncil) on Aug 2, 2016 at 8:32am PDT @BritishFashionCouncil A must-follow for any fashion lover, The British Fashion Council will keep you updated with snaps of the shows, trends, celebrity-sightings and after parties. This account will serve as your unofficial guide to LFW. Huzzah! I am growing a little GIRL💁🏻🙅🏻🙆🏻🙎🏻 inside of me! And she WILL inherit my @mollymgoddard frocks... ! 📷 @mrstreetpeeper for @voguerunway A photo posted by Susie Lau (@susiebubble) on Sep 6, 2016 at 2:11am PDT @SusieBubble Sitting front row at almost all the big shows, London blogger Susie Lau may also introduce you to some lesser-known British brands that you didn’t even know you needed in your life. Her quirky aesthetic is a colourful and stylish addition to any news feed @chanelofficial A photo posted by Miroslava Duma (@miraduma) on Sep 4, 2016 at 10:05am PDT @MiraDuma Street style royalty, and fashion consultant, Miroslava Duma is a year-round must-follow for any fashion buff. With plenty of outfit changes and serious #stylegoals, Miroslava’s Instagram is a perfect mash-up of urban and luxury. Swedish eyewear designer @monokeleyewear blends simplicity and modernism in their collections - available to see in the #LFW Designer Showrooms from 16th – 20th September A photo posted by London Fashion Week (@londonfashionweek) on Sep 2, 2016 at 4:16am PDT @LondonFashionWeek Newly launched, the official account for London Fashion Week is only a few months old but the pace is set to pick up once the shows have started. Follow for designer details, catwalk highlights and trend predictions direct from Brewer St. Dear Robert Plant, I'm probably about to neglect you into an early death, but for now and as long as I possibly can thereafter - I love you. A photo posted by Alexa (@alexachung) on Aug 29, 2016 at 4:55am PDT @AlexaChung Let’s face it, any mention of London Fashion Week has got to include Alexa Chung. London-cool IT-girl Alexa is a front row staple at any of the big London shows, with her fashion girl gang by her side and numerous outfit changes expected. Friday - use a scarf as your strap day. @gucci 👜🎀#GUCCI A photo posted by Natalie Massenet (@nat_mass) on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:34am PDT @Nat_Mass If you want top tips and behind-the-scenes snaps from a true fashion insider, you must check out British Fashion Council chairwoman Natalie Massanet. Expect up close and personal coverage from the front row. Look around, leaves are brown, there's a patch of snow on the ground (not really) Bring on winter #velvet and @miumiu A photo posted by yasminsewell (@yasminsewell) on Aug 23, 2016 at 5:57am PDT @YasminSewell As fashion director of Style.com, London-living Aussie girl Yasmin’s Instagram features some of the coolest happenings from the catwalk to the party-floor along with the fashion pack such as Miroslava Duma and Man Repeller. real 1s know this is my favorite shoe🙏🏽 thank you @jumpman23 #banned #wearejordan A photo posted by Aleali (uh•lay•lee) (@alealimay) on Sep 2, 2016 at 3:06pm PDT @AlealiMay If you’re all about comfort without sacrificing on style then Alealimay is your go-to girl. Follow her account for the latest in urban street-style and sneaker aesthetic. Site recce: blending in with the locals 🐛🐝 A photo posted by Margaret Zhang 章凝 (@margaret__zhang) on Aug 20, 2016 at 1:28am PDT @Margaret_Zhang It’s hard to believe that this 22 year old is already a veteran in the Instagram world, with over 802,000 followers, this blogger/stylist/image consultant/photographer and law graduate is on the hotlist for every big Fashion Week around the globe. Follow her for beautifully styled shots and serious #styleinspo.
Vanessa Teo

Kendra Thornton: London with the family

Kendra shares her favourite things to do in London with the family... US TV travel expert Kendra Thornton started visiting London at an early age. Here she tells us about her favourite experiences and why she is looking forward to bringing her own kids to the city. You started travelling from an early age - how old were you when you first visited London? How many times have you visited? I was 10 years old the first time I visited London, and I’ve been to the city dozens of times over the last three decades. My parents established our family business, Royal Travel, in the early 1970s. Of course a big bonus of owning a travel agency was that they got to experience destinations for themselves! So we travelled all over the world when I was growing up, but London was always one of my parents’ favorite cities. We spent many Christmas holidays here during my childhood - we'd typically arrive on Boxing Day and stay through the New Year celebration. What were your impressions of London as a child/teenager? I always loved how international the city was - I would hear so many languages while walking the streets. And on many visits I made friends with other kids from all over the world such as Australia, Africa and other parts of Europe. Later on, in my university days, I spent a year studying in Paris which is another great city, but I kept being drawn back to London. During that time I made many trips here to visit friends living in Bayswater. We loved the museums, window shopping around Knightsbridge and the pub culture, but I had better not tell you in which order! Did you have any favourite spots in the city or favourite memories? So many! We would spend hours touring the Cabinet War rooms (now the Churchill War Rooms) - that was always my favourite attraction. Afterwards we would walk over to Parliament and Westminster. I remember shopping being a big thing. My mother would take me to Harrods to purchase my favorite perfume Quelque Fleurs (which at the time could not be purchased in the U.S.). My mother loves Mayfair - especially the Dorchester - so we always stayed in that neighborhood and had a great time just exploring, walking the streets and browsing the shops. And food was always very important. We always dined at The Grenadier (my dad’s favourite) and Hard Rock London (my pick) and we loved the Red Lion and Guinea Grill. Another staple of each trip was a traditional high tea at a fancy hotel. When my family gets together we have a lot of laughs about memories from our London travels... the time the restaurant manager thought my dad was Hulk Hogan and kept insisting on an autograph, the first time I went to the Hippodrome nightclub in Piccadilly Circus with my brothers (I don’t need to elaborate) and then there’s the time we almost missed our flight because we were spending our last pounds shopping the duty free... You’re now a mother - are you planning to bring your own kids to London and what would you like to show them? I have three young children - aged 6, 8 and 10 - and they are now finally at the age where I can take all of them on a trip to Europe and they are old enough to appreciate and retain the experience. London is the perfect place because there is no language barrier and my kids will be enthralled by the history and architecture – it’s so different from our home city Chicago. You won’t be surprised to learn that my two daughters love all things princess, so taking them to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Kensington Palace - where real life Queens and Princesses have been - will be such a treat for them. And I know my son will love the Tower of London and the Churchill War Rooms, with their rich history and stories of Kings and battles. You have obviously travelled extensively around the world. Why do you think London is so popular with international visitors and what makes it stand out from other cities? I think it’s popular because it has a fantastic and distinct culture with rich and enthralling history - visit the Tower of London and you can learn so much about so many distinct and different historical periods. It’s hard to think of a building anywhere in the world that has witnessed such upheaval and so many major events. London is full of gorgeous historical buildings, and not just in the city itself. Although as a visitor you have to make an effort to get to Windsor Castle or Hampton Court Palace, it’s absolutely worth it. Do not underestimate the importance of location. London is easy to travel to from the U.S., the Middle East and Africa, as well as mainland Europe, which makes it an attractive destination for many potential travellers. Finally, the people are wonderful too! Prior to your visit this summer you had not been in London for several years. Did anything surprise you? I think what I loved most was seeing how much London hasn’t changed. It’s a city that always has that 'old world' feel - no skyscrapers taking over the city - just the beautiful buildings that have stood the test of time. The only changes in the skyline were the London Eye and The Shard. The only thing that surprised me - but I was relieved to see it - is that those iconic British phone booths are still sprinkled around the city even though the world has gone mobile and there’s no longer a need for phone booths. Somehow London just would not be the same without them. You visited some of London’s iconic attractions, including Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. Which did you like best? Tower Bridge was not an attraction the last time I was in London - at least, you could not actually go inside it. So that was so exciting! What an experience to walk across the glass floor (above moving traffic - yikes!) and learn about how the Bridge operated back in the day. I also thought the Royal fashion exhibit at Kensington Palace was fantastic and so well done. It was a special treat to see those gorgeous historic gowns in real life with magazine articles and historical photos showing the Queen or Princess Diana wearing them! Finally, I always love Westminster Abbey - it’s a beautiful church and to think about how many incredible people have walked its floors over the past thousand years never ceases to give me goosebumps. What advice would you give someone planning their first visit to the city? What should they absolutely not miss? You absolutely have to do a traditional high tea - it’s a great experience and so very British! Make sure to visit the Churchill War Rooms and walk around the Tower of London - you feel like you have been transported back in time to old world London. It’s thrilling to see the Crown Jewels too. You must do Westminster Abbey. Take a spin on the London Eye for the beautiful views of the city and stroll through Hyde Park. And of course, get an Oyster card so you can experience the Tube - I love the ease and convenience, not to mention the people watching, of the London subway (or ‘underground’, as it’s locally known!). There are so many “not to miss” experiences in London, which is why it’s a city you need to keep coming back to again and again.
Vanessa Teo
Buckingham Palace, London on sunny morning

Fascinating Buckingham Palace facts

Seeing Buckingham Palace is a must for anybody visiting London. Whether you're a massive fan of the Royal Family, or you simply want to see one of Britain's biggest historical landmarks, you'll find something to love inside its large, lavish walls. Buckingham Palace is located in Westminster, in the heart of central London, and with St. James's Park and Green Park as its backyards. It serves as the official London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The palace has a long and colorful history - it wouldn't be British without one. So, without further ado, here are some fascinating facts about Buckingham Palace you may not have known. With The London Pass®, you can explore big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price - and enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets.  ✈️ Buy The London Pass® ✈️ When was Buckingham Palace built? Buckingham Palace was originally known as Buckingham House, and was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. King George III then bought it in 1761. Construction of the 775-room palace we see today began in 1825, and it's been the official London residence for all reigning monarchs since Queen Victoria took up residence in 1837. The Palace went way over budget The original Buckingham House was transformed by the esteemed architect John Nash into what it is today. However, he accidentally went over budget and was fired for overspending. Take a look at the gilded detailing and it's no surprise. Nash transformed Buckingham House - as it used to be known - into the grandest possible version of itself, rebuilding the two east wings and adding in the triumphal arch, originally for ceremonial processions into the palace. That arch now lives at Marble Arch - yes, that's the Marble Arch. After Nash, a new architect called Edward Blore completed the work on the palace. Which British Royal was the first to live in Buckingham Palace? Before the palace as we know it was built, the history of the site goes as far back as the Middle Ages, when the site formed part of the Manor of Ebury. (We haven't heard of it either.) It was used for different buildings by different people, including Henry VIII back in the 16th Century. However, once King George IV's planned work was completed, he never even had the chance to call it home. Queen Victoria moved in in 1837, and was the first British Royal to live in Buckingham Palace, followed by the late Queen Elizabeth II. Throughout WW2, the royals refused to leave the palace London was bombed heavily throughout World War Two. And, with Buckingham Palace being the cultural landmark it is, it became a massive target. Despite being advised to leave for their own safety, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth kept calm and carried on, refusing to leave - even though the palace was hit nine times over the course of the war.  There are over 700 rooms in the palace Buckingham Palace has hosted thousands of visitors throughout the years. And with a whopping 775 rooms, it's not hard to see how.  Among the 775 rooms are 19 grand State Rooms for events, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 78 bathrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, and 92 offices for the King, Royal Family, and staff. Of the State Rooms, the Throne Room is for ceremonial and official events - and the Prince and Princess of Wales took their wedding photos there. Most opulent is the White Room, where the King receives guests. When are the State Rooms open? The State Rooms are only open to the public in the summer. Since Buckingham Palace is very much still a functioning royal residence, throwing its doors open to the public isn't always practical. That's why they only open up during August and September when Queen Elizabeth heads off to Scotland for the summer holidays. Of course, that means you won't catch a glimpse of the Queen at any point of your visit. What kind of art can be found in Buckingham Palace? Buckingham Palace is home to a vast collection of masterworks, including paintings, sculptures, and other beautiful objects. Some of the most widely recognizable pieces include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Canaletto. The Royal Collection Trust, which manages the art collection, offers tours of the palace where visitors can view many of these masterpieces One of the highlights is the massive painting of Queen Victoria's coronation, which has to be seen to be believed. A massive fan of the royals managed to break in three times As a kid, little Edward Jones was pretty fascinated by the Royal Family. So much so that he managed to sneak into the residence three times. Well, at the very least he was caught three times. He managed to steal Queen Victoria's underwear (!), as well as food from the kitchens. He even boasted to the press that he'd sat on her throne. Without breaking in, it's possible to visit the Throne Room and see the three gilded royal seats for yourself.  Does King Charles III live in Buckingham Palace? As head of 'The Firm', King Charles III prefers to be based at Clarence House (also in London), but doesn't live at Buckingham Palace. He does carry out official engagements there, however. Tradition tends to dictate that the monarch lives at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II and the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh lived in the private apartments on the north side of the Palace. Other members of the Royal Family have lived in rooms on the upper floors of the north and east sides. Royal Family members, such Princess Anne, and Prince Edward and Sophie Countess of Wessex, hold private apartments at the palace but don't live there full-time. So it's unlikely you'll bump into any of them making a cup of tea in the kitchen while you're visiting! Over 800 people work for the Royal Household, and a lucky few do live in suitably posh apartments (which are said to be lovely, but obviously not as grand as their royal bosses'). There are also staff quarters for a range of household workers, some of whom might live there too.    There's a way to tell if the King is there If you're passing by and wonder whether the King is in, well, you're in luck. Want to know what to look out for? It's all to do with a flag. If the Union Flag is flying over the palace, then you're out of luck - he's not there. However, if the Royal Standard flag is flying, then he is in the building, or at least making a visit.  Buckingham Palace is like an opulent mini-village  Besides the Throne Room and the sprawling grounds, there's a lot going on, inside and outside of the main building. The Royal Mews, built in 1824-1825, are home to luxurious vehicles, and horses that work during special events. The garden alone, filled with beautiful plants and trees, covers 42 acres, making it the largest private garden in London. You'll be able to see some of it, but most of it is closed to the public. There's also a cinema and a swimming pool, a Post Office and police station, a clinic and even an ATM. See London's magnificent palaces and everything it has to offer With The London Pass®, you can enjoy a tour not just of Buckingham Palace, but three other royal residences and the Houses of Parliament with Top Sights Tours.  Planning your London trip? With The London Pass®, you can explore big-name landmarks, local hotspots and epic tours, all on one pass, all for one price. Not only that, but you'll enjoy savings of up to 50%, compared to buying individual attraction tickets.  ✈️ Buy The London Pass® ✈️
Dom Bewley

Have a 10% discount, on us!

Sign up to our newsletter and receive exclusive discounts, trip inspiration and attraction updates straight to your inbox.

  • Thick check Icon