Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A visit to Kensington Palace and the Fashion Rules exhibition.

Avid blog readers will  know that I'm a big fan of anything royal and everything palatial, so a trip to the former home of Queen Victoria and Diana, Princess of Wales which is also the soon-to-be home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (and Prince George of course!) was just a perfect addition to my 21st birthday day of fun in London last weekend (did you see our fit-for-a-queen afternoon tea!?)

Of course, I'm talking about Kensington Palace. It may appear slightly less grand than its sister round the corner (ish), Buckingham Palace, but situated in the heart of Kensington and Chelsea and surrounded by the beautiful Kensington Gardens, the palace is certainly a beauty. I'd be OK with living there, put it that way.

As it so happened, our visit to Kensington Palace coincided with the anniversary of the tragic death of Princess Diana, and so there were lots of people gathered at the gates, leaving bouquets of flowers and flags. A slightly sombre note to what was otherwise a beautiful day.

I'd never been to Kensington Palace beforehand, but I was jolly pleased that our visit coincided with the Fashion Rules exhibition, about which I'd heard lots. Fashion + history + princesses = right up my street. Naturally, mama and I headed there first.

The Queen was such a stunner
The glamorous new exhibition takes you on a style retrospective through the amazing dresses of The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales. Not only is it fascinating to learn about both royal dress and retro fashion, but also about how popular fashion translated into a royal wardrobe and the latter reflected trends in the former. And of course, the dresses are elegant, beautifully displayed and incredibly preserved.

I found it particularly interesting to discover how The Queen and her sister Princess Margaret's different roles within the Royal Family meant they could wear different styles. I suppose it's the same nowadays - remember when Prince Harry wore that Nazi outfit as fancy dress? Well can you imagine if Prince William had done so!?

Fashion Rules takes you on a journey through the decades of royal style, and each room starts with an introduction to life in Britain at the time. The 50s are devoted to Her Majesty, The Queen, showcasing not only the nipped-in waist style of the time, but also just how tiny the Queen's waist was!

One of the Queen's amazing dresses
Full skirts were the order of the day in the post-war years, but then the Queen followed the style of more slim-lined shapes in the 60s. Did you know that royals generally wore light colours so they could stand out in black and white photos? Clever, huh?

Moving into the 60s and 70s, Fashion Rules shows Princess Margaret's more liberal style and the greater freedom of the time. Although obviously it wasn't quite psychedelic flairs and mini skirts. She was still a princess.

In the 80s, the exhibition focuses on the style of the late Princess Diana - yup, shoulder pads a-plenty. But we're also shown how influential Diana's style was, just like Kate Middleton's is today.

Some of Princess Diana's dresses
Each dress showcases a different 'rule', such as embellishment, and is accompanied by an interesting snippet of information, details and a picture of when it was worn. But Fashion Rules isn't just a display of dresses though. 

There are fabulous quotes round the rooms and framed Vogue covers from the respective decades line the walls - I found them fascinating to look at in themselves, but also useful to consider alongside the royal dresses.

I love this!

Fashion Rules is also a technologically interactive exhibition, which I thought was great. There are free wifi points where you can scan a QR code on your smartphone to watch a video of, say, how the sequin rose motif was created on one of Princess Margaret's dresses. Snazzy stuff, eh?

There's a free iPad app you can download which is also available on fixed iPads around the exhibition - it lets you get creative either by colouring in dress templates or drawing your own. I had a play and it really was fun! You can check out some of the awesome creations visitors have done on this tumblr

I'm quite the designer.
It's not groundbreaking technologically, but the videos projected on to the walls of the Queen and the princesses in their dresses from the decades past were beautiful to watch. I love the Royal Family. I think they're totally great.

I'm not going to lie to you, I often find museum-style exhibitions really quite boring, but I can honestly say I LOVED Fashion Rules. It's on until Summer 2015 so you still have plenty of time to plan a trip.

After the exhibition, mama and I explored a bit more of Kensington Palace. Unsurprisingly for an August Saturday afternoon, it was very busy. I know the private half of the Palace is separate to the state apartments open to the public, but I hope they're reeeaaally separate, as I'd hate the Royal Family to get annoyed at all the tourists strolling round their home, instagramming as they go. 

The public wing offers four routes to explore - you start in the Vestibule, pick a door and then follow the coloured route. There's a different colour for each exhibition or section, which I though was a really great way of helping people round. Of course, as one would expect from a royal palace, there are friendly staff dotted around to help if needs be though. Classic Royal organisation.

Having had our fill of grand, old interiors, mama and I, naturally, headed down to the gift shop. 

Me, obvs.
There are a lot of cute things on offer, but we decided on this hilarious book...

...and mama bought this mug for me as a birthday present. I shall take it on my year abroad and drink my tea from it feeling suitably patriotic:

There's a cute (if expensive) café attached to the gift shop, as well as The Orangery in the gardens where I'm told one can have a nice afternoon tea. The whole vibe of Kensington Palace is somewhat more relaxed and touristy than, say, Windsor Castle, but you can tell the staff have tried hard to make it a lot of fun. And it is all fun. I rather enjoyed their toilet signs. (I know, who would've thought one could enjoy a toilet sign?)

It was such a beautiful day, so mama and I had a lovely stroll round the gorgeous gardens. OK, we strolled for a bit, but then we just sat on a bench in the sun and watched the world go by. We were tired. It was a long day. Don't judge. It was bliss.

It was a lovely way to spend a few hours, so I'm really grateful to Superbreak for offering me the tickets.

Find out more about Kensington Palace here and you can book tickets yourself through Superbreak here.

Superbreak offer all sorts of deals for loads of different attractions - check out their London breaks page here and treat yourself to a cracking day out!


  1. I keep seeing adverts for this, and then forgetting!

    Definitely on my to-do list, and definitely with my mum too :)

    Hmm maybe...

    1. Yes, it's a LOVELY mother-daughter trip. Hope you find the time in the next couple of years :)


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