England's Kensington Palace may not have name recognition quite as immediate as Buckingham Palace, but its rich and storied history is no less compelling. And now visitors will be able to look back at the fashions of one of the palace's most famous dwellers in a new Princess Diana exhibit when the palace reopens its doors to the public after a major renovation.
The new exhibit showcases some of the most iconic dresses and gowns the late Princess wore at key moments of her years in the royal family — five in all, including her famous "little black dress" by Versace and a sari-style dress designed by Catherine Walker for a goodwill trip to Thailand.
And TODAY viewers got an early look at what will be the first public display of the stunning — and controversial — black taffeta floor-length gown Princess Di wore at her first official palace outing back in 1981.
In the Tuesday report that provided the sneak preview, NBC's Michelle Kosinski noted that Di's gown was regarded as “daring and sexy” at the time, raising eyebrows with its low cut and tight fit. But in a sign of how times have changed, Duchess Kate, wife of Di’s son Prince William, recently wore an almost identical gown and was lauded for looking elegant.Slideshow: Princess Diana's most iconic style moments (on this page)
The Princess Di exhibit marks the reopening of Kensington Palace after a two-month, $20 million renovation. Visitors will not only get to gaze at Di's black gown — sold at auction for $300,000 last year — but will see the fashions and prized items of an earlier royal resident, Queen Victoria.
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Built in the early 17th century, Kensington Palace became an official royal residence in 1689. Its standing with the royal family has ebbed and flowed over the centuries since. Victoria, who began her 63-year rule as queen in 1837, was born there and made it her home with Prince Albert during the long reign that gave rise to the term "Victorian Era."Video: See Princess Di’s iconic gowns at Kensington (on this page)
Following her death in 1901, Kensington Palace dimmed in the public eye — until Charles and Diana decided to make it their royal residence after their 1981 marriage.Slideshow: Slideshow: Princess Diana's life (on this page)
And now, Prince William, who grew up in the palace, and makes it his marital home with Duchess Kate as well. The couple will soon move into an apartment there that Princess Margaret once called home. (Of course, the term "apartment" is relative when it comes to royals; William and Kate's new digs include four stories and 20 rooms.)
But tourists won't get to ogle William and Kate's kitchen or bedroom — only the palace's state rooms are open to the public.
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