Inside Princess Margaret's Wardrobe: We Pay Tribute To The Lesser-Known Royal Style Icon

30 July 2013 by

GALLERY >> Inside Princess Margaret's Wardrobe

Cream silk evening gown from the Fashion Rules exhibition, as worn in 1951

A grey lace Norman Hartnell dress on display, worn by the Princess in 1952/3

Christian Dior coat on display at the exhibition, as worn throughout the 1960s

Always the belle of the ball, Princess Margaret in 1950s and a Norman Hartnell 1977 gown from the exhibition

Worn at her typical holiday destination, Mustique, the Princess's 1976 kaftan and 1977 Christian Dior gown both at the exhibition

In London during the 1940s

At a ball in 1951

Wearing an elaborate silk gown fit for a Princess at a ball during her Caribbean tour

Displaying a fine array of jewellery in a formal portrait, 1951

Posing in Christian Dior in the early 1950s

Countryside ready in 1959

With The Queen at Epsom in 1958

Belted sophistication at the Epsom races in 1959

Attending a film premiere in 1951

On a night out in London's West End in the early 1950s. If only we all still went out dressed like this #chic

Princess Margaret of Millinery

Looking effortlessly chic on one of her many foreign tours during the 1950s

The ultimate 1950s covergirl, wearing Dior

Looking every inch the princess in the late 1940s

London City Airport, 1953

Official portrait to mark her 21st birthday

If only we still wore outfits like this to the cinema! The Princess in early 1950s

FROWing at a Christian Dior presentation at Blenheim Palace, 1954

With Christian Dior in 1954 following his Winter Collection presentation

Attending an RAF display in 1950

During her tour of the West Indies in 1955

Sandhurst, 1956

Jackie Kennedy alert! The Princess in 1956.

Floral frocks for her tour of the West Indies in 1955

Spotted again during her West Indies Tour, 1955

With Yves Saint Laurent at his 1958 Christian Dior presentation

Princess Margaret on her wedding day, 1960

With Lord Snowdon in Italy, 1968

Pink pokadots, inspecting troops in Kensington, Jamaica, 1961

Ruffles and pokadots to meet The Beatles in 1965

Cocktail party wear in 1962

Wearing yellow during her 1962 tour of Jamaica

As the hemlines raise, Princess Margaret hits the town in 1969

On the front cover of Life Magazine following her visit to the White House in 1965

Pretty in pink at a West Indies reception in 1962

Holidaying with her husband, Lord Snowdon in the Bahamas in 1967

Holidaying in Mustique in 1976

Crowds at the Fashion Rules exhibition in Kensington Palace have gathered to see Princess Diana's '80s Dynasty esque numbers and the decadent dresses worn by the Queen in the '50s. However, sitting sophisticatedly between them is the wardrobe belonging to the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret, Countess Snowdon. She tore up the royal rule book in the 50's and - as claimed by Picture Post at the time - ‘what she wears is news.’

Famed for her beauty and dramatic sartorial statements, Princess Margaret was THE fashion icon of the late '40s and into the '50s. This mixed with endless column inches detailing her wild partying and the men she entertained only added to the appeal of the Princess. As the curator of the exhibition, Cassie Davies-Strodder explains, ‘Margaret was a distinctive fashion icon because she was so glamorous – with all the beauty of a Hollywood film star, she brought a new kind of style of the Royal Family.’

Princess Margaret in the '50s

As Cassie describes, Margaret had greater freedom to follow fashion closely, unlike her sister, who, as a monarch, needed to patronise British designers, and to dress diplomatically for meetings and engagements. The halter neck gown featured in the exhibition is a clear illustration of this sartorial strategy - the necklines were more daring than the Queen's, the designers more international and the resulting dresses rivalled those of the Hollywood actresses. Becoming the poster girl for fifties fashionistas as a result. 

Whilst Princess Margaret continued to wear the elaborate encrusted gowns by British designer, Norman Hartnell, she was one of the key champions of the then-new label, Christian Dior. As well as adopting the 'new look' tailoring, the Princess regularly attended his presentations and chose to wear one of his designs in her 21st birthday portrait, taken by royal favourite, Cecil Beaton. Margaret's strong support of the brand firmly placed Dior on the british fashion map. 

With Christian Dior After The Presentation Of His Winter 1954 Collection

By the 1960s with her handsome husband, fashion photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones on her arm, the Princess positioned herself as the most in demand party guest in London. With her purse constantly on the fashion pulse her image went away from the 1950s nipped in waists and full skirts to the ‘slim look’ championed by Marc Bohan at Dior in the 1960s. But the greatest departure came in the 1970s when the Princess regularly holidayed in Mustique, and her clothes took on a new tropical direction. Her vibrant and extensive clothing choices even inspired Christopher Kane's Spring Summer 2011 collection, which he said symbolised, 'Princess Margaret on acid.'

Yet it is the 1950s which really mark the Princess out as one of the most fashion savvy royals of them all. Mixing the fairy-tale with the fashion know how, Margaret positioned herself as a power player whose style, fifty years on, is enchanting a new generation with this new exhibition. It’s hard to imagine the same being said for some of the young royals of our day in the future.

See some of our favourite looks from Fashion Rules in the gallery above and some of Princess Margaret's style highlights - the exhibition runs at Kensington Palace until Summer 2015


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