London: From the nipped-in waist in the 1950s, short skirts and diaphanous fabrics in the 60s and 70s, to sparkles and shoulder pads in the 80s, a new exhibition starting Thursday at the Kensington Palace in London would showcase the fashion led by three women of the British royal family.
Titled "Fashion Rules", the exhibition displays 21 garments from Queen Elizabeth II, her sister Princess Margaret and the late Princess Diana.
"There are two types of rules -- the rule of fashion and the rule of dressing as a royal," Tracy Borman, joint chief curator of the Historical Royal Palaces, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
The first room shows five exquisite evening dresses by the queen`s two favourite designers Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell.
The gowns are embroidered with pearls, beads, diamante and sequins, reflecting the trends at that time for full skirts and intricate trimmings.
Princess Margaret was known for her rule-breaking and fashionable dressing style, especially after her marriage to fashion photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960.
The influence of pop culture at that time was clear from her dresses.
For instance, a blue evening dress was matched with a sleeveless jacket reminiscent of the collarless styles popularized by the Beatles, while another with plunging neckline and halterneck straps bore Hollywood glamour.
A photo portraying the princess in the latter with a cigarette once caused a sensation.
"It is my favourite dress here," said curator Borman. "You can imagine Marilyn Monroe wearing it."
Diana`s dresses typified the trend in the 1980s -- dropped waist, oversize bow, padded shoulders and sparkling embroidery.
As many of the dresses appeared in diplomatic occasions, they were designed with more political considerations.
An evening dress wore by the queen in 1961 at a banquet in Pakistan was white and green, the national colours of Pakistan.
Another she wore in Nova Scotia during a visit to Canada in 1959 was decorated with mayflower motif, the provincial flower of Nova Scotia.
Diana followed a similar code. During a royal tour to Japan, she wore the colour of cherry blossom.
In Saudi Arabia, her dress followed local custom with long sleeves, high neckline and full-length skirt.
When she visited Brazil in 1991, the country just lost in the bid to hold the World Cup, so she told her designer that colours of the Brazilian football team including green and yellow should not appear on her clothes.
"From the dresses we can see different characters of these royal members," curator Borman said.
"The queen dressed in a formal way, and Margaret was freer, flamboyant and sometimes risky. Diana was glamorous, and respectful as well."
Another curator, Cassie Davies-Strodder said that Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, has already become a new fashion icon.
"But it is still too early to define her style," she said, admitting that in the future, they may add Kate`s dresses to the collection.