During a walk-through of “Diana — the People’s Princess,” I was reminded that royals are people, too. The displays show off hundreds of regal artifacts, including some chic, rarely-seen-in-America dresses, but what stuck with me are the hundreds of items showing Diana’s human touches.
For instance, on display is a blanket that the princess used in Balmoral, the castle in Scotland. She would get chilly, just like real people, right? And maybe someone in the castle was a cover hog because stitched along the edge is a tag that reads “HRH Princess of Wales.” Hands off, the princess has spoken.
There are many handwritten pieces as well. Diana was prompt in her thank-you cards, and she wrote out birthday invitations that look like they could have been purchased at Party City.
On one wall is a handwritten schedule for her hair appointments. Some days have an additional notation — “tiara” — for days that a crown-friendly ‘do was required.
On the royal side, the dresses are impressive and flanked by photos of Diana wearing them. Most familiar might the black velvet V- neck ensemble she wore for an official portrait in 1985. What you can’t see in that portrait is the cool, elegant back, topped by a decorative rose at the back of the neck.
In the back is a plaid dress that Diana wore to an event in Scotland.
“She was very astute in matching her fashion to the country or institution she was visiting,” says Maureen Rorech Dunkel, founder of The People’s Princess Charitable Foundation, which is presenting the exhibit.
A series of larger-than-life photographs serves as a timeline for her fashion evolution.
“I’m trying to hone into her multiples identities,” Dunkel says.
Many of the displays are oversized, which is a good thing considering the size of the room. The displays wind around the ground floor of the building, which housed the Virgin Megastore until the entire chain closed earlier this year. Giant banners and photographs dangle from the rafters as well as on the exterior of the building, where images of rock singers and pop stars used to hang out.
Diana’s death is covered without being too maudlin. Notable items within a memorial case are Elton John‘s “Candle in the Wind” music and a ceremonial jacket worn by a pallbearer. Nearby is a large representation of the thousands of flowers that mourners placed at the palace gate.
The exhibit typically takes 35 to 45 minutes to experience, Dunkel says. Frankly, I would have guessed longer — there are so many little things to absorb. And larger pieces such as the doll-sized replica of Diana’s wedding dress (and 25-foot train) are time-consuming items. But don’t take a picture — photography is extremely restricted.
The artifacts will be at Downtown Disney through November. It’s easy to imagine making a night of Cirque du Soleil or dinner with Diana for dessert. Sweet.
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