From Snow White, created in 1937, to Tiana in 2009, Disney has created eight imaginary princesses for young girls to adore, and pretend to be. They often are beautifully drawn with flowing gowns and portrayed as innocent damsels in distress, waiting to be saved by a handsome prince while frolicking with animated sidekicks and singing enchanted tunes. But none of these storybook princesses can hold a match to the real-life and humanitarian work of Princess Diana.
Diana: A Celebration presents an exhibit that showcases Princess Diana’s life. The touring exhibit will be at the Atlanta Civic Center until June. Produced by Arts and Exhibitions International and the Atlanta Civic Center, it features nine galleries with more than 150 objects and priceless artifacts, including family heirlooms, home movies, photos and personal mementoes from Diana’s childhood. The exhibit also features a collection of her designer dresses, including her royal wedding gown.
Royal bling, bling
One of the first items on display is a tiara from the Spencer family collection. The silver, gold and diamond-laced crown sits regally as the center piece of the family collection. As visitors continue they’re met with other stately items such as a riviere necklace that has 46 diamonds set in silver and gold and an emerald and diamond pendant cross. Earrings, necklaces and broaches are some of the other stunning pieces in the priceless family collection.
On to the dresses
Diana Spencer, the youngest daughter of John Spencer, and Frances Spencer, became known to the world as Princess Diana after marrying Charles, Prince of Wales. There were more than 3,500 people in attendance at the royal wedding at St. Paul’s Cathedral and millions more watched the televised event. All were witness to Diana’s grand arrival in her royal wedding gown.
According to the press release, in her efforts to support England’s fashion industry, Diana selected a young British couple, Elizabeth and David Emanuel of London’s Mayfair district, who had been in business only seven years. The relatively unknown Emanuels were chosen for both their talents and their discretion. The royal wedding gown is quite stunning—boasting a 25-foot silk train that is the longest in royal history. The dress was made of six different fabrics including 25 yards of silk taffeta, 100 yards of tulle crinoline and 150 yards of netting for the veil.
“It’s incredibly light,” remarked Graeme Murton, art handler for the estate. “It cost $1,900 and it was tradition that the bride’s mother pay for the dress…and that $1,900 didn’t just include the wedding dress but all the bridesmaids’ dresses and the pageboy [outfit].”
The exhibit also features 28 more stylish and elegant dresses, suits and evening gowns designed by Chanel, Versace, Valentino and Azagury that were worn by the princess during her public life, accompanied by photos and designer details from the events at which the outfits were worn.
More than dresses
The exhibit also touches on a side of Diana that was close to her heart but not always publicized—her humanitarian and charitable works. “I think in the end Princess Diana wanted to be more known for her charity work,” said Murton. According to exhibit information, Diana took on causes that were seen as “difficult” or “unfashionable” in 1987. She was the first high-profile figure to be seen shaking hands with an AIDS patient. Murton shared additional insight about her humanitarian spirit as he spoke about her personal interactions with people affected by AIDS, cancer and leprosy. “She did so much but she didn’t publicize it,” he noted.
A princess remembered
Because she was a public figure and member of the royal family, Diana was often in the spotlight. From her wedding, childbirths and even her divorce in 1995, her private life was constantly publicly chronicled until her tragic death in a 1997 automobile accident. For some, the world stood still as news of her death spread. One of the many people touched by her passing was Sir Elton John, who composed the musical score and lyrics to a remake of his 1973 original Candle in the Wind. The song was released and performed as a tribute to her life. The exhibit serves as tribute her life’s legacy. One of the last items on display is a case filled will volumes of condolence books from people around the world—a final reminder of all the lives she touched.
If you want to go:
Diana: A Celebration will be Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Avenue, NE Atlanta, through June 13. Tickets are $18.50 for adults; $12 for children ages 6-17; and $15.50 for seniors and students 18 years and older with ID. Children younger than 5 are admitted free of charge. For additional information, including hours of operation, visit www.dianaexhibition.com.