Nearly a quarter century after her death, Diana, Princess of Wales, remains one of the most popular cultural figures of her time.
Known as “the People’s Princess,” Diana’s iconic fashion choices often turned heads at the stodgiest of state events.
Mid-state art lovers will have a chance to see two of the princess’s glitziest gowns, along with a replica of her stunning wedding ensemble, at an exhibit that begins Sunday at Hendersonville’s Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center (MACC).
“The Elegance of Royal Fashion” features items on loan from fashion designer and collector Pat Kerr whose private collection also includes rare items once owned by Queen Victoria, Wallis Simpson and other notable personalities. Some of Kerr’s own signature designs will be on display as well.
MACC Executive Director Cheryl Strichik says she couldn’t have timed the exhibit better if she tried.
“Interest in Princess Diana’s life is at an all-time high, and visitors will experience the sort of fashion usually seen only at Kensington Palace,” she said.
CNN released a six-part documentary series, “Diana” on Oct. 10. “Spencer,” a movie starring “Twilight” actress Kristen Stewart in the title role, hit movie theaters Nov. 5.
Strichik first approached Kerr in 2018 about displaying her collection at Monthaven. When the schedule was finalized earlier this year, Strichik says she had no idea about the Diana documentary or movie.
Best known for the couture she crafted for Nieman Marcus, Kerr is also recognized as one of the world’s leading private collectors and authorities on antique lace, textiles and British royal memorabilia.
A long-time resident of Memphis, Kerr has been amassing her private collection for decades. Notable designs that will be on display at MACC include “The Falcon,” a silk crepe gown created by Catherine Walker and worn by Princess Diana only once during a 1986 visit to meet the King of Saudi Arabia. Another stunning gown included in the exhibit is “Spanish Dancer,” a plum-colored design covered in black lace created by Victor Edelstein, one of Diana’s favorite designers. The Princess of Wales wore this gown during a 1987 trip to Hamburg, West Germany.
Also on display is a replica Kerr created of Princess Diana’s wedding gown – complete with a 25-foot detachable train, tulle veil and a bodice featuring authentic Carrickmacross antique lace covered in pearls.
Kerr’s collection will also include a pink shawl wrap once owned by Queen Victoria, a gown once worn by Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, as well as replicas of wedding gowns worn by Simpson and former First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.
Local arts patron Jeanette Heinz said she considered it a privilege when asked to be the exhibit’s presenting sponsor.
“It is important to me to be involved in causes that build and enhance the community around us,” said the Sumner County resident. “Monthaven Arts and Cultural Center is unrivaled in the sphere of doing more to bring balance, culture and encourage creativity in the lives of our children through their touring exhibits, arts education and outreach programs. Their commitment to our veterans and their Healing Arts program is a true asset to Sumner County.”
Strichik says the proceeds from the exhibit’s ticket sales will help fund the MACC’s arts education and outreach programs.
So far, the response has been a positive one with royal-watchers from as far away as Texas, Alabama and Mississippi buying tickets, she added.
“It’s a small, intimate exhibit people can get close to and spend some time with,” she said. “I feel like it’s going to be a really fun exhibit.”
To purchase timed entrance tickets for “The Elegance of Royal Fashion,” go to www.monthavenartsandculturalcenter.com. Tickets are $20 each, and the exhibit runs through Jan. 9, 2022.