Are you a fashionista? A princess wannabe? Or just a big fan of the late Princess Diana?
Then the collection, "Diana, A Celebration," on display at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland through June 10, is a must-see.
I spent Mother's Day afternoon at the exhibit with a girlfriend and her mother. We went to spend the day feeling girly and princessy, but left with a refreshed memory of all that Princess Diana did for those around her (and a great appreciation for giant diamonds and beaded gowns, of course).
First, a word of warning. The exhibit is, understandably, very popular. Upon our arrival, we waited about a half-hour to enter the exhibit. By the time we left, however, the line had more than tripled from the time we arrived. So leave plenty of time to wait in line and bring an entertaining friend to ward off the boredom of waiting.
Once inside the exhibit, even though many more people waited outside, it was difficult to see some displays through the throngs of viewers listening to those little headphones that tend to stop people in one place for entirely too long. I'm a "look and move on" kind of museum-goer.
The exhibit space was large enough, however, to still appreciate the many items from Diana's life that were displayed, including childhood videos, report cards, an old typewriter and letters.
Oh, and did I mention there were diamonds? I think I need to devote a whole paragraph just to those.
The range of sizes of the diamonds were like sifting through a mixed nut tray, with sizes varying from peanut to (really big) almonds. And, the sparkle! My fellow princess wannabes and I had to spend quite a bit of time just ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the first attraction of the exhibit -- Diana's tiara. I would definitely have risked a royal headache for the chance to wear it just for a minute, but I don't think my press pass would have carried that much weight.
I also can't forget to mention the gowns. Diana's famed wedding dress, complete with its 25-foot train, was prominently displayed. Not my style with the puffed sleeves, but admirable with its fine lace and intricate beading. I was shocked by a sign near the dress that said it, along with a bridesmaid's dress and other accompaniments, cost only $1,900. That was still a lot of money in 1981 when Diana and Prince Charles were married, but a steal by today's standards!
In addition to the wedding gown, there were 28 memorable Diana outfits, including many formal gowns and suits by designers like Versace, Azagury, Valentino and Chanel. Pressing my nose to the glass, I think, was the closest I will ever get to dresses like that. Eh, who needs Chanel, anyway (me!)
All joking aside, the most moving parts of the exhibit were the final two rooms, which ran video of Diana's funeral and Elton John's tribute song on a loop. Included in those rooms were a hand-drafted version of Charles Spencer's farewell speech to his sister and an unbelievable number of condolence books. Another moving room contained images and mementos of Diana's many goodwill trips abroad, including her work in mine fields, AIDS camps and in leprosy colonies.
It made it clear that she wasn't just a princess for her pretty dresses and sparkling jewelry.
The 10,000-square-foot exhibit is in Cleveland after stops in Toronto, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg, Houston and Dayton. All proceeds go to support charities Diana held close to her heart, and so far, about $2 million has been raised, according to a press release.
The three-year, five-city tour was set to end its run at the Dayton Art Institute early this year, but was extended because of it's popularity. In total, the exhibit includes more than 150 of Diana's personal items lent to the exhibit by the Spencer family.
For more information about the exhibit, call 216-721-5722 ext. 273 or visit www.wrhs.com.
Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3146