I remember waking early to watch the wedding of Charles and Diana and sadly remember her funeral in 1997. But, I certainly never got to meet her. Vivid memories of her life and times flood back, however, while viewing the Dresses for Humanity II exhibit.
The Lakeland Center, between Tampa and Orlando, is hosting a collection of eighteen outfits worn by Diana, the Princess of Wales, from the time of her wedding to her untimely death.
Maureen Rorech Dunkel, owner of many of the gowns, is "using beautiful things to do beautiful things." She continues the philosophy Diana started by auctioning her dresses at Christie's. Proceeds go the worldwide charities supported by the former Princess.
The presentation is exquisite, including soft music and lighting which dazzles the eye. "The Pink India Gown" boasts thousands of hand sewn sequins resembling gems and designer, Catherine Walker's loaned a shimmering pearl, sequin and crystal embroidered cream lace confection. Other outfits include elegant tailored suits and sexy sheaths. Photos of Diana accompany each outfit and signage provides an understanding of her interest in humanitarian causes.
The experience is truly moving and emotional for many. I saw visitors with tears and others praying. They appear to feel "the perpetual power of The People's Princess," as they move through the gallery. Sharon Helton, a museum-goer from Tennessee said, "I have no words, it just got to my soul."
Two English ladies, one now living in Lakeland, told me, "We miss her. We feel cheated. She was something very special."
If you're a Di fan or interested in history, fashion or celebrity, the show should not be missed.
Until December 26, 2008
The Lakeland Center
701 West Lime Street
Lakeland, FL 33815
$23, $8 Children 6-12
Children under 6 admitted free