Britain's Princess Diana, arriving for a whirlwind tour, wowed the city's fashion elite before turning her attention to those at the other end of the social spectrum.

Awed fashion designers and retailers proclaimed Diana radiant and divine when she appeared at a party in her honor Wednesday night.The 27-year-old princess, who had just arrived on her first official visit to New York, sounded equally impressed by her host city. "It was marvelous, quite dramatic," she said when asked her first impressions of the city.

Diana's explorations continued Thursday with a visit to the Henry Street Settlement, a 96-year-old community center that helps immigrants, homeless people and the elderly.

"She's a real-life person, not someone with a wand," day care director Karen Leslie explained to a dozen excited pre-schoolers Wednesday as they prepared for the visit.

Thursday night she was to attend the American debut of the Welsh National Opera, which will perform Verdi's "Falstaff" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. As the Princess of Wales, she is patron of the opera company.

Irish-American activists opposed to British involvement in Northern Ireland planned to demonstrate outside the opera performance.

Diana's first evening in the city was devoid of controversy. She arrived on a British Airways supersonic Concorde flight at Kennedy International Airport at 5:49 p.m. Wednesday. Her first public appearance was on the 50th floor of the Equitable Tower, where she attended a gala reception and buffet dinner hosted by Dawson International, producers of Scottish cashmere.

Before she arrived, guests received some last-minute instructions from British Consul George Finlayson. "For British subjects it's protocol for the men to nod, and the women can curtsy," he said. "For Americans, ever since the War of Independence, you can do what you want."

This week's tour is the first lone official visit abroad by Diana since October 1985, when she went to the Royal Hampshire Regiment's base in Berlin.

The princess visited the White House during a U.S. tour in 1985 with her husband, Prince Charles, who remained in Britain this week. He will arrive in the United States on Feb. 16 for a four-day visit to Washington and Palm Beach, Fla.