Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Diana's Dresses

Last night's TV highlight had to be Channel 4's documentary about Princess Diana's dresses, which charted her evolution from shy Sloane with a see-through skirt to style icon by telling the stories behind 10 dresses that were auctioned in London earlier this year, raising in excess of £850,000. Indeed, Diana's dresses read like a diary with each sartorial choice a sign of the times.

It's easy to forget that in the early days Diana made mistakes - given no guidance on how a princess should dress - and I was shocked to learn that a young Diana was turned away from Bellville Sassoon. Pointed in the direction of Harrods to buy something off the peg by a shop assistant who had no clue that she was in fact talking to Prince Charles' new fiancee, it's like something out of Pretty Woman. After seeking advice from Vogue, the Princess was introduced to the then relatively unknown designers, Elizabeth and David Emanuel - and the rest, as they say, is history.

Of the 10 dresses put up for auction the star of the show had to be the ink blue velvet gown Diana wore to the White House in 1985 - the night she famously danced with John Travolta. The Victor Edelstein gown was sold for a staggering £240,000 to a British gentleman who said he wanted to buy it as a surprise to cheer up his wife!

The designer, somewhat modestly conceded that the same dress not worn by Diana would struggle to reach £400 - the beautiful dress that it is, it's the history collectors are buying into. These dresses will never be dry cleaned. They are studied for stains - one like a tiny hand print calls up images of William or Harry tugging at the skirt not wanting mummy to leave them.

At least two of the dresses are said to have been snapped up by important British museums, and as the auctioneer Kerry Taylor quite rightly said; 'Diana was the people's princess, so the people should be able to see the dresses. This is our heritage, our history.'

If you want to see examples of Diana's enviable wardrobe on display, a glamorous new exhibition has just opened at Kensington Palace. Fashion Rules features 21 couture gowns worn by HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales.

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