Princess Diana’s Arabella Pollen silk ensemble, worn for an Official Royal visit to Adelaide, 5th April, 1983.
Princess Diana’s Arabella Pollen silk ensemble, worn for an Official Royal visit to Adelaide, 5th April, 1983. labelled, ‘Pollen London’, in caramel, white and primrose stripes, comprising: loose jacket with self-covered buttons, horizontally striped patch pockets, pleated silk skirt and cummerbund tie sash, chest approx 97cm, 38in, waist 74cm, 29in; together with a letter of provenance
(4) Provenance: The dress was given to the vendor who worked as a nanny for a well-connected family from Northamptonshire who were good friends of ‘Fergie’ as she was affectionately known – Sarah, Duchess of York. She was a regular visitor and on one occasion also brought with her to dinner HRH the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Princess Diana and the Duchess of York each donated two dresses to the vendor’s employer to sell for charity. But on Christmas morning 1987, to the vendor’s delight she was given this striped silk ensemble as a surprise present as she was such a huge fan of the Princess. It has remained in her possession ever since. Princess Diana wore this ensemble on the first day the Royal tour of South Australia, worn with a straw boater and a blouse with ruff collar which had become synonymous with the ‘Lady Di’ style. The Royal couple were taken to the Adelaide Town Hall where they were treated to a State Reception followed by a trip to the Community Centre to watch a keep fit class amongst other pursuits, which were recorded on newsreels of the day. Princess Diana seemed smiling and self-assured, but later admitted that she found the first few days of the Australian tour traumatic. Although she disguised it well, the Princess was feeling unwell, believed she looked ‘too thin’ and found it difficult to cope with the sweltering temperatures.
She also keenly felt the separation from young Prince William to whom Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, had thoughtfully extended the invitation. However massive crowds and 95 degree temperatures made it unsuitable. Still at the crawling stage, Prince William was safely ensconced with his nanny at Woomargama, a 4000 acre sheep station in New South Wales which Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited as often as they could amid their hectic schedule but at least Diana knew he was under the same sky. With a population of 17 million, over a 1 million Australians turned up in person to greet the couple on their four-week tour. But everywhere they went, the crowds clamoured for the Princess and complained when Prince Charles went over to their side of the street on a walkabout, much to his obvious displeasure.
However, the success of this gruelling tour marked a turning point in Diana’s Royal life. Andrew Morton, in ‘Diana Her True Story – In Her Own Words’, p142, wrote: ‘She went out a girl, she returned home a woman…(the Australian trip) signalled the slow resurrection of her inner spirit’ The international press complained that Diana was often dressed more like a dowager than a young Princess. US fashion critic Mr Blackwell, put the Princess at the top of his Worst Dressed List, stating she had gone from ‘a very young, independent, fresh look’ to a ‘tacky, dowdy’ style. However, the loose flowing lines of this ensemble made it cool, practical and drew attention away from her slender form.
What’s bright red and white and a favorite of Princess Di’s? Why, the sheep jumper, of course. And what’s that? Glad you asked: It’s a jumper (British parlance for a pullover sweater) with rows upon rows of white sheep forming an unmistakable—once you’ve seen it—design. Oh, yes, one black sheep is always knitted into the pattern as well, though its exact position amidst the woolly flock changes from one sweater style to the next.
The sheep jumper was the creation of a pair of enterprising English pals, Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne, both 28. Operating from a small shop on London’s South Bank, they are partners in a sweater-making cottage industry which they named Warm and Wonderful. “We always knit things we would like to wear ourselves,” says Joanna, and Sally adds, “The sheep jumper just seemed ironic, to have a sheep motif on a wool sweater.” They both insist they do not design with royalty in mind and that “by coincidence our style appeals to the sort of girl that Diana is. She has a wonderful sense of fashion, and our sweater is perfect for her casual style.”
The Princess of Wales never visited their shop, so Muir and Osborne are not sure how she came by her sheep jumper—probably a gift, they think. But ever since Di was first photographed some two years ago wearing hers, it has been the hottest-selling item, particularly among London’s “Sloane Rangers,” the trendy young herd that roams in and out of the fashionable boutiques around Sloane Square. Customers who don’t want to follow along sheepishly can opt for pig jumpers, frog jumpers, fish jumpers or any of a couple of dozen creatures of choice. And we now have one in stock!