ICONIC DRESSES WORN BY PRINCESS DIANA UP FOR AUCTION
By Rebecca English
13th April 2010
It was the daring black dress that set a thousand flashbulbs popping – and launched a worldwide obsession with Princess Diana’s style that still endures today.
Now fans will be given the chance to buy the iconic taffeta Emanuel creation worn by the 19-year-old royal-in-waiting for her first official appearance with fiancé, Prince Charles.
The gown – thought by teenage Diana to be the epitome of grown-up glamour, but one that left staid palace courtiers spluttering into their G&Ts – is set to fetch up to £50,000 when it comes up for auction in June.
It is one of 30 lots being put up for sale in June by designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel, who were instrumental in shaping the young princess’s interest in fashion.
Among them is the chiffon blouse worn by the then Lady Diana Spencer for her engagement portrait taken by Lord Snowdon, estimated at £10,000-£15,000.
The auction also includes original sketches of her wedding dress, which could reach £1,200 [pictured], its final calico ‘toile’ which is estimated at £8,000 to £12,000 – and even an ivory paper taffeta bridal gown which was used by the princess for fittings (est £2,000-£3,000).
Also of interest are a voluminous ivory tulle petticoat worn by Diana to her wedding dress rehearsal in July 1981 [pictured] (est £600-£1,000), a book of invoices and letters relating to the wedding gown (est £600 to £900) and sketches of dresses worn for her ‘Gulf’ tour in 1986 [pictured] (est £1,200-£1,800).
There is even a folder charting the princess’s measurements between 1981 and 1987 (est £400-£600) – a period when she was suffering from severe anorexia and bulemia and pregnant with her two sons.
The black dress, worn by Diana to a charity ball at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City in March 1981, will be particularly attractive to collectors, however, because of the way in which it instantly catapulted her onto the world stage.
Until that moment members of the royal family were not known for their fashion credentials, black was a colour almost solely reserved for mourning and princesses were definitely not prone to displaying such a daring amount of decolletage.
Reminiscing about the dress recently, Miss Emanuel said: ‘The transformation was incredible. She arrived [at her studio] looking like the nursery school teacher she was, but now she looked like a movie star.
‘We gave her the dress and a little shawl to go with it so she could cover up on the night and away she went.
An original sketch of the silk ‘Gulf’ dress worn by Diana in Bahrain in 1986; right, the chiffon blouse she wore for her engagement portrait in 1980
‘We hadn’t considered the fact that when Diana bent over – as she would have to do when getting out of the car – she would show quite a lot of cleavage. We just thought she looked fabulous.’
Rumours abounded at the time that Diana had been forced to destroy the dress because her in-laws were so shocked it about.
In fact she adored it and returned it the Emanuels only to be altered because she had lost so much weight.
Unfortunately the changes required would have been so drastic that the couple decided it was easier to remake her smaller version.
The tulle petticoat worn by Diana for her wedding rehearsal at St Paul’s (left) and right, the original sketch of the wedding dress, submitted to Diana in 1981
As for the original, it was kept in a storeroom and only recently re-discovered, 19 years after it first created such a stir.
The dress will go under the hammer on June 8 in London at specialist vintage fashion auctioneers Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Miss Taylor said yesterday: ‘The Emanuel Archive contains lots of rare memorabilia and ranges from actual clothes form by the princess to fashion sketches, invoices, and letters. It records the emergence and transformation of Lady Diana Spencer to the style icon we know today.
‘The petticoat she wore to her wedding rehearsal could even be bought by another bride-to-be and turned into their own wedding dress.’
For more information see http://www.kerrytaylorauctions.com