One of Princess Diana’s most
glamorous gowns saved by the
Kensington Palace has rescued one of Princess Diana’s most exquisite evening dresses following revelations that some of her favourite designer outfits have ended up being hawked around downmarket casinos and conference venues.
Historic Royal Palaces paid £25,000 for the pink Zandra Rhodes chiffon gown, decorated with rhinestones, crystal beads and pearl droplets, which she wore at a 1986 State Banquet in Kyoto, Japan, and is now being carefully stored in their archives.
The Mail recently revealed how Diana’s iconic wedding dress was being displayed in a travelling exhibition, last seen at a downmarket casino complex in Connecticut.
Flashback: The Princess of Wales modelling the fairytale dress decorated with rhinestones, crystal beads and pearl droplets, which she wore at a 1986 State Banquet in Kyoto, Japan
Other dresses famously first sold off by the princess shortly before her death in 1997 to raise money for her favourite charities, have changed hands many times over amid tales of double dealing and bankruptcy.
Mail Online was offered an exclusive viewing of the iconic gown this week, as well as other royal fashion treasures, to mark a unique link up between the royal charity and the Disney company which will see a horse-drawn carriage parade of legendary princesses, including Rapunzel, through Kensington Gardens at 1pm on Sunday. The event is free to the public.
Moments in time: Hand embroidered linen mittens worn by Princess Charlotte, the daughter of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick (left) and a miniature crown supplied Garrards, the Royal Jewellers, worn by Princess Patricia to her uncle King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902 (right)
The Zandra Rhodes gown, first sold 14 years ago, passed through several hands before finally being put up for auction alongside Kate Middleton’s famous see-through dress in March.
It is now being carefully looked after by the curator of the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection.
Housed in Apartment 1A – Princess Margaret’s former residence – it is carefully stored in acid-free paper and in a temperature- controlled environment.
Historic Royal Palaces is a charitable organisation that receives no public or official funding.
It relies on donations to fund the upkeep of royal residences including KP, as it is affectionately known to its residents which now include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Tower of London and Hampton Court. The palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation.
Child’s play: Paper dolls made by 14 year-old Harriet Johnson in 1787, based on Queen Charlotte’s outfits
The chiffon dress, printed with an ivory ‘Buttons and Bows’ design, has a quilted satin waistband with faux bustle-effect panel, a layered collar and weighted, zig-zag hem with hand-rolled edges, sparkling with rhinestones, crystal beads and pearl droplets.
It boasts a tiny 27 inch waist as, sadly, the princess had suffered a particularly bad bout of bulimia shortly before and during the Japanese tour. Legendary British designer Zandra says the Princess commissioned the gown after she popped into her shop in Grafton Street un-announced.
She immediately honed in on a dress made in black with fluorescent pink print. Zandra suggested changing the colour to a pale rose shade with ivory print. Two fittings were arranged at the Princess’s private apartments at Kensington Palace and the gown took three days to make.
Film footage from 1986 shows Diana being instructed on how to eat with chopsticks – hers are the wrong way round and she jokes about this with Prince Charles who mastered the art.
It was clearly something of a favourite as it was also worn by the Princess on at least two other occasions including a Torvill & Dean party in 1985 and an official function in aid of the London City Ballet in 1987.
Kensington Palace is currently home to more than 10,000 items worn by royalty and courtiers from the 17th Century to the present day and owns one other dress belonging to Princess Diana.
Deirdre Murphy, Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, explains of their recent purchase: ‘Although Kensington Palace has displayed many dresses belonging to the Princess of Wales in several exhibitions over the years, the charity only owned one other dress worn by the Princess, a green Catherine Walker dress.
‘These dresses don’t come up for sale very often, and when they do, can sell for five or even six figures so as an independent charity they are often unaffordable for us. That means that we rely on the generosity of private owners who kindly lend their dresses for display at the palace.
‘The Princess of Wales is obviously very strongly associated with Kensington Palace, so we were keen to add to our permanent collection to ensure that visitors will be able to see these unique items at the Princess’s former home for years to come.
‘This particular item was also very interesting to us, as an example of a dress worn by the Princess of Wales in earlier years, illustrating a different aspect of her style.’
Among the other items present during our tour were a pair of tiny, embroidered mittens owned by Princess Charlotte, daughter of George 1V – and the Diana of her day – who died tragically young in 1817 while in childbirth.
There is also a silver gilt, ermine and silk velvet coronet worn by Princess Patricia of Connaught, niece of Edward V11, to his Coronation in 1902 – complete with a tiny, built in comb to cope with the bouffant hairstyles of the day.
Another item is a bejewelled mask worn by Princess Margaret to a fancy dress ball at the Royal Opera House in 1982. There is also a tasselled Stewart tartan shawl favoured by Queen Victoria in the 1850s while on holiday at Balmoral.
Explaining their new commercial link up with Disney, Ruth Gill, Head of Interpretation at Historic Royal Palaces, said: ‘Our aim is to help everyone explore the stories of how monarchs and other royals have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built.
‘The collaboration between Disney and Historic Royal Palaces aims to encourage children all over the world to explore the true stories behind kings, queens, princes and princesses alongside Disney’s princess fairytales. It is an exciting opportunity for us.’
Disney’s Andrea Tartaglia, Vice President of Marketing, added: ‘We want to encourage children to become interested in the real-life stories of princesses.’