Princess Diana’s maternity ideas go on display in fashion exhibition
Sketches of maternity wear created for Diana, Princess of Wales, are to go on display, showing how she personalised designs to stamp her own style on her pregnancy wardrobe.
By Roya Nikkhah, Royal Correspondent
9:00AM GMT 17 Feb 2013
Now, a new exhibition featuring designs for her maternity wear will include sketches tweaked by Princess Diana, demonstrating how she closely collaborated with designers on her wardrobe.
They include the “fairy princess” dress she wore shortly before announcing her first pregnancy, and several glamorous outfits on to which she stamped her personal style.
The designs will feature in a retrospective of the fashion house Bellville Sassoon, founded in the 1950s by Belinda Bellville, the socialite, and David Sassoon, the designer who worked closely with Princess Diana from her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981, through to the 1990s.
Sketches from Sassoon’s personal archive will go on display at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum, including the design for the hand-painted, off-the-shoulder white and blue chiffon dress that Princess Diana wore to an opening at the V&A Museum in November 1981, while two months pregnant with the Duke of Cambridge.
A floral day dress (The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp/Empics)
Sassoon, 80, said: “We called it the fairy princess dress because we received so many letters about it, especially from children, who thought that was what a fairytale princess should look like. Diana loved this dress – it appealed to her sense of romance.”
During Princess Diana’s pregnancy, Sassoon sent sketches to Kensington Palace, on to which she scribbled her ideas to be incorporated into the designs before fittings.
One sketch of a turquoise, bouclé maternity dress features her notes: “Please could I have this one without the high collar and bow?”
Sassoon said: “She had a very clear idea of what she did and didn’t like and she’d look at sketches and make notes asking if we could put a sleeve or a neckline from one design on to another dress.”
Another sketch for a claret taffeta dress with bows, shows her enthusiasm to have the dress made up, with the words “Yes please!” next to the design which she wore to the opening of the Barbican Centre with the Queen in March 1982, when she was six months pregnant.
The claret dress the Princess wore to the Barbican opening (The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp/Getty)
“We had to let it out at the very last minute because her bump had suddenly grown,” said Sassoon. “She was very excited about the baby but also conscious of looking appropriate for the occasion during her pregnancy.”
He added: “Diana didn’t like coats. I used to ask ‘are you going to be warm enough wearing that?’ and she’d say, ‘don’t worry, I’ll wear my thermals underneath’. She was a great one for thermals.”
Also on display will be the design for a velvet maternity dress with a lace collar including her notes: “This one in dark blue please.” Sassoon made the dress in 1982 using lace which had belonged to Queen Victoria.
The original sketch for the white chiffon empire-line dress which the Princess wore to a West End production of The Little Foxes, starring Elizabeth Taylor, will also be exhibited.
A maternity gown she wore while expecting Prince Harry (The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon by David Sassoon and Sinty Stemp/Tim Graham)
Sassoon said: “Diana enjoyed fashion and getting a reaction from her outfits. In fittings, she’d say ‘this will get them going – this will get a response’.
“Everyone thought she was fussy about clothes but she wasn’t. Many other members of the Royal family would ask for hundreds of changes in fittings and ruin the whole outfit, but not Diana.”
With the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge undertaking her first official engagement of the year this week, royal maternity wear is likely to be under the spotlight once again.
The Princess chats to David Sassoon (Getty)
The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon will open in September, featuring designs spanning more than 50 years from the fashion house whose clients include the late Audrey Hepburn, Helen Mirren and Jerry Hall.
Sassoon also designed for the late Princess Margaret, the Princess Royal and Princess Michael of Kent, whose wedding dress will go on display.
* The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon at the Fashion and Textile Museum, September 20 to January 11, 2014, http://www.ftmlondon.org