JANUARY 1998 OUR ARTICLE OF THE DAY: TOP DESIGNER CHERISHES GOWNS DIANA OWNED

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Top Designer Cherishes Gowns Diana Owned
January 1998

Pat Kerr of Memphis, Tenn., an internationally noted designer of exquisite and expensive bridal gowns, on her travels to London over the past 20 years had met Princess Diana several times. It’s no wonder it was very important for Kerr to buy some of the late princess’s famous gowns during their auction for charity at Christie’s.

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Kerr owns four of Princess Diana’s gowns, which she claims she “will never sell, nor will anyone ever try them on.” They’ll never leave the private collection she has been accumulating for the past 30 years. “I’m looking at having these dressesin a museum so that people can look at them 100 years from now.”

She said she’s never purchased so many contemporary gowns before as she did at the auction held at Christie’s. “I have major pieces from Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, the Duke of Wellington and Queen Mary as well as the Duke and Duchess of Wellington.”

At an interview in a suite in the plush Carlyle Hotel in uptown Manhattan, Kerr recently had informal showings of her newest bridal and couture clothing designs. Her bridal creations are dubbed “the Rolls-Royce of bridal wear.”

Kerr is one the few international designers to be sole owner of a high-fashion business based in the United States using American artisans and labor. Her design studio, workshops and factory are all in Memphis, where she lives with her husband, John Tigrett, an international financier and financial consultant. Kerr’s avid interest in rare laces and royal memorabilia, some dating to the 17th century, has resulted in a priceless collection she’ll someday install in a museum. It’s in storage at present, said Kerr, who is most often referred to as “the lace queen.”

Kerr talked about her latest collection of designs, about her meetings with the Princess of Wales and her new historic treasures. “It’s funny how I got there,” she said of the auction. “I ordered the catalog because I’m a collector. A friend from Christie’s called me and asked why my name wasn’t on the lottery.”

She ended up with four priceless gowns.

One is a romantic Victorian revival dinner dress of black velvet trimmed with lace at the neckline and cuffs which had a price tag of $31,000.

Another is a ballerina-length strapless dress of midnight blue silk tulle with a dropped waistline and bodice draped with vertical pleating and embroidered with diamante brilliants. The dress was made to be worn at a private dinner given by former King Constantine of the Hellenes in 1986 at Claridge’s. Princess Di also wore the dress at the Royal Opera House and Covent Garden in 1987, and again in Paris in 1988. At $48,000 this dress was the costliest of the four Kerr purchased.

A Goya-esque Spanish dancer-inspired dress of black silk lace layered over deep magenta silk, which was worn for an official visit in Germany in 1987, was purchased for $22,000. The fourth, a formal dinner dress of cream silk embroidered with a flight of gold and silver sequinned falcons on the bodice and train, sold for $31,000. It was worn on an official visit to Saudi Arabia.

Kerr noted that Princess Diana gave the public two great ceremonies in her life — her wedding day and her funeral.

“She influenced my business remarkably with her wedding in 1981 because that was about the time I was just getting started in the early ’80s. People around the world were watching the wedding, especially girls who were influenced and impressed by her bigger-than-life bridal gown — even young women who are getting married today.”

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