Important dresses formerly belonging Diana, Princess of Wales have gone on sale today, in a London auction. They were expected to fetch nearly £1 million but realised £860,000 with the dress worn by Diana at the Whitehouse when she danced with John Travolta making a whopping £240,000, on its own.
Princess Diana was one the most iconic, most photographed fashion figures of the 20th century. Wherever she went her style was minutely scrutinised, discussed and imitated – whether it was just going for a walk or appearing on the red carpet.
In the early days – as a young Sloane-ranger she wore demure blouses with pie-crust frilled collars and simple gathered skirts. However, in March, 1981 on her first official engagement with her fiancé, Prince Charles there were intimations that inside this shy young woman there was an embryonic style icon just waiting to emerge. For this much-awaited photo-opportunity of the newly engaged couple, Lady Diana Spencer chose to wear a daring black taffeta gown by Elizabeth and David Emanuel with strapless bodice and plunging neckline. As the nineteen year old stepped out of the car at Goldsmith’s Hall her daring décolleté was revealed to the awaiting press and onlookers against a glare of frenzied camera flash bulbs. She later quipped that the press ‘got frightfully excited’. The resulting pictures were wired around the world and created massive headlines the next day. The Emanuels went on to make the most important dress of them all – the ivory silk taffeta creation she wore for her marriage to Prince Charles at Saint Paul’s Cathedral on 29th July, 1981.
In the early years the Princess favoured romantic ball gowns or pretty, delicately printed chiffon cocktail dresses. As she matured, so did her taste in clothes. She liked to wear rich velvets, often in dark colours which acted as a great backdrop to her fine jewels and served to emphasise her English-rose complexion. She liked black, and often chose to wear it, despite the fact that Prince Charles had warned her that it was strictly against Royal protocol – as members of the Royal family are only supposed to wear it for periods mourning.
By the 1990s the Princess’ self-confidence in her own style had grown. She wore more sculpted clothes that emphasised and enhanced her slim, athletic physique. Whilst still regal, the clothes had become more daring and sophisticated. Although still loyal to her favourite British designers – Catherine Walker, Zandra Rhodes, Victor Edelstein, Bellville Sassoon, Bruce Oldfield, Jacques Azagury, she began to wear clothes by foreign designers such as Gianni Versace and Christina Stambolian.
In June, 1997 the Princess decided to hold a charity auction of her most lavish evening wear at the suggestion of her young son, Prince William. It was her aim to raise as much money as possible to help people in need – but also she desired that the dresses, so long stored away in wardrobes should again see the light of day and be appreciated.
One of the purchasers at that auction was Mrs Maureen Rorech Dunkel who bought arguably the most important and representative group of gowns. It is this collection that is offered for sale now. Mrs Dunkel initially bought the dresses as a long term investment, but after the tragic death of the Princess in August 1997, decided to exhibit them in aid of charity and has philanthropically raised thousands of dollars to that end.
Kerry Taylor Auctions
Venue: 249-253 Long Lane, Bermondsey, London, SE1 4PR
Tuesday 19th March, 10-1pm