Friday, May 29, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Emerald Satin Victorian Ballgown?

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This is my least favourite dress. I have never liked the way it looks It seems like it is trying to be a combination of two or three dresses. I think Victorian dresses are truly beautiful, but this modern incarnation, I just don't think it works or suited Diana in general.

It was designed by Victor Edelstein, who created some truly beautiful dresses for her, including the iconic Travolta and a glorious white satin embroidered dress she wore in France. That particular dress has gone on its own journey and I will write about it in a future article. 

It is described in the catalogue as an 1880's inspired ball dress of deep emerald green satin by Victor Edelstein

The dress with a deep collar, over small cap sleeves with self-covered buttons down the fitted front. The full skirt has a drape and bustle effect, ruched and gathered, trimmed and piping. 
It is difficult to locate photos of the dress on its own (the image above is the only embeddable one I could find), but this blog article has some fantastic images, along with this one. It was worn for official portraits by Terrance Donovan. In one, Diana appears almost unrecognizable in this official portrait.  However, she did wear it in public at an Anglo-Spanish ball on November 25,1987. This is the only press coverage I could find.

Lot 34 in the Christie's auction, Mejiro Fashion and Art College in Tokyo paid $27,600 for it. The dress and two others, including the Yuki one are still owned by the College. The dresses are kept in a climate controlled room and brought out for special occasions, such as the first day of school and on the 10-anniversary of the school. From time to time, they lend the to dresses Kensington Palace for fashion exhibits.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.


Damask and Diplomacy
Style Queen: Princess Diana dress exhibition unveils the iconic looks that have been added to the collection
Desired Dresses: Princess Diana dresses return to the UK from Tokyo

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Mermaid Dress?

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This shimmering dress was designed by Catherine Walker. The dress is slit to the knee, and embroidered all over with petrol-green sequins by Jacob Schlaepfer. Described in the auction catalogue as 'A Long Sequinned Dinner Dress by Catherine Walker'
Of deep green embroidered overall by Jacob Schlaepfer to give a mermaid effect, the dress is V-necked and has long sleeves. The bodice is loosely ruched at the front and the dress is slit to the knee.  
Jacob Schlaepfer is an award winning Swiss textile and design manufacturing company. They have been in business for 100 years and during the pandemic, they have turned their attention to making glamorous face masks, including ones with sequins!

Diana labelled this her "Mermaid" dress. It was worn during a State visit to Austria at a gala performance of 'Love For Love' at the Vienna Burgh Theatre on April 14, 1989. A charity ball at Osterley House for a fundraiser for the British Paraplegic Society in May 1989, a Diamond Ball at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in December 1990, and the 'Biggles' film premiere in 1993.

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When Diana decided to include it in the auction, one of her sons expressed doubt anyone would buy the style in the late 1990s. Despite this, Lot #50 sold for $24,150 to Maureen Rorech Dunkle. She purchased the most dresses at the auction, including the iconic Travolta Dress. It formed part of the Dresses for Humanity touring exhibit, raising money for humanitarian causes.

After declaring bankruptcy in 2010, the dresses were auctioned in 2011 in Toronto. There was some issues with the Toronto auction and it turned out some of the dresses had not been sold after all because only three met their reserve price. The remaining ten dresses were auctioned again in 2013; this one to unknown ownership. In 2016 Kerry Taylor Auction House sold the dress for $126,000 to an 'unnamed British Museum' which turned out to be Historic Royal Palaces.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Rare Diana dresses bought by unnamed British Museum
Last airing of Diana's gowns?
Princess Diana gowns sell for $1.2million at auction
Sold! Princess Diana dress sells for 800K
Butterfly in Remission - Princess Diana review of Kensington Palace Exhibition
Princess Diana - See how much her iconic dresses really went for at auction
Video - Examples of Jacob Schlaepfer's work
My Decade With Diana by Maureen Rorech Dunkle
Christie's Auction Catalogue - Dresses from the collection of Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana - Her Life in Fashion by Georgina Howell

Monday, May 25, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Catherine Walker Eggshell Blue Chiffon and Lace evening gown?

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Diana was known for reworking her gowns to modernize and make them fresh again. Catherine Walker's pale blue chiffon and lace evening gown started out as a sleeved gown for an official trip to Qatar in 1986, and a state banquet for King Hassan of Morocco at Claridge's Hotel in July 1987. By 1989, it had been altered into a strapless gown. She wore it on several occasions after that, to a performance of Moulin Rouge at the Savoy Hotel in March 1989 and a state banquet in Cameroon in March 1990.


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Lot #18 is described in the auction catalogue as 'An Eggshell Blue Chiffon and Lace Evening Dress.

The bodice pointed in pale blue lace, trimmed with ribbon work flowers and pearlized sequins on pale blue satin. The dress, which is draped at the hips with pale blue silk chiffon and pearlized sequins, falls to a demi train at the back, with two trailing ties. 

Like the Elvis dress, this was bought by a company that makes commemorative items. Michael and Fredericka Lam, founders of The Great American Doll company bid on this dress with the purpose of using it for a limited edition Princess Diana doll they had created. It sold for $36,800, and was picked up from Christie's in a Brinks Armoured truck.

But the dress was almost destroyed. In 2000, the owners announced a charitable appeal, hoping to raise $100 million to benefit children in Third World countries. They planned to accomplish this by cutting the dress into four million, 2mm square fragments, and selling them for $25 each. The fabric pieces would be sold with their $225 Princess Diana doll or on its own as a numbered quantity "Princess Plaque". This would come with a Certificate of Authenticity. They also offered a parallel private sale or 'save the dress' option to buy the dress intact before being dismantled. According to The Great American Doll Company website, the main purpose of this 'ingenious plan' was to:

..generate an awareness of the plight of the world's children through one of the most profound, moving and admired individuals of the late Twentieth Century. Besides what we achieve from our cutting up and sale of this single dress, we expect to generate, through publicity and word of mouth and through the internet, a much larger interest and need for active participation in the real needs of the Twenty-First Century.

Unsurprisingly, this plan generated global media coverage. But after three days of press, the offer was withdrawn for undisclosed purposes. Instead, it was sold to a private collector. The initial plan may have raised awareness, but it did not raise one penny.

I have traced the dress to Jess and Suzanne King. At the original auction, Mr. King discouraged his wife from bidding on dresses. Instead he bought dresses for her as gifts; with the caveat they be used to do good, rather than stay in a closet. She founded the national Pink Ribbons Crusade, which raises money for breast cancer charities through her Diana exhibits. An avid collector of royal memorabilia, Ms. King has created various travelling exhibits to raise money for charity, including one boasting 26 of the 79 gowns, the largest reunion of auctioned dresses. The collection most recently appeared on the Queen Mary ship in Long Beach, California. The exhibit, Diana: Legacy of a Princess, ended its run in January 2019. She has also loaned dresses to Kensington Palace for their royal fashion exhibits.

Sources:

Di Dress Makes Cut For Collector's Biz
Reuters - Princess Diana dress to be cut up for charity
The Great American Doll Company Diana Dress
The Hem of Her Garment
Pink Ribbons Crusade
New Princess Diana dresses to be displayed at Queen Mary exhibit

© Marilyn Braun 2020

 Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Whatever happened to Jacques Azagury's blue and black sparkly dance dress?


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Continuing on with the 'OMG what was I thinking when I wore this?' theme, we have a ballerina length dance dress by Jacques Azagury. When you see this dress, you know exactly what decade it came from. The Christie's auction catalogue describes Lot #22 as:
The dropped bodice gives a 'flapper' or 'twenties' effect to this dance dress. The bodice is of black rayon, simulating velvet, embroidered with shiny blue stars and flower beads on a background of sprinkled multi-coloured glass beads. The full skirt of two layers of brilliant blue organza, is trimmed with a bow at the hip and has a black simulated silk petticoat. 
This is the kind of dress you find in your closet, mentally revisit your 80s fashion choices, then put it back. People magazine thought differently and paid $26,450 for it. This isn't the first time a dress was bought by a publication. Paris Match, and You Magazine each purchased dresses to give away as contest prizes. Can you imagine winning a Diana dress? The only royal items I've ever won is a book of Prince Philip quotes and a t-shirt with the Queen on it.  

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Regardless, Diana looked stunning and she wore it on several occasions. It was worn during two royal tours. At a banquet given by the Mayor of Florence in 1985 and Canada in 1986 for a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performance. She also wore it in January 1988 for a London City ballet performance at Britannic House. It was designed by Jacques Azagury, who has a section on his website about her. He also designed costumes for the Diana biopic starring Naomi Watts.

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As far as I can tell, it is still owned by People Magazine. They have lent the dress to Historic Royal Palaces for their popular Fashion Rules exhibit. It has also appeared on the Queen Mary Diana dress exhibit. Proving that there are many people are actually willing to pay to revisit their 1980s fashion choices.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

The Londonist: Regal Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace
Iconic royal fashion exhibition includes dress on loan from People
Jacques Azagury - Diana
Everything Royal - The Diana Dresses
Princess Diana is radiant - January 13, 1988 in a Jacques Azagury gown for Britannic House Ballet
How Princess Diana's Go-To Designer Recreated Her Iconic Looks For The Biopic
Princess Diana's royal couture dresses go on display at exhibition

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Royal Review: Imagining Diana by Diane Clehane

Imagining Diana joins the ranks of the 'Diana is still alive' genre. Usually the plot revolves around Diana escaping her royal life in a cloud of secrecy, constantly looking over her shoulder. The most famous woman in the world wears a disguise and adjusts to life as a regular person, until revealing her true self to a romantic interest who accepts her, Andrew Morton biography and all.

Imagining Diana is different. On that fateful night in Paris, moments before impact, she buckled her seatbelt and survived. But Diana is not unscathed. She has a scar on the side of her famous face. Noticeable, but not prominent enough to drastically change her appearance and negatively impact her photogenic appeal.

Surviving makes her feel more empowered, capable of relating to people better and greater opportunities on the world's stage. Or so the author tells us. While Diana's growth is compelling, the author tells us what happens, rather than shows us, thus skimming the surface of an intriguing concept. After years of therapy, the protection of a wealthy suitor, and the best plastic surgeons at her disposal, Diana can afford to live a charmed existence. The negative is minimized. What would have been more interesting, is watching her cope with the financial resources she was left with, rather than depending on the kindness of others, like the royal family, the Al Fayed's or in this case, billionaire Teddy Forstmann. She may have survived the crash and become a more empathetic person, but, even in this alternate universe, she has a luxurious lifestyle to maintain.

But we never get a sense of conflict in her interactions with the people you would expect her to, like Mohammed Al Fayed, Camilla, the Queen and eventually Catherine Middleton. Diana gets along with everyone. We are led to believe she would never feel threatened by Catherine or meddle in her media coverage. Perhaps the most unrealistic, becoming her ex-husband's trusted confidant, and  encouraging him to marry Camilla, who has been conveniently sidelined. Diana is inserted into events she would have attended, like Prince William's graduation from university, his wedding and eventually meeting her grandchildren. It's easy to rewrite history when you leave a space for her.

Despite this, Imagining Diana is riveting reading and I had a hard time putting the book down. As Diana walks off into the distance, I felt things were just getting started. With no historical scenarios to place her, exploring her future would be uncharted territory. I wanted to continue following Diana's journey as she adjusted to growing older and how her position in the royal family would have evolved during Charles' reign and eventually William's. As it is, we will never know. But Imagining Diana gives us a poignant idea of what might have been.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.


Please click on this link to purchase Imagining Diana Note, this is an affiliate link. Thank you for your support.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Dear Harry and Meghan, Happy anniversary to you and to what might have been

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Two years ago, I watched in awe as Prince Harry finally got his happily ever after. Looking at Meghan's ecstatic face, bouncing with joy, as she joined Harry at the altar, you would never have suspected the family controversy only days before. The only evidence was Meghan walking alone, part way, up the aisle. Creating one of the most compelling royal wedding images ever.

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Today was indeed special. Harry had spent the last 7 years playing third wheel to William and Catherine at joint engagements. Now he would finally have a happy family of his own. There were signs this ceremony would be different, it was more personal and less formal. Judging by the reaction shots of the royals during the ceremony, they seemed uncertain how to respond to Bishop Michael Curry's energetic sermon. I doubt St George's Chapel had ever hosted an American gospel choir within its 500 year history. It was an unforgettable and unique day.

At the time. William, Catherine, Harry and Meghan, were lauded as the 'Fab Four'. Two years on, the royal family looks very different. It is hard to celebrate when the two couples held such promise for the future. Each generation plays a role in reinvigorating an institution viewed by many as outdated in democratic society. Queen Victoria was 18 when she inherited the throne, a fresh start after reigns of dissolute kings. King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and their young family, offered stability after the abdication crisis. Their daughter, Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, heralded a new future when she made her 21st birthday speech in South Africa in 1947.

Each heir has a path, a predetermined future, providing continuity people expect. But there are consequences when you step out of your lane or ignore it altogether. Prince Edward, later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, was a counterpoint to his stuffy parents. He brought the worst controversy in modern royal history. Princess Margaret had a scandalous relationship with Peter Townsend. Charles, Diana, Andrew and Sarah Ferguson brought their own troubles. Diana's death struck a different blow. For all of the doom and gloom predictions, the royal family survived, as they always do. But it is somewhat ironic that Camilla, the source of so much anguish in Charles and Diana's marriage, should be the one to help steady the ship.

William and Catherine are now caretakers of the future. Harry and Meghan tried to mould a different future and paid a high price in trying. Despite good intentions, maybe they never had a chance to begin with. Regardless of what happens in the future, the royal institution will continue, as it always does.

Today is Harry and Meghan's second wedding anniversary. A day to celebrate their happiness and joy. It is also a reminder of a promising future and what might have been.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

 Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Catherine Walker cream and salmon pink long dinner dress?

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Of the 79 dresses, this is, hands down, my absolute favourite. It is timeless, classic and if anyone could have worn it better, I haven't seen a photo. Nope, don't even show me one.  I will die on that hill, trust me. Sure, the word salmon doesn't sound attractive, but just look at photos of Diana. If anyone can make salmon look good, it is her.

Aside from my interest in it, this dress is hard to single out. Yes, it has large shoulder pads from the 1980s, but I don't think this negatively impacts the appearance. It also doesn't have elaborate beading, or a feature that would make it stand out from the rest of the auctioned gowns. It isn't associated with a famous figure, like the Elvis or Travolta dresses. As far as I can tell, it wasn't worn during an official tour.

Instead, it worn at a Royal Charity Performance of Swan Lake at the London Coliseum in November 1989. The gala was in support of the rare Russian Bewick swans that migrate to Great Britain during the winter. A year later at a tribute to Dame Margo Fonteyn. In 1992 for an Australian ballet performance CoppĂ©lia at the London Coliseum, and in July 1993 for a London engagement. Like many of Diana's other dresses, it has also appeared on a Franklin Mint commemorative doll.

This dress was chosen from a collection and original had a plunging neckline, which Diana thought was too daring. An insert was added in front but it plunges in the back, so I guess you could say both Diana and the dress designer got their way.

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It is described in the auction catalogue as: A long dinner dress of cream and salmon pink silk.

The dress has long sleeves and the bodice is of cream silk, cut to reveal an under bodice. The skirt, of salmon pink silk is slit at the back and the cuff to the sleeves are set with large gilt cufflinks, set with Baroque pearls. 

It was Lot #71 at the Christie's auction and purchased for $25,300 by Sheri and Bill Graham from Salisbury, North Carolina.It has been displayed at the Appleton Museum in Florida, charity functions and for educational purposes, such as middle school projects. It has also been included as part of "Diana: Legacy of a Princess" exhibit on the Queen Mary ship.

As of 2017, they still owns the dress along with another Catherine Walker purchased during the auction. They have declined offers to sell them. However, if they ever do for this one, I'll be happy to consider it.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Sources

Princess Diana captivates the world 20 years after her death
The exclusive Diana dress exhibit opens Sunday
Catherine Walker - An autobiography by The Private Couturier to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Christies: Dresses from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales auction catalogue

Friday, May 15, 2020

What happened to Princess Diana's Pink Silk Mughal dress by Catherine Walker


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As mentioned in a previous post, Diana elevated diplomatic dressing to an art form. This dress is another excellent example. It was designed by Catherine Walker  a favoured couturier who dressed Diana from 1982 until her death in 1997.

Lot #19 in the Christie's auction, it is described in the catalogue as 'A long Evening Dress of Pink Wild Silk, with an embroidered red bolero'.

It is further described:
The strapless bodice is embroidered overall with pink and white flowers, some couched, with green sequins, star-shaped sequins, gold glass beads and gold braid, echoing Mughal embroidery motifs. The long sleeved bolero jacket, has a bodice embroidered overall en suite with the dress. The cuffs each have three, fine buttons of pink and green paste. The dress was made for the Princess' India tour in 1992.

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Inspiration for the embroidery came from the lid of an Indian inlaid marquetry box found in a London market. The thread and needlework were chosen to reflect the country she was visiting and the embroidery was completed by S. Lock Ltd.

The 1992 India visit was Charles and Diana's second to last tour together before they separated in December of the same year. It led to some memorable images: the photo of Diana alone at the Taj Mahal, and another of her turning her head as Charles tried to kiss her. She wore several fantastic outfits in India but considering the amount of beautiful and intricate detail in this dress, I can't locate a single photo of Diana wearing it during the tour. The only photo of Diana in the dress was taken for the 1997 auction catalogue by Lord Snowdon.

It was bought by Maureen Dunkle Rorech, for $61,900. She purchased 14 gowns, including the Travolta dress but this one was her personal favourite. It went around the world in the Dresses for Humanity tour. I originally saw the exhibit in 1998 when it came to Toronto, but the dresses toured various locations, including Disney World, Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show, and the Flying Monkey movie house in New Hampshire. However, the tour ran into trouble with creditors and in 2010, this dress was confiscated for five months until the debt was paid.

This dress, along with 9 others originally purchased by Ms. Rorech, was auctioned in 2013 by Kerry Taylor Auctions. It was bought for £66,000 ($82,000 USD) by William Doyle, CEO of Newbridge Silverware Museum in Kildaire, Ireland. It is currently on display in their Museum of Style Icons exhibit.

Photo © Kenneth Allen (cc-by-sa/2.0)

© Marilyn Braun 2020

 Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Sources

Princess Diana in India: A look back at her iconic visit
Princess Diana's Mughal dress to go under the Hammer
Diana Auction 1997
Princess Diana’s dresses fetch £800,000 at Kerry Taylor Auctions
The Diana Dresses
Shamed Florida socialite is forced to sell Diana's iconic dresses to pay off debts: But will Prince William buy them back?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Yuki Torimaru dress?


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A favourite custom of members of the royal family is to pay tribute to the country you are visiting by wearing a designer and/or colour associated with that country. For instance, in Canada every royal lady, at some point, shows up in red and white, sometimes accessorized with a maple leaf during an official visit. It's almost a cliche.

Diana was no different. While she did try to fly the flag for British fashion when she was at home, on official tours she elevated diplomatic dressing to an art form, paying tribute in a variety of ways:  white dress with red polka dots in Japan, evening dress with embroidered falcons for Saudi Arabia, Chanel for a trip to Paris, Moghul inspired beading for India, and so on. This dress is also an excellent example of it.

It was Lot 68 at the Christie's auction and it is described in the catalogue as 'A Long, Pleated Fortuny-Style Formal Dinner Dress in Royal Blue by Yuki.'
Inspired by the work of Fortuny and Erte, the dress is embroidered at the neck with a yoke of blue bugle beads, which are echoed at the waist with a diamond motif of the same beads. 
While Yuki is a popular designer in Japan, at the time he was little known outside of it. When Diana needed a dress for a 1986 trip to Japan to attend the enthronement of Emperor Hirohito, Yuki was recommended to her and he was asked to submit sketches not long before she was scheduled to leave. Yuki had already prepared dresses with measurements he was able to get from another designer, and when he met with her he brought completed versions in red, blue and white. She chose the blue one. It was a detour from what she normally wore.

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His pride began to evaporate as the tour continued without her wearing his dress. During the highlight of the visit, a banquet with the Emperor, Diana wore Yuki's uncrushable royal-blue dress. Thus raising his profile in both countries. The dress would later be worn during a visit to the English National Ballet in 1990.

There is a copy of the dress in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which has an extensive Yuki collection. The original was bought for $25,300 by James Kojima on behalf of his cousin, Akihito Kojima, Principal of  Mejiro Fashion & Art College. In fact, they purchased three gowns. These gowns are carefully stored and brought out each year for the first day of school and special occasions. The college is very selective about who they lend their dresses to but recently they appeared at Kensington Palace for their "Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit".

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Sources

The Lady and the Rose - Diana: Her Fashion Story
Gnyuki Torimaru (Yuki) Style Patterns
Designer for a Princess: Yuki Torimaru
Museum of Fine Arts Boston - Copy of dress worn by Diana Spencer Princess of Wales in 1986
Desired Dresses
Designer Yuki Fortuny Pleats with Bugle Bead Panel Gown 1986 Japan
Diana - Her Life in Fashion by Georgina Howell
Christie's catalogue: Dresses from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales


Monday, May 11, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Diagheliv inspired dress?


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Searching for David and Elizabeth Emanuel, you will find most media coverage includes Diana, Princess of Wales. Attempt to find information about the Emanuel's Diaghilev collection, and it will only find a cursory mention in relation to this dress.  That's both a curse and a blessing. You will always have a place in the history books but searches will revolve around Diana and not what you have done before or since. It is understandable. Let's face it, they designed some of the most significant items Diana has ever worn, including the white chiffon blouse she wore for a Vogue photoshoot and the famous strapless black dress for her first engagement. Oh, and also the wedding dress of the century!

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Although striking, this dress is not nearly as iconic. It has a unique, costume-like quality, which is appropriate as it was inspired by Leon Bakst's designs for Diaghilev ballet Russes. It was one of twelve dresses from the Emmanuel's Diaghilev collection. Diana first saw it at a Red Cross benefit fashion show in the summer of 1986. Many designers have commented that Diana had the perfect figure. So perfect that Diana chose the size 10 dress from the mannequin instead of ordering her own version. It came with a matching padded headband with gold ribbon and pearls, lozenge shaped sleeve panels and petticoat. Diana wore the dress with and without these accessories and wore a tiara instead of the headband on occasion. She wore it in public about three times: for a performance of Ivan the Terrible at the Royal Opera House, a James Bond premiere and a banquet at the German Embassy in London.

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It was lot #26 at the Christie's 1997 auction, purchased for $25,300 by Fontaine Minor, a socialite from Richmond, Virginia.  She was interviewed for the documentary Diana's Dresses. Clearly proud and protective of it, the dress is propped up in a chair behind her. Beside the dress is an expressionless security guard, no doubt reconsidering his life choices.

Like most of Diana's dresses, it has not been kept in a closet. It has appeared at many charity events, to raise money for Richmond- area organizations such as the Richmond Ballet and Symphony Orchestra, a mother/daughter tea at Jefferson's Hotel Grand Ballroom, modelled by Ms. Minor's daughter and granddaughters, and put on exhibit at Kensington Palace. It was auctioned in December 2013 for $167,433, with proceeds split between charities favoured by Diana and Ms. Minor and her family.

The buyer is listed as an unidentified 'overseas museum'. As this could mean anywhere from Antarctica to Tuvalu, the search continues. It has been 7 years since the auction so I'm hoping they will reveal their name and put the dress on display for people to enjoy for many years to come.

Update: In 2017 it was included in a Remembering Diana exhibit at the Museo de la Moda in Chile.

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© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.


Sources

Richmonder putting Di's dress up for auction in England
Diana's dress sells for £120K
The "Gold Diagheliv" Gown is auctioned in London
Auction brings seven-fold bounty for Diana dress
A Princess Tea Party
Princess Diana's favourite fairytale dress could be yours...for a price
Going, Going, Gone! Di's Defrocked
The Creation of a Designer House
Diana's Dresses - Documentary
New owners of Diana's dresses come to Christie's to collect their gowns
Being There: An Affair to Remember
The Frocks that Became a Princess

Friday, May 08, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Murray Arbeid Blue Silk Tulle dance dress?

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I've always thought this looked like an 80's prom dress. With the diamante stars and excessive layers of tulle, it has a 'what was I thinking when I wore it?' vibe. Fast forward 34 years and, as far as I'm concerned, the verdict is still out.

Diana must have liked the dress, because she wore it on several occasions. It was made for a private dinner given by former King Constantine of Hellenes at Claridges in 1986. She also wore it with shocking pink gloves to the premiere of Phantom of the Opera, The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and in Paris in 1988.  She even modelled it for the Christie's auction catalogue.

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It is described as 'A Ballerina-Length strapless Dance Dress.' According to the auction catalogue:
Of midnight blue silk tulle, the dress has a dropped waistline, the bodice is dropped with vertical pleats and embroidered with diamante brilliants placed at random. The top layer of the tulle skirt is embroidered with diamante stars. The skirt comprises four layers of tulle, with a deep purple silk petticoat, the bodice is also lined with deep purple silk to create a shimmering effect. 
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The dress was lot 28 at the Christie's auction in 1997 and sold for $48,300 to Memphis philanthropist and fashion designer, Pat Kerr Tigrett. She bought four dresses at the auction, paying $133,000, but the tulle one was the most expensive. She has a significant collection of royal memorabilia and textiles, dating back to the 17th century, including items belonging to Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Windsor.

However, shortly after she purchased the tulle dress she found another version, advertised as the original in The Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. That dress was owned by Gene London and John Thomas, New York dealers in theatrical costumes who claimed the dress was sold to them by the original Christies buyer.

Although Ms. Tigrett, purchased the dress from Christies, the actual design was not unique, or exclusive to Diana. In fact, Murray Arbeid, who died in 2011, made several. According to the designer, in an interview for a documentary about the auctioned dresses:


"That dress was a very, very successful dress in the collection and there is certainly more than one of them. I would like to say, many more, there are possibly 15, 20 of them still floating around. It was a very good evening dress and after all, the Princess never said, 'this has got to be the only one, you mustn't make it for anybody else'. Simple as that."

After Diana's death, Ms. Tigrett kept the four dresses out of the spotlight to avoid the macabre frenzy that followed. In 2002 she allowed her four gowns to be included in an exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum. Two of her Diana dresses were included in the Kensington Palace exhibit Diana: Her Fashion Story.

As of 2020, she still owns her dresses. In 2013 she lent the Arbeid, for three years, to Kensington Palace for their Fashion Rules exhibit. It was the first time it had been exhibited in the UK. Afterwards, it made a newsworthy return to Memphis on what would have been Diana's 55th birthday.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Was museum duped by copy of dress?
Commercial Reader: Fashions
The Princess's old clothes definitely duds
Books, Birkins and Beauty: Fashion Rules at Kensington Palace - Part III
Murray Arbeid has a few words about Diana, Fergie, Moms of the bride and happy hour chic
Whatever happened to Princess Diana's dresses?
DRESSES from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales, Christie's auction catalogue
Diana, Woman of Style by Jackie Modlinger
Diana - Her Life in Fashion by Georgina Howell

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Whatever happened to Diana's Christina Stambolian's 'Revenge Dress'?

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In my quest to track down Diana's auctioned dresses to the current owners, I've started running into details I did not consider. Such is the case with this dress.

The Christina Stambolian isn't just any dress. It is famous as Diana's 'Revenge Dress.' She famously wore it in June 1994, on the night her husband confessed adultery on television. What should have been his moment to set a record straight, became the perfect moment for Diana to shine.

When the dress was designed, it was a one-and-only, special, made-to-measure for Diana. She had purchased it late summer 1991, but it would be three years before she wore it on that fateful night. At the time she was against black. Because the dress was so daring, she considered having it made in ivory, but she thought it would be too virginal. The short black, silk jacquard, off-the-shoulder dress with vee bodice falling onto a chiffon skirt, was made with Italian fabrics from Como. Paired with black tights, high heels and her famous sapphire, diamond and pearl choker, the dress was a showstopper.

The original dress was lot #2 at the 1997 Christie's auction. It was sold to Graeme and Briege Mackenzie of Gourock Scotland, for $74,000.  The couple have used the dress to raise funds for Scottish charities. On Christina Stambolian's website, she confirms he purchased it. One article mentions he keeps the dress in a bank vault and brings it out as a big draw for major Scottish charity fundraisers. But he bought the dress over 20 years ago. Does he still own it? If not, where did it go from there?

I was excited when I tracked it down to the Museum of Style Icons and Newbridge Silver Museum in Kildaire, Ireland where it is on permanent exhibit. Or did I? As mentioned in previous posts, several of Diana's dresses have been auctioned multiple times, frequently by Kerry Taylor. The Revenge Dress is clearly labelled a 'replica,' in the March 17, 2011 Kerry Taylor auction catalogue. William Doyle, CEO of the museum, acquired the dress on display around the same time.

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What is known, in 2010 Christina Stambolian created an exact replica of the revenge dress using the same material and Diana's measurements. Given the dress is identical, the Diana connection is there, whether she wore it or not. The replica comes with a letter of authenticity from the designer that this version and the one worn by Diana, are the only two in existence and she has no intention of producing more.

I have found little media coverage of Graeme's MacKenzie's ownership. You would think there would be more news about the whereabouts, especially if it has been used to raise funds for charity. One would think the charity would at least have some mention of its presence at an event, or amounts raised because of it, but I haven't found anything. This is not the case with other owners, who are happy to publicize how their dresses have been used for good. Many have been loaned to Kensington Palace fashion exhibits. The Museum of Style Icons and Newbridge Silverware lent their replica dress for the Passion for Fashion 300 years of style exhibit at Blenheim Palace in 2017. One thing that makes me think it is still in Mr. Mackenzie's possession is, given the historic significance, it would cause a great stir if the original ever came up for auction.

But it is hard to know for sure. No media coverage mentioned it was a replica when it was auctioned in 2011. So, does Mr. Mackenzie still own the original Revenge dress? For now that remains a mystery.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Sources

Christina Stambolian - My Story
Newbridge Silverware welcomes two of Princess Diana's most iconic garments
Princess Diana's Revenge Dress Dubbed 'Too Revealing' Auctioned for This Much Money
Newbridge Silverware - Princess Diana Style Icon
Princess Diana's famous Revenge Dress comes to Kildaire
Remembering Princess Diana: Her Fashion Legacy
Diana: Woman of Style by Jackie Modlinger
Dresses from the collection of Diana, Princess of Wales auction catalogue

Monday, May 04, 2020

Whatever happened to Princess Diana's Dramatic Black Velvet Evening Gown by Bruce Oldfield?

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Picture it. Diana, in all her 'Dynasty Di' glory, circa 1985. Alighting from her car, she is wearing a gloriously luxe black velvet gown by one of her favourite designers, Bruce Oldfield.

This dress has always been a favourite of mine. When I saw the dress for the first time at an exhibit in 1998, I wasn't sure it was the right one. Sure, it was black velvet, designed by Bruce Oldfield, but looking behind the dress, it had a black velvet rose with sparkling beads at the neckline. This detail is not apparent in photographs of Diana wearing it. But sure enough, it was there. According to the designer, the detail was added to prevent the dress from falling off Diana's shoulders.


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It was ordered by Diana after her friend, fashion editor, Anna Harvey, wore a similar design. It has a deep v-neck in front and back, draped waist and lightly gathered skirt. It was worn in 1985 at The Barbican for the first night gala performance of Les Miserables.  Diana also wore it in an official portrait by Lord Snowdon.

The dress was Lot #37 at the Christie's auction and purchased by Barbara Jordan, a Boston boutique owner. Ms. Jordan bought three dresses, paying $36,800 for the velvet Oldfield.  She bought it to publicize her boutique by displaying the dresses in the window and after Diana's death, it became somewhat of a shrine. A noted philanthropist, Ms. Jordan donated the dress to a Boston AIDS charity. It was auctioned by Skinner Gallery in October 1997 and purchased by Maureen Rorech for $200,000.

This dress travelled the world in the Dresses for Humanity tour and was eventually auctioned in 2013. Historic Royal Palaces confirmed it had purchased the gown for $68,000.

© Marilyn Braun 2020

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Sources

Bruce Oldfield Black Velvet Gown
Princess Diana's iconic dresses to go on display at Kensington Palace
DRESSES from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales auction catalogue
Dresses for Humanity exhibition catalogue
My Decade with Diana by Maureen Rorech Dunkel