The Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, together with the world-renowned auction house to the stars, Julien’s Auctions and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Hollywood’s most revered purveyor of classic movies, will show three very important and rarely seen garments at an exhibition dedicated to the style of Princess Diana which opens to the public on May 5th. The garments will be displayed as part of a new exhibition called ‘Princess Diana – Fashion from the Wardrobe of The People’s Princess’ before heading to Julien’s and TCM’s two day event “LEGENDS,” taking place live August 26th and August 27th in Beverly Hills and online at julienslive.com
These three Princess Diana owned and worn garments were last seen in public when they were auctioned by Christie’s in 1997.
One of the garments is a stunning scarlet red silk Bruce Oldfield gown worn by Princess Diana while attending the film premiere of Hot Shots at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London, in November of 1991 which was attended by President Arpad Goncz of Hungry and his wife Zsuzsa. The gown has a draped short sleeve bodice with a slender fitting ruching to the waist and hips with an all over lamé tartan motif. Julien’s Auctions have estimated the value of the dress between $200,000 – $400,000.
There are also two Catherine Walker dresses, an English designer whose designs were much loved by Princess Diana and whose designs are still worn by many of the royals today, including Kate Middleton. In fact, Catherine Walker created garments for Princess Diana for 16 years and indeed, she also designed the black cocktail dress that she was laid to rest in. The first of the two Catherine Walker garments which will go on display is a timeless black and white strapless gown which was worn by Princess Diana to a private function. The gown (auction estimate: $60,000 – $80,000) is composed of white silk crepe with bold bands of black silk velvet with a graduated hemline and silk lining.
The second Catherine Walker garment is an evening gown worn by Princess Diana to a gala dinner at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto in 1986. The gown (auction estimate: $100,0000 – $200,000) has a fitted black faille bodice with a décolleté neckline and off the shoulder short sleeves with a draped jade silk skirt with fringed sash and side slit.
The three visiting garments will be shown alongside the Museum of Style Icon’s permanent Princess Diana exhibits which include the famous pale pink Emanuel blouse Diana famously wore in the official engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1981. The photograph of a young, Diana wearing the blouse was originally commissioned as part of a Vogue feature on ‘upcoming beauty’. It is reported that Diana walked into the shoot and headed straight for the garment with its distinctive satin neck ribbon. The designers of the piece were then the little-known designers, husband and wife design duo, David and Elizabeth Emanuel. Fortuitously for Vogue — and the Emanuel’s — the timing of the publication coincided with the announcement of Lady Diana Spencer’s engagement to the Prince of Wales. The photograph of Lady Diana wearing the blouse with her clear blue eyes demurely looking at the camera depicted the very essence of innocence and romanticism. It was the first official portrait of Lady Diana, the future Princess of Wales and in many ways, marked the beginning of Diana’s fashion evolution.
In 1981, Elizabeth Emanuel, together with her husband, David were chosen to design the wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer for her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. This was a huge undertaking at the time as the Princess was one of the most photographed, if not the most photographed woman in the world. In an age before Instagram and social media the allure and style of Princess Diana still made its way across the world with every outfit she wore being scrutinised and admired. Naturally then, the wedding was a huge affair and was televised with an estimated 700 million people worldwide tuning in to see ‘the dress’. Of course, it didn’t disappoint – it was made of ivory silk, pure taffeta and incorporated antique lace, 10,000 pearls and had a 25ft train.
The exhibition at Newbridge Silverware includes the final calico toile for the royal wedding gown and a replacement veil. A toile is a dressmaker’s equivalent of a working document, this toile, which was made by the Emanuel’s, was a pre-cursor to Diana’s actual wedding dress, in other words, the final fitting toile of her wedding gown which was later made in silk and features the same details, including the flounced cuffs and trained skirt. The designers made this toile to allow them to adjust the sizing. Numerous bodice changes had to be made by David and Elizabeth Emanuel as Diana continued to lose weight in the weeks leading up to the wedding day. “Diana, like many nervous brides, must have lost about a stone and a half in weight during the run-up to the wedding,” said Elizabeth Emanuel. “The actual gown was only made up in silk based on this final toile at the last possible moment to ensure the most accurate fit and as there was a limited amount of the specially woven silk available.”
After the dress was made, some silk was left over and the Emanuel’s made a miniature copy of the royal wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses (similar to the ones given to Princess Diana by Elizabeth Emanuel and David Emanuel in 1981). The miniatures were made at a scale of 1/8th of the original dress size and were created using cut-offs from the original bridal silk and lace, mounted onto miniature mannequins. The miniatures are on display at Newbridge Silverware and feature mini versions of the three bridesmaid dresses similar to those worn by India Hicks, Clementine Hambro and Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones.
The so called ‘India Dress’ is also on display at the museum and is a Catherine Walker, Mughal inspired lavishly embroidered pink silk evening gown and bolero, made for the state visit to India, in February 1992. It was during this visit that Diana was famously photographed sitting alone at the Taj Mahal – the monument to lost love, which caused a good deal of comment and speculation in the press at the time. Her official separation from Prince Charles was to be announced in December of the same year. The Princess was photographed wearing this gown by Lord Snowdon in 1997 and is one of the most lavish of all her gowns. Labelled ‘Catherine Walker, London’, the sleeveless gown with deep scooped neckline and long princess-line bodice is delicately embroidered to the dropped waistline. It has three dimensional exotic blooms in looped and satin stitched silk, layered pink sequins, centred by amber, green and pink crystal beads and is scattered with small white floral shaped sequins against a green iridescent sequined background with gold chain stitched leaves. The bolero jacket is embroidered front and back and is lined with ivory satin. The plain silk cuffs each have three large buttons inset with emerald and pink rhinestones.
William Doyle, CEO of Newbridge Silverware, said, “Princess Diana was much loved all around the world, her fashion and style make her one of the most enduring style icons of all time and we are delighted to work with Julien’s Auctions to bring these three very important Princess Diana garments to Ireland.”
Darren Julien, founder and President of Julien’s Auctions, said, “Julien’s Auctions is honored to bring these three rare and important garments worn by the beloved icon and cultural figure Princess Diana to the Museum of Style Icons in Ireland. As they haven’t been seen in over 30 years, we expect that there will be huge global interest in this property, and we are looking forward to showcasing them to the public before our ‘Legends” auction with TCM on the 26th and 27th of August.”
Named one of Ireland’s top five free visitor attractions by Fáilte Ireland, the Museum of Style Icons (MOSI) hosts numerous collections and artefacts relating to stars of the silver screen including Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace, Elvis Presley, The Beatles and many more. For more information see www.newbridgesilverware.com or call + 353 (0) 45 431301
‘Princess Diana – Fashion from the Wardrobe of The People’s Princess’ opens to the public on the 5th of May 2023 and runs throughout the summer at the free to enter Museum of Style Icons at Newbridge Silverware. The three garments will be sold by Julien’s Auctions on Saturday, August 26th and Sunday, August 27th 2023 in Beverly Hills. For more info see www.juliensauctions.com