Saturday, 24 June 2017

Diana's Dresses: the Steel Magnolia

Diana's life told through dresses is turning out to be one of the tickets in London this summer. The exhibition of twenty five of her frocks at Kensington Palace in the display, Diana: Her Life in Fashion, is attracting huge crowds, prepared to queue in even the hottest weather. The dresses on display tell her story through fashion and each marks a moment in a royal life that is already so well known and yet still has secrets to tell. Today. it's time to look back on an early nineties outfit that appeared as Diana began to make some pretty major decisions in her life. Here's Diana, the Steel Magnolia.

In many ways, this red evening gown by Catherine Walker, first seen in 1990, is reminiscent of many a Diana gala look. We've got rich colours, a fitted silhouette and eye catching embellishment. But in other ways, this is a step in another direction. First worn to the London premiere of the film Steel Magnolias at Leicester Square in February 1990, it's got a boldness about it that strikes a different dimension to earlier looks. The draping jacket effect of the top carries the floral embellishments neatly from front to back while the (rather daring) split at the back of the skirt provides a surprise just when everyone thinks they've got this one sorted. Rather like Diana herself at this time in her life.

This dress was worn again during Charles and Diana's ill fated tour to South Korea when the chasm between them became so obvious that the announcement of their separation which followed just weeks later seemed all but inevitable. On that tour, Diana's dresses were secondary to the whole scenario, pretty colours to form a backdrop to a sad royal story that riveted the world. The dress remained best known, however, as a glitzy premiere frock and it was among those sold at auction for charity by the princess in the summer of 1997. Then, it went for almost $27,000. It was resold in 2013 when it fetched over £50,000. A moment of Diana glamour with layers of royal history attached. Very nineties, very Diana.

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