Princess Diana’s black dress for sale

This gorgeous and rather iconic dress, worn by Princess Diana at her first official public appearance at Goldsmith’s Hall on the 9th March 1981 is due to come up for auction at Kerry Taylor Auctions on the 8th of June and is expected to sell for around £50,000!

I was only a little girl when the 1981 Royal Wedding was going on (and my husband hadn’t even been born – he is a couple of months older than Prince William! I know, shock and SCANDAL!) but I still remember seeing pictures of the glowing, nineteen year old Lady Diana in her black taffeta gown and thinking that she looked like the epitome of a fairytale princess. To some little girls, pink and sequins and gauze are requisite for Fairy Princessdom but to me, shimmering black and the contrasting glitter of diamonds did the trick. I think I was already a bit of a goth back then to be honest (I entered Gothhood properly at the age of eleven after discovering the Damned, Siousxie, The Sisters and the Cure).

In my opinion, and remember that my opinion is actually worth VERY LITTLE, Princess Diana’s look actually went rapidly downhill from this point onwards. When she was allowed to choose clothes for herself, as with this large black number, the results were glorious if a bit unexpected (the Royal Family are not noted for their elegance and seem to disdain clothes that have slimming properties and so only wear black when in mourning), however once she had been taken in hand and was told what to wear, the effects were pretty unfortunate as they insisted on dressing a fresh faced, naturally pretty nineteen year old girl like a forty year old woman in hats, frumpy past the knee suits and court shoes. Note that in the 1980s, a forty year old woman dressed a bit like a sixty year old woman nowadays, so this wasn’t a good look.

To be honest, and I speak as one who was and still is a HUGE fan of Princess Diana, I never could get to grips  with the concept of the Princess being some sort of leader of fashion and would smirk derisively at descriptions of her as ‘chic’, ‘elegant’ or *clutch pearls* ‘trend setting’. I just couldn’t see it at all. Instead, what I saw was a young woman dressed much too old for her age and looking pretty uncomfortable about it. Things improved enormously after she had separated from Prince Charles and had more control over her look – she looked really awesome quite a few times, it’s just such a shame that she wasn’t able to do so earlier.

This didn’t stop me thinking that she was absolutely marvellous though – in fact I spent a large chunk of my childhood collecting everything about her that I could lay my hands on  – books, magazines, postcards, spoons with her picture on the handle, mugs. It was a bit weird.

No wonder then that when I finally got my chance to meet her, I was rendered dumbstruck and terrified. I was asked to privately present the Princess with a bouquet after she had presented degrees at the Royal College of Surgeons and had assiduously practised my curtsey for hours beforehand, convinced that something terrible would happen and I would end up falling over or worse ONTO the Princess. I still remember the feeling of dread as I saw her come down the stairs in her bright red shift dress and walk towards me. I don’t remember much about what happened next other than that I managed to curtsey without anything terrible occuring, that she wore a great deal of blue eyeliner and that she had extremely soft hands.

Anyway! Enough of this pointless and tiresome reminiscing. I’m really keen to see how much the dress sells for and hope, as usual, that it gets bought by a museum rather than a private collector so that we can all gawp at it for years to come.

10 thoughts on “Princess Diana’s black dress for sale

  • Karin (an alien parisienne)

    This is a bit of coincidental oddness, but just this morning I was thinking about Princess Diana. I have been reading the Fraser biography of Marie Antoinette, and I have had princesses on the brain. Also just this past weekend,I was at Pont Mirabeau, and was looking up the Seine to the Pont Grenelle replica of the Statue of Liberty. That got me thinking about the Pont l’Alma area and the replica of the flame of the Statue of Liberty that is an unofficial memorial to Diana. This morning I was thinking about what things might have been like had she not died. I was wondering what her life might be like, just as I was wondering what life might have been like for Marie Antoinette had she been allowed to come to the U.S., or been allowed to live in another country. It was definitely feeling sad for both outcomes, and a generous imagining of “what if…?”

    I was 12 when Dina’s wedding happened. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to watch it on the TV in the States. I was very taken with the whole thing — I really loved Diana at the time, and she was a big part of my growing up years. What you had to say about her style really resonated with me, and I am at least happy that before she died, she was seeming to find herself once again.

    This made me get a little teary: “No wonder then that when I finally got my chance to meet her, I was rendered dumbstruck and terrified. I was asked to privately present the Princess with a bouquet after she had presented degrees at the Royal College of Surgeons…” I’m so glad you got to do that. :) Terrifying though it was, you got to meet and touch a woman who was truly great in a lot of ways, and whose greatness (in my opinion) mostly lay in her ordinariness and struggles in life. I’m envious.

    Just a few more days until you are here! :) You’ve got my email with this comment. I’m looking forward to meeting up and seeing if it works out to see the Concierge. I’m just at the part of the biography where M.A. is there, and I’m looking forward to seeing first hand the place where she spent her last months.

    Be well, good luck preparing for the trip, and hope to see you soon!

    • Melanie Post author

      Oh, I have been thinking about that lately as well. It’s so sad isn’t it? ‘Too late’ and ‘what if’ are just the most depressing phrases in the English language.

      Apparently Queen Charlotte of England had apartments decorated for Marie Antoinette, should she manage to escape to London and I like to imagine a different future for the French Royals in which they lived in exile in England until they were able to regain their throne. A bit like Lost really! :)

      I dread to think what would have happened to Princess Diana though – she seems so emotionally immature, that I think she would always have been a bit unhappy or embroiled with the wrong sorts of men. :/

      I grew up with Princess Diana too – Diana and Madonna are probably the biggest twin influences on girls who grew up at that time – how weird is that? :)

      It really was very special to have got the chance to meet the Princess and I’m very proud and honoured that I got to do so. It was an incredible moment for me!

      I was planning to email you this afternoon – I have your copy of my book here and am really looking forward to meeting up! :)

      Thanks! xxx

  • Tony Keen

    The dress was really quite shocking at the time. Nobody had any idea what she was going to wear, and everybody was taken on the back foot when she appeared in this dress that heavily emphasised her breasts (especially when the television cameras were shooting her from above as she came up the staircase). It is a dress that snet out a message that here was a sexual being – reports at the time talk about the look on Charles’s face, and whispers of “Phwaor!” This just wasn’t the way the British Royal Family did things – they have always tended to de-emphasise their sexuality, and so once Diana came under the control of the Palace, they did the same to her. (Can you, for instance, remember seeing a photograph of Diana visibly pregnant? I can’t.)

    • Melanie Post author

      Yes, I remember how shocking people found it at the time and I guess no one was surprised when she was afterwards seen in progressively more dowdy outfits, to hide her charms from public gaze. It’s really sad.

      I have seen pictures of the Princess in maternity dresses – she tended to go for the more tent like or empire line styles though, I don’t think she was ever photographed in the more figure hugging type things pregnant women commonly wear these days.

  • Dewi

    I know that black dress.. P.Diana wear it when she was dancing with John Travolta in the white house, wasn’t it? Btw, it’s beautiful dress.. ;)

    • Melanie Post author

      I think that was a different dress actually, but it was along the same lines. Princess Diana had just the right colouring and complexion to look amazing in black. :)

      Isn’t it gorgeous? Maybe we should all team up and buy it then timeshare it out? :)

  • Dewi

    that would be good idea so count me in.. ;p
    since it expected to sell for around £50,000 which i can’t afford it.. so count me out.. xD

  • Chelsea

    Wow so jealous that you meet her i wasn’t even alive!
    when she die 19 days later i born
    but how did you meet her was it just that easy?

    • Madame Guillotine Post author

      Oh no, that’s a shame!

      My aunt arranged it as she worked at the Royal College of Surgeons and they wanted someone to present flowers, so she got me the job. :)

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