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.