Diplomatic Dressing: Diana’s Klondike Costume

In our last post, we spoke in depth about Princess Diana’s travelling wardrobe and the oodles of outfits she had to pack to ensure she had just the right thing for every occasion. For a prime example of how Diana dressed for the occasion during her travels, let’s step back to  the Prince and Princess of Wales’ tour of Canada in 1983.


The Princes and Princess of Wales were  invited to a semi-formal Klondike themed BBQ in Edmonton, Alberta and, as you can see in the above photo, they really got into the spirit of things!


This event was in held on June 29, 1983 so keep in mind that Diana was just 21 years old at the time.

Once the event was on the schedule, costume designer John Bright visited Princess Diana at Kensington Palace with some options. To give some context, John Bright’s credits include both  Sense and Sensibility and Remains of the Day.  Diana looked over the options he presented and ultimately chose this peach dress. To finish off the look, Mr. Bright designed a hat to go with it.

This  informative Princess Diana website describes the dress follows:

“It is a form-fitting princess line gown of pink/peach wild silk with a swagged overskirt ruched at sides and back to reveal a silk lace flounced underskirt and a short train. The lace is repeated at the collar, jabot and cuffs. The coordinating hat, which Bright designed specifically for Diana, is cream petal straw trimmed with period velours au sabre silk ribbon, silk flowers and pearl sprigs.”

Here is a closer look at the hat:


What makes this dress extra special is that it wasn’t the first time it was worn. It was actually designed by Linda Mattock and John Bright for Lillie Langtry, a 1978 miniseries about a woman who had been a mistress of Prince Charles’ great-great grandfather Prince Edward, the future King Edward VII. Camilla Parker-Bowles’ great-great grandmother Alice Keppel had been another of his mistresses.


Apparently Princess Diana had watched the miniseries, was well aware of this connection, and chose the dress as a bit of a cheeky gesture. To make things even more interesting, Lillie Langtry had accompanied the future King Edward to Edmonton as well during a tour of Canada. I mean, you just can’t make this stuff up! [Source]

This is Lillie on a cigarette card circa 1900.

Here is a photo of actress Francesca Annis in the dress as Lillie:

This dress is also included as one of the many costume repeats out there in the delightful blog Recycled Movie Costumes. Check it out, but be warned: time flies when you’re on that site!

What do you think – was Diana giving Charles a not so subtle message with her choice of dress? 

P.S. All about The Queen’s first pearls and the tiaras worn by Kate so far.

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  1. Regarding Diana: OMG – what an INCREDIBLE post!! Who would have ever thought that there was THIS MUCH INTERESTING information on this engagement/dress? I had once read that the dress was not new but a costume pulled from ‘somewhere’. And the hat – do they get any more feminine than this – LOVE IT!! Your details have blow me out of the (South Pacific) waters!!

    Regarding Kate: To date, I have been admiring her choice of day dress – very feminine, soft and simple. So different (and paired down) from Diana. Loving the entire ‘less is more’ theory. Mixed feelings on the first two dinner dresses but very much enjoyed the gold and white floor length last evening. I know everyone is holding their breath for a tiara, but I loved her without one as her beautiful face and choice of garment ‘shown’ all on their own! She’s so beautiful, does she really need one?

    Thank you for allowing me the space to write all this. Sorry, didn’t mean to step on the ol’ soap box… I hope you have as much fun researching your posts as we have reading (devouring) them!!

    Happy Friday and weekend to all!

  2. What an interesting story you told us about Diana’s diplomatic dress. I missed that pictures and now I’m very delighted to see them.
    Regarding Kate: don’t ask me why, but I had the feeling that she wouldn’t wear a tiara. : (

  3. I remember the royal visit to Edmonton. Last year’s visit to Calgary by Will and Kate was a huge hit. As an expat Brit I enjoy catching up with the royals on your blog.

  4. I think it was her clever way of making us aware of one Camilla Parker Bowles…….took about 10 years for the public to learn about her…

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