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Diplomatic Dressing: Diana’s Klondike Costume

In our last post, we spoke in depth about Princess Diana’s travelling wardrobe and in particular, the oodles of outfits that she had to pack to ensure she had just the right thing for every occasion.

The first few days of William and Kate’s Jubilee tour has shown that Kate has been paying the same sort of attention to her wardrobe and, like Diana, has used her clothes as a way to pay tribute to the countries they are visiting.

Case in point: this bespoke Orchid printed Jenny Packham dress for a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Singapore. As you probably already know if you’re reading this blog, the Gardens named a white and pink orchid  after William and Kate so she really was dressed for the occasion!

For a prime example of how Diana also dressed for the occasion during her travels, we’re going to step back to  the Prince and Princess of Wales’ tour of Canada in 1983.

The couple was 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 this event was on the schedule, costume designer John Bright visited Princess Diana at Kensington Palace with some options. To give some context, some of John Bright’s credits include the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility and Remains of the Day, which both starred Emma Thompson.  Diana looked over the options and ultimately chose this peach dress. Mr. Bright designed a hat to go with it. The informative PrincessDiana.Ca 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 dactually esigned by both costumer Linda Mattock and John Bright for “Lillie Langtry”, a 13-part 1978 miniseries about a woman who had been a mistress of Prince Charles’ great-great grandfather Prince Edward, the future King Edward VII. Who else had been his mistress? That’s right, Camilla Parker-Bowles’ great-great grandmother Alice Keppel. Apparently, Princess Diana was well aware of this connection and had watched the mini-series and chose the dress as a bit of a cheeky gesture. To make things even more interesting, the princessdiana.ca website points out that Lillie Langtry had accompanied Prince Edward to Edmonton as well. I mean, you just can’t make this stuff up!

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!

The dress is currently on display on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

We’ll look at some more of Diana and Kate’s diplomatic dressing in our next post. See you then!

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Categories: British Royal Family, Diana, Princess of Wales

Tags: , , , ,

5 replies

  1. Lovely post! I remember seeing those pics of Diana but had no idea about the history of the dress. Cheeky!

  2. 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!

  3. You are so good. I truly enjoy reading this blog. Thank you.

  4. 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. : (

  5. 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.

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