Diana’s designer reveals the secrets of the Princess’s ‘caring dress’

Her wedding dress turned her into a fairytale princess and the dazzling creations that followed made her a fashion icon. The dress Diana, Princess of Wales, loved most, however, was a more modest number.
Source The Daily Telegraph
Diana's designer reveals the secrets of the Princess's 'caring dress'
Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing her ‘caring dress’, one of more than 70 outfits made for her by designer David Sassoon Photo: GETTY IMAGES

She called it her “caring dress” and one of the Princess’s favourite designers has now revealed how determined she was to defy public criticism and keep wearing it.

David Sassoon explained that the Princess’s devotion to the floral crepe-de-Chine design was because she realised its bright colours was attractive to sick or suffering children, making them relaxed in her presence.

It meant that when she faced comment from a public unaware of her reasons for wearing the dress, the Princess told Mr Sassoon she would not bow to popular pressure.

The designer told The Sunday Telegraph: “She would say ‘I keep being told not to wear it, but I love this dress, my caring dress’. Of course Diana was the first member of the Royal family to break all the rules.”

Mr Sassoon, who has spent 50 years dressing some of the world’s most beautiful women at his couture house Bellville Sassoon, designed the dress for a foreign tour in 1988.

The Princess went on to wear it in Lagos in Nigeria, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and also while visiting a London Aids hospice.

Press reports in the 1990s speculated that she loved the dress because of its colour, but Mr Sassoon explained: “She happened to wear that dress when visiting a hospital, and children seemed to clamour round and like it. If you are like the Princess of Wales, who loved children, you don’t want a strictly formal suit for a hospital visit. You pick a very informal dress with bright colours, which that dress was. The reaction is one of awe from young children.”

Mr Sassoon’s new book The Glamour of Bellville Sassoon shows for the first time the Princess’s thank you note for the dress. It also reveals her handwritten comments on Mr Sassoon’s sketches, charting her light-hearted relationship with the designer.

Mr Sassoon, who made more than 70 outfits for the Princess, revealed how she never took clothes too seriously despite the extent to which her appearance was scrutinised. She could even pop into his London shop and choose an outfit just hours before wearing it at a formal engagement.

“She just appeared in the shop saying ‘help’. I have never enjoyed such an informal relationship with a member of the Royal family, and I am sure I never will again.

“Diana was much more relaxed about dressing, but she always got it right – she had the figure and the sheer charm.”

Where other Royal family members would earnestly practise curtsying in their new clothes, the Princess would delight in removing her thermal underwear before trying on a designer dress.

Mr Sassoon said: “She was very proud of the fact that she wore thermals because she didn’t like overcoats. When she was going into the fitting room, she would say ‘Just a minute, let me take my thermals off’. I think she enjoyed all that.”

Two of Mr Sassoon’s previously unpublished sketches from 1984 also show how, away from the public gaze, the Princess was already blossoming from a shy girl into the “red carpet glamour girl” remembered by posterity.

The black jersey dress with a very low back and the pink blouson jacket with long skirt were, Mr Sassoon said, a sign of things to come.

“They were for private use and a little more sexy, a little more fashion than what she could wear publicly at the time. Before her divorce, her clothes could never be overtly sexy. But just think how amazing she looked in the last years of her life. She was a red carpet glamour girl.”

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