Diana’s iconic engagement blouse and star-spangled evening gown are up sale at auction inspired by Hepburn, Garbo and Hollywood glamour

Wearing a blush pink blouse by the designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel, Diana, then 19, looked  ethereal as she gazes out of the pages of the February 1981 edition of British Vogue for her official engagement portrait.

Now the Museum of Style Icons in Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, which bought it for £27,500 at Kerry Taylor Auctions on June 8, 2010, is planning to sell the blouse. It is estimated to raise up to £79,000 at auction, making them a substantial profit.

The blouse is one of a series of lots being sold in a four-day auction, which begins at Julien’s Auctions, in Los Angeles, on December 14.

This  Elizabeth Emanuel blouse was worn by Diana in her engagement portrait by Lord Snowdon. It will be auctioned later this month and is expected to raise nearly £80,000

Diana's  ballerina-length evening dress designed by Moroccan-British fashion designer Jacques Azagury and worn in Florence, Italy April 23, 1985

Diana’s  ballerina-length evening dress designed by Moroccan-British fashion designer Jacques Azagury and worn in Florence, Italy April 23, 1985

Diana is photographed wearing the Azagury gown

Diana is photographed wearing the Azagury gown

The event, entitled Glamour, Grace & Greatness: Classic Hollywood Auction, also includes the first dress that couturier Jacques Azagury designed for Diana.

‘The romantic blouse features flowing sleeves that are gathered at the shoulder and finished with flounced cuffs,’ the auction house writes.

‘The blouse comes with a satin ribbon that ties under the collar into a bow. There is a single-button closure at the back of the neck and a single button at each cuff. The blouse has a light pink silk lining, no label or size is present.’

It was on January 28, 1981, that Vogue’s beauty editor Felicity Clark called the Emanuels and told them she was doing a shoot for the magazine on English Roses and wanted something ‘very romantic’ for ‘someone very famous’.

Hanging in their studio was the perfect garment: a pale pink silk chiffon blouse with a soft floaty ruffle collar and pink silk satin bow.

They sent it round the corner to Vogue, and photographer Lord Snowdon, then divorced from Princess Margaret, shot Diana in the blouse for the feature on ‘Upcoming Beauties’.

The engagement was announced on the day of the magazine’s release and Diana chose the image for her official engagement photograph.

In their book A Dress for Diana, David and Elizabeth Emanuel wrote, ‘It was this blouse that was hanging up in our studio when we suddenly received the phone call from Vogue requesting something which had a high neck and was very romantic.’

‘It was only later that we discovered that the blouse had been worn by Lady Diana (whose sisters both worked at Vogue),’ they added.

‘The fashion team had assembled a large collection of clothes from several designers for her to try, just as you would for any fashion or beauty shoot.

‘When she saw our blouse on the rack, she fell in love with it, asked who had made it and was directed to us. That was the beginning of our relationship with Diana.’

The other famous Diana dress being auctioned by Julien’s is the black ballerina-length evening gown, embroidered with blue stars, designed by couturier Jacques Azagury, the first he designed for her.

The dress, which measures 37 inches across the bust, 33 inches around the waist and 34 inches across the hips, was amongst the gowns which were auctioned by the princess at Christie’s on June 25, 1997, two months before her death.

It was sold it to People magazine for £15,910, before being donated to the New York Historical Society in 2015. It is estimated to raise up to £158,000.

Couturier Jacques Azagury first met Diana when he was showing his 1985 autumn/winter New Romantics Collection at the London’s Hyde Park Hotel – now the Mandarin Oriental.

Vogue fashion editor Anna Harvey tapped him on the shoulder and said: ‘Jacques, I would like you to meet somebody.’ ‘I turned around and there she was straight in front of me,’ he recalled, ‘which kind of threw me.

‘Then literally we were just talking. She had this magic of making you feel comfortable and at home within seconds. Whilst I was talking to her, she was looking at a dress, which I wasn’t aware of.

Then, two or three weeks later we got a call from the Palace saying: “Princess Diana would like to visit your atelier. Would that be ok?” And we were, of course, absolutely delighted.

Audrey Hepburn's Marigold Givenchy coat from the movie Charade is up for sale

Audrey Hepburn’s Marigold Givenchy coat from the movie Charade is up for sale

Greta Garbo's personally-owned turquoise Ottoman silk  shirt dress

Greta Garbo’s personally-owned turquoise Ottoman silk  shirt dress

And we said: “Yes. Yes. We would love her to come,” and that was really the start of our relationship. I usually take everything in my stride, but I have to admit, every time I saw Diana wearing my clothes I did get very, very excited.’

Jacques and his sister Solange were then invited to Kensington Palace to discuss the dress – which was made in Jakob Schlaepher fabric.

Diana wore it to a mayoral dinner at the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence, Italy, on December 11, 1985, and a performance by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at The Orpheum Theatre, in Vancouver, Canada, on May 5, the following year.

The sale will also items from Hollywood’s golden era, including an evening coat worn by Audrey Hepburn in the film Charade and a silk shirt dress owned by Greta Garbo.

  • Diana: A Life in Dresses by Claudia Joseph is published by ACC Art Books for £40.

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