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Princess Diana’s style: Fit for fashion royalty

(shown above: Princess Diana’s wedding dress pearls. Sold by RR Auction.)

RR Auction showcases Princess Diana’s style

Princess Diana was known for her style as well as her substance. Even 20 years after her untimely death, the world still has keen interest and love for the princess and Diana memorabilia.

RR Auction has presented at auction many items from her personal wardrobe – from Diana’s wedding dress items (we’ve even sold a piece of Diana’s wedding cake, but that’s a story for another time), to beautiful jewelry and accessories, to a casual sweatshirt she gifted to a staffer of her last companion. In September, RR will offer a collection of swatches used to create her wardrobe for a 1986 “Gulf Tour,” as part of our Remarkable Rarities live auction, Sept. 25 in Boston.

We sell Princess Diana memorabilia with great success for our consignors, many of whom witnessed Diana’s generosity and kindness firsthand. Here are a few examples of items reflecting Princess Diana’s style.

sell Princess Diana memorabilia Princess DIana browsing fabric and ideas for a 1986 "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, with her designers, the Emanuels.
Princess DIana browsing fabric and ideas for a 1986 "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, with her designers, the Emanuels.
sell Princess Diana memorabilia Princess Diana's personally worn sweatshirt. Offered by RR Auction.
Princess Diana's personally worn sweatshirt. Offered by RR Auction.

RR’s Sept. Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction included a significant Royalty section, which featured many items relating to Princess Diana. One item – her personally worn (see her wearing it in this Hola! article), cream-colored Ralph Lauren Polo Sports sweatshirt – was given by her to Deborah Gribble, the chief stewardess of Dodi Fayed’s family yacht Jonikal, the night before Diana and Fayed were killed in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel as they attempted to evade paparazzi, on August 31, 1997.

Princess Diana wearing the sweatshirt being offered by RR Auction.

The sweatshirt is size medium, embroidered with large red “USA” lettering on the front, and the lower left cuff reads “RL Sport” in dark blue thread. The recipient Deborah Gribble served as the chief stewardess on the Jonikal, a luxury yacht owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed (see a photo of the yacht in this Travel+Leisure story), the father of Princess Diana’s romantic partner, Dodi Fayed.

“I was closely engaged with Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed as my role on board meant I was serving them every day for all their needs and requirements during their cruises in the Mediterranean and was constantly in their personal surroundings while on board,” the Inquisitr quotes Gribble as saying. “I was gifted a Ralph Lauren sweater from Diana in person the night before we departed from Sardinia to Paris as a personal thank you for looking after her on board.”

“I felt very privileged to be in this secret environment,” People quoted Gribble as saying. She also described the princess as “relaxed, fun and light” on the vacation, never wearing a full face of makeup, according to Hello Canada.

UK Blasting News reports that shortly before Princess Diana’s death, Gribble spoke to Women’s Wear Daily, stating that Diana was looking forward to getting home to her two sons and going to the gym. Gribble went on to say that Diana was living a completely different lifestyle than she was accustomed to while visiting Fayed.

Gribble was interviewed as part of a CNN two-hour special in 2017 titled Diana: Chasing a Fairytale.

***AUCTION UPDATE: This item sold for $7,514.

At our Remarkable Rarities auction (online bidding Sept. 13-24; live auction in Boston on Sept. 25), we are offering a comprehensive archive of fabric samples and related paperwork for Princess Diana’s 1986 ‘Gulf Tour,’ originating from the shop of David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the famous designers of Princess Diana’s wedding dress (the HuffPost has a video featuring the record-breaking dress). The Emanuels also designed more than 100 different outfits for Diana for special occasions and for when she traveled abroad.

In November 1986, Princess Diana and Prince Charles made a six-day tour of the Arabian Gulf states (the UK Daily Mail has a video of the couple arriving). In Saudi Arabia, she was famously invited to King Fahd’s palace—a rare honor for a member of her gender—although she was not allowed to dine with the men.

Princess Diana tried to conform to local customs by wearing concealing clothes, but still exposed her neck and left her head uncovered—notably, she did not have to wear the “Reserve Outfit” burqa depicted in this archive. At evening banquets, she appeared in the long-sleeved demure dresses made especially for the tour. 

sell Princess Diana memorabilia One of the sketches in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.
One of the sketches in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.

“[The burqa] was not included in the final bundle we presented to her, as by then we had a better idea of what was needed,” Elizabeth Emanuel told People recently.

The Gulf coast in the Middle East refers to the states of the Persian Gulf. These states include Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Modest dress is expected in these states, reports the UK Express, especially Saudi Arabia, and the use of an abaya (a long black cloak worn over normal clothes to conceal body shape) is generally required at the least.

sell Princess Diana memorabilia One of the sketches in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.
One of the sketches in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.

Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction, told The Sun: “Princess Diana tried to conform to local customs by wearing concealing clothes, but still exposed her neck and left her head uncovered.

“At evening banquets, she appeared in the long sleeved demure dresses made especially for the tour.

“She did not have to wear the ‘reserve outfit’ burka depicted in this archive.

“It’s a remarkable, comprehensive archive from the famously stylish royal.”

The archive includes:

  • An Emanuel folder marked “The ‘Gulf’ Tour 1986, Daywear Fabrics,” containing over 200 fabric swatches of various sizes stapled to 46 sheets, many of which are marked, “Silk Fabrics, Daywear.” These include many different colors and patterns, including floral prints, paisley, stripes, polka dots, pinstripes, solids, and abstract patterns. An additional page marked “Silk Fabrics” has hand-drawn sketches of colorful “candy stripe” fabric samples that are “soon to be available.”
  • An Emanuel folder marked “The ‘Gulf’ Tour 1986, Evening Wear Fabrics,” containing 30 fabric swatches stapled to 8 sheets, many of which are marked, “Silk Fabrics, Eveningwear.” These are predominately more conservative solids and moire patterns, as well as gold-pinstriped silks.
  • An Emanuel folder marked “The ‘Gulf’ Tour 1986, Day & Evening Wear Designs,” containing five original hand-drawn pencil outfit designs: a full burqa, marked “H.R.H. The Princess of Wales, Visit to Saudi Arabia, Nov. 1986, Reserve Outfit”; outfit “No. 6,” a “navy and white stripe coat over white faconné dress”; outfit “No. 11,” a dramatic evening dress in “black and white silk duchess satin”; outfit “No. 12,” a slim evening dress of “purple faconné with diamanté buttons”; and outfit “No. 13,” a slim fitting evening dress in “white silk crepe embroidered with bugle beads and tiny crystals and diamanté.” Additionally includes 12 photocopies of original designs, each affixed with its associated fabric sample and stapled to a descriptive cover sheet.
sell Princess Diana memorabilia One of the swatch pages in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.
sell Princess Diana One of the swatch pages in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.
Swatch pages in the Princess Diana archive of fabric samples for designing her "Gulf Tour" wardrobe, offered by RR Auction.
  • Additional ephemera includes: a TLS from Diana’s lady-in-waiting, Anne Beckwith-Smith, to Elizabeth Emanuel, June 2, 1986, requesting designs for the tour of the Gulf: “Certain special requirements concerning dress need to be observed and I am writing to ask if it would be possible to submit to The Princess of Wales a few sketches for day and evening wear from which Her Royal Highness could select items for this tour. Their Royal highnesses will be visiting Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia…In all cases modesty is the order of the day.”
  • An original color photograph showing Diana choosing from the designs and fabrics with the Emanuels.
  • Finally, interesting copies of the Emanuel invoices, which describe the dresses in great detail. Despite her royal status, Princess Diana still had to pay for her own clothing.

If you would like to sell Princess Diana memorabilia, or simply inquire about a free appraisal, please contact RR Auction here.

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