Ever since Kate Middleton entered the scene, there’s been a steady stream of designers touched with the magic of a royal affiliation: Jenny Packham, Issa, and, of course, Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen pop to mind. And since those of us obsessing most heavily over Kate were far too young to have any sort of opinion about Princess Di’s wardrobe, it’s been our first-time (and you always remember your first). Not to get all history major on you, but there’s always a lot of worth in looking backward, and when the Daily Mail posted a story about Christian Dior’s cozy relationship with the British monarchy back in the late ’40s and ’50s, well, I was hooked, line and sinker.
(Princess Margaret greeting Dior at the Blenheim show)
There was proof that Dior loved the Brits (“When an English woman is pretty, she’s prettier than a woman of any nationality. I adore the English.”), but what I loved so much about the Daily Mail story was finding out that the Brits loved him, liked loved. The cozy relationship resulted in him showing a collection at London’s famous Savoy hotel during the fall of 1947 that was so buzzy, Queen Elizabeth requested a private appointment for some of the royals, including fashion plate Princess Margaret. “She crystalized the whole popular frantic interest in royalty,” Dior said. “She was a real fairy-tale princess, delicate, graceful, exquisite.” Princess Margaret became a customer, ordering multiple pieces including the white ball gown she called her “favorite dress of all” and wore to her 21st birthday party in 1951.
We’ve certainly gotten used to Kate selling out clothes as soon as she’s spotted in them, but did you know that’s hardly a new phenomenon? Pieces that the young royal wore were marked “As Worn by Princess Margaret” and Dior got an extra dose of buzz. The love between the designer and the Brits was cemented when he showed his winter collection within the luxe walls of Blenheim Palace (and, um, seriously, how much would you love a ticket to a modern fashion show held in a historic British residence?).
The Blenheim showed occurred in early November 1954 (sixty years ago next week) to a crowd of 1,600 paying guests. I know it’s later than Downton Abbey times, but I still can’t shake an image of that chic family hosting a runway in its regal home. Um, future plot line?