LONDON — Princess Diana knew better than anyone the power of a dress.
More than 25 years after her tragic death in 1997, tales of her wardrobe are still being told and items from her expansive closet are still popping up in auctions and museums.
Now, Jacques Azagury, the Morocco-born London-based designer who dressed the princess in some of her raciest dresses, is putting duplicates of her dresses up for auction Dec. 7 at Lay’s Auctioneers in Cornwall, England.
“While I was working, it was always a nice thing to have in my possession,” said the designer in an interview.
Putting the dresses up for auction along with letters, Christmas cards and patterns is Azagury’s swan song. The designer is retiring, and shut his Knightsbridge store in September after 40 years of business.
The dresses are estimated to sell between 10,000 to 20,000 pounds, but could jump in estimation price once Netflix’s royal drama “The Crown” returns for its final season on Nov. 16 as it recounts the last moments of Diana’s life leading up to her fatal death.
The five dresses in the auction include a black sparkly gown that Diana wore in 1997 on her 36th birthday to celebrate the Tate Gallery’s Centenary; a sleeveless red dress that she wore in Washington, D.C., to a fundraising gala dinner for the American Red Cross; a short red sparkly dress that she wore to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice as part of the the Biennale exhibition in 1995; a black gown that she wore on the night of her Panorama interview in 1995 and the short blue dress she wore to the Royal Albert Hall for the English Ballet’s performance of “Swan Lake.”
“I didn’t really want to leave them sort of shuttered up somewhere where nobody else was able to see them anymore,” explained Azagury, optimistic that they will be snatched up by a buyer that will showcase them in their full glory.
He met the princess after debuting his second collection after leaving Central Saint Martins, where he was introduced to Diana by her late confidant, stylist and former British Vogue deputy editor, Anna Harvey.
“Anna said to me, ‘Jacques, there’s somebody I want you to meet.’ I turned around and there was the princess straight in front of me, which was a wonderful shock, but nonetheless a shock. Straightaway she started talking to me and she put me at ease immediately. We were then friends for the next 12 years,” Azagury said.
Diana’s most controversial looks have often been in black, as it’s royal etiquette to only wear the dark hue for mourning.
On her first public engagement with Prince Charles in 1981, the then Diana Spencer wore a strapless taffeta dress by David and Elizabeth Emanuel to a fundraising concert and reception at the Royal Opera House.
The dress went on auction in 2010 by Kerry Taylor Auctions in London, fetching 192,000 pounds. It was collected by Fundación Museo de la Moda, a fashion museum in Chile.
“She had the kind of coloring that she could wear almost any color. I used to love to put her in standout colors. She loved black, particularly toward the later parts of her life once she divorced because before that she wasn’t able to wear black — as soon as she was able to be fully fledged into black, she looked sensational [especially] with her skin color, blue eyes and blonde hair,” Azagury said.
In Barbra Streisand’s memoir “My Name Is Barbra,” the actor details her encounter with Princess Diana in 1992 at the London premiere of “The Prince of Tides.”
While sitting next to the princess, Streisand had a wardrobe malfunction.
“The zipper on my skirt had come down a bit as I was sitting, and she noticed and quickly started to zip it up for me as I got to my feet,” writes the actor in her memoir.
“When I finally sat down, Diana turned to me and asked, ‘Do you know how wonderful you are?’ I certainly didn’t know it then. Did I know it now? I’m not sure…maybe a little. I thought Diana was wonderful. I wonder if she knew how wonderful she was,” she added.
Azagury said that for a lot of people the princess is “very much alive today,” hence why there are so many stories about her and her style in the later years.
“When I was dressing her, the dresses became iconic because they were on trend dresses, but also classic with a twist. Those dresses could all be worn today, 25 years later and they wouldn’t be out of place anywhere,” he added.