Fashion icon: Dresses, film revive memories of Diana

Fashion icon: Dresses, film revive memories of Diana

Her shocking death in a traffic accident in August 1997 still stuns the world, and 16 years later, Princess Diana still captivates many people who are drawn to her enchanting aura, beauty and elegant fashion. "Diana," a film now showing, is based on the last two years of her dramatic life and pays tribute to these elements.

What people may not know is that three dresses that Diana wore in the 1980s were displayed earlier this year at the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum near JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. The dresses, designed by Catherine Walker, have been placed in care of the museum by the publishing company Shogakukan Inc.

I recently visited the museum to learn more about these clothes-two evening dresses and a cocktail dress.

Diana wore a reddish purple evening dress with a simple streamlined shape in the early 1980s, a navy blue, short cocktail dress during her official visit to Japan in 1986 and a gorgeous evening dress with a puffed skirt and bearing the pattern of red roses on a black background on an official visit to France in 1988.

The three dresses were on display at the museum's "European Mode 2013" exhibition from April to June, and are now in storage. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to see them because the museum needs to protect them from deterioration due to frequent exposure to lighting.

Museum curator Kayo Murakami said: "Princess Diana was 178 centimeters tall and her dresses were designed to make her tall body line more attractive, like a fashion model. They are very impressive."

Shogakukan successfully bid for the three dresses at a charity auction in New York in 1997.

The catalog itself, which listed 79 items being auctioned, was pretty expensive. The hardcover version was £185 (S$370), while the softcover version was £55. Nevertheless, 19,000 copies were sold.

"Her dresses were initially designed to look romantic to meet Prince Charles' taste, but they gradually became sharper," Murakami said in reference to the dresses in the catalog.

She also said many of these dresses are designed to accentuate her beautiful shoulder line, as can be seen in the two evening dresses at the museum.

Diana's simple, sophisticated fashion is inspiring even today. When I saw the dresses in the catalog, it was immediately apparent why she was regarded as a fashion icon. It would be well worth the wait to see the dresses when they are put on display at the museum again.

Incidentally, the museum now has an exhibition featuring Japanese and Western attire worn by the nobility from the Meiji era (1868-1912) to around the beginning of World War II. It will run until Dec. 21.

"Diana"-A love story

The film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, focuses on the last two years of Princess Diana's life. In 1995, three years after she began living separately from Prince Charles, Diana (Naomi Watts) becomes acquainted with Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), a heart surgeon, and they fall in love.

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