Catherine Walker, a designer who was entirely self taught, has the rare distinction of having regularly dressed the Princess of Wales throughout her public life. Princess Diana was wearing a green Catherine Walker dress when she left the hospital with Prince William in June of 1982 and, sadly, she was laid to rest wearing a black Catherine walker dress which Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell said would make Diana “covered in love.” Walker herself passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer in September 2010.
In memory of the gorgeous work she did for Diana, here our top 5 favourite looks designed by Catherine Walker, with insights from Walker herself from the book Catherine Walker: an Authorized biography by the Private Couturier to Diana, Princess of Wales. It is a great read if you haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet yourself.
All right here we go:
#5 Black Jet Dress
Diana looks amazing in this little number which she wore to an evening at Versailles. Walker explained,
“This was a special dress for me, as I am always very aware of the events in my home country and I was honoured that the Princess chose to wear one of my dresses to the Palace of Versailles…it was our first “sexy” dress and, predictably, it received considerable coverage.”
Diana was certainly making a statement here.
#4 Crepe Shift Dress with Gold Double Belt, Harrow, July 1997
This is such a timeless, classy dress that perfectly shows off the Princess’ figure. It would look perfectly tasteful today. Walker said,
“I will always remember this simple shift dress and will always keep a replica in my archive. The Princess had ordered it a couple of years before wearing it here. It was her last daytime engagement.”
#3 Strapless Ice Blue Chiffon Dress, Cannes, May 1987
This was Diana’s Grace Kelly moment: it was inspired by a gown worn by Kelly in To Catch a Thief and she wore it to her first and only visit to the Cannes Film Festival. How fun! Unfortunately Walker did not mention this dress in her book, but it is such a dreamy dress we just couldn’t leave it out!
Unsurprisingly, this dress still has major appeal. In May of 2011, this dress sold at auction in Beverly Hills for $276,000.
#2 Ice Blue Taroni Silk Crepe Shift Dress with Embroidery, Christie’s Gala, London, June 1997
This is another ice blue wonder by Walker (pictured at Diana’s right). Diana was promoting the auction of her old gowns and this was the perfect dress for the occasion in our opinion – youthful, fun, and fresh. And we LOVE the aquamarine cocktail ring on her finger. Wonder if that will show up on Kate’s hand eventually?
Walker said of this dress,
“I always try to give my embroidery a three-dimensional quality not only by tilting the image in perspective but also with the texture itself. Here the bugle beads and diamante are so dense that they rise from the surface of the fabric like florets made of sugar.”
This dress has stood the test of time and we’re sure will still look stunning in the decades to come. Diana commissioned this dress for an official visit to Hong Kong in November 1989. Catherine Walker wrote,
“I chose pearls because they seemed so appropriate for the Orient. Although the inspiration for the collar was Elizabethan, it led people to rename the dress “the Elvis dress”…At the time there was much speculation as to how many pearls had been hand embroidered onto the dress. We have no idea although some newspapers estimated 20,000. What is not apparent from the pictures is the weight of the dress, which was immense.”
We thought it was interesting that Kate Middleton’s mother Carole chose Catherine Walker to wear to her daughter’s wedding, and in our favourite colour for Diana no less! This is the perfect Mother of the Bride ensemble. Well done, Carole.
While we’re on the subject, the Duchess of Cambridge was seen in her first Catherine Walker ensemble on her Royal Tour of Canada. More on that in another post!