The release of the film”Diana” last week, has certainly caused some controversy. Is there really any chance anyone will ever know the whole story of the Princess of Wales’s private life in the lead up to her sudden and horrific death? Not only does this film highlight the intrigue of the princess’s private life but it also reminds us of the legacy of her public persona as a 20th century style and beauty icon. And so, back in the spotlight is the man behind Diana’s renowned wardrobe…the great frock designer, Jacques Azagury, creator of 18 of Diana’s iconic dresses.
When asked whether he would be willing to recreate 8 dresses for Naomi Watts to don for the film, he hesitated. Unsure about “dragging up that period again”, he met Watts and realised the movie was a serious movie (“not a tacky one”!), and jumped on board, relishing the opportunity to use his experience and impeccable “prêt à couture” design skills to help us relive some of those iconic fashion moments.
Azagury apparently loved working with Watts. He says “At first I thought it was going to be a bit of a challenge because of the different proportions of Naomi and Diana. Diana was 5ft 10 without shoes on, so by the time she put shoes on she was 6ft 1. Naomi on the other hand is shorter, a six/eight…she was lovely to work with.”
Azagury’s dresses featured in the film include the low cut, sky blue beaded georgette dress in which Diana made her last public appearance – to see Swan lake in 1997; and a long black beaded dress, Azagury’s personal favourite, which he made for Diana’s birthday 2 months before she died.
Although Azagury’s styling for Diana was the “highlight” of his career, he’s still very much in demand, dressing Helen Mirren, Elizabeth McGovern, Helen McCrory and Sheridan Smith. Will his Princess-Styling extend to the Duchess of Cambridge? “Not yet” he claims. “She’s been very sensible, very clever at dumbing down the whole thing after the Diana episode. She’s being conservative, very pretty Princess Kate. She always looks great.”
Azagury’s approach to the glamorous evening wear he creates is “never fussy, fabulous fabrics, great cut and always concentrating on the female body.” In the Evening Standard recently Azagury notes that “the female form has evolved a lot in recent years. Women are getting bigger all over but you can really see it in the waist: they’re much squarer now. Even the dummies have upsized. If you measure a size 10 dummy now to a size 10 dummy 8 years ago, it’s gone up maybe one and a half inches on the waist.
So, are we seeing the uprising of the “Kiwi” (FrockChick’s term for the Rectangular body shape) and the demise of the perceived ideal feminine form: the “Butternut Squash”(Hourglass)?! “Yes”, continues Azagury. “Would I say it was less feminine? Hmmm. I’d say it was more of an athletic shape”. Will this be reflected in the clothes that Azagury and others design? Let’s hope so….for the sake of clothes that actually fit and aren’t made for unrealistic models! Azagury also strongly believes that many women have “body dysmorphia” and although recently this has meant women seeing themselves as bigger than they really are, he surprisingly claims that the dysmorphia of today, is women seeing themselves as smaller than they are! He claims that regularly the women he assists are claiming they are a much smaller size than the clothes that actually fit them. “There’s something very weird happening with the whole size issue…clothing companies are sizing down larger clothes in a big marketing thing to make people feel thinner”. (For a fascinating history of clothes sizing in the US, click here).
I personally can’t wait to see the film, “Diana” – hopefully with my great friend Ali, a devotee of Diana’s 90’s style. Azagury has made me think again about what our culture perceives as style and ideal body shapes. We are all individuals, let’s not be governed by any stereotypes of the past or the present…but enjoy the body shapes we’ve been given and the skill of those who make clothes that flatter and fit us!