Detail of evening dress by Balmain

Detail of evening dress by Balmain

Detail of bodice of evening dress
Pierre Balmain (1914-1982)
Paris, France
Made for Spring/Summer 1957
Printed silk, pleated and boned with appliqué decoration
Museum no. T.50-1974
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Lady Gladwyn was the wife of the British Ambassador to Parisfrom 1954 to 1960. She hosted the state visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in April 1957, and invited her great friend Lady Diana Cooper to attend the dinner held at the British Embassy on Tuesday 9 April. This dress was worn by Lady Diana, the wife of the former British ambassador in Paris. Lady Diana was a leading socialite of the time and a great friend of the society photographer, Cecil Beaton, who described her as a ‘tour de force of aristocratic beauty’. He persuaded her to donate the dress to the V&A. Beaton collected several of the dresses worn during this particular state visit to donate to the V&A. These included the Queen's embroidered ivory gown by Norman Hartnell, Lady Gladwyn's lilac lace gown by Jacques Fath and Baroness Alain de Rothschild's spotted tulle gown by Christian Dior.

Lady Gladwyn wrote in her diary: ‘The supper was, I think, just right for the occasion: cold salmon, chaudfroid of chicken, a salad, oranges and lemons filled with sorbet, and a wonderful Bollinger ... The difficulty was to get rid of all the guests. They lingered on, and at half past one in the morning Cecil Beaton was still sketching Diana Cooper in the Ionian Room’.