Three evening dresses

Three evening dresses

The photographer Cecil Beaton collected several of the dresses worn during this state visit to donate to the V&A including these three:

(Left): Evening dress ‘La Ligne Libre’ from Belgique worn by Baroness Alain de Rothschild
Christian Dior (1905-57)
Paris, France
Made for Spring/Summer 1957
White spotted tulle made by Dognin and ribbon by Guillemin
Museum no. T.121-1974
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Given by Baroness Alain de Rothschild

(Centre): Evening dress worn by Lady Diana Cooper, wife of Duff Cooper, the British ambassador to France (1944-48)
Pierre Balmain (1914-82)
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
Given by Lady Diana Cooper

Lady Diana was a leading socialite of the time and a great friend of Cecil Beaton, who described her as a ‘tour de force of aristocratic beauty’. He persuaded her to donate this dress to the V&A.

(Right): Evening dress worn by Lady Gladwyn, wife of Jebb Gladwyn, British ambassador to Paris (1954-60)
Designed by Jacques Fath (1912-1954)
Paris, France
1957
Lace dress, silk petticoat and velvet sash
Museum no. T.173-1974
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Given by Lady Gladwyn

Jacques Fath opened his Parisian couture house in 1937. He quickly became known both for his softly sculpted garments and a talent for self promotion. This dress is likely to have been designed by Fath’s wife and muse, Geneviève, who upon Fath’s death in 1954, oversaw the house until it closed in 1957.

On the occasion of the state visit of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip to Paris in April 1957, many grand events were held such as dinners at the Louvre, Versailles and the Elysée Palace together with visits to the opera and the races. It was the highlight of the year's social calendar and couturiers were inundated with requests for evening gowns and gala dresses from society ladies. Lady Gladwyn, the wife of the British Ambassador, commented in her diaries that even the Queen’s dresses did not compare to the French clothes for grandeur.