I started to write this post twice and discarded the first sentence twice. It all sounds so unlikely and Dickensian. Bruce Oldfield was born out of wedlock to an Irish mother and Jamaican father, both of whom it is said he rarely ever saw. He was placed in foster care, lived in various homes until, as a teenager, he became too much for his latest foster mother to handle. He was then taken in by Barnardo’s, the UK’s largest children’s charity. This organization would eventually give him a £500 loan to start his business.
Through the tumult of his youth, his skills as a designer were honed. One of his foster mothers was a talented seamstress, and Bruce developed an interest in design from his time with her. His talent got him a place at the St. Martin’s School of Art, in London, where he graduated in 1973. His people skills also came out of his learn-as-you-go youth. He had, and has, a knack for befriending the rich and famous, through charm, tact and utter discretion.
He established his first design house in 1975, and he has dressed many celebrities, as well as Princess Diana, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Countess of Wessex, and Queens Rania and Noor. His design philosophy is big, but simple: Make a woman look as good as possible, and grab some attention while you’re at it. Maybe a lot of attention.
Duchess of Cornwall
Oldfield has designed some of the Duchess’ most interesting evening wear and best of her daywear. His evening gowns always have that “extra”, such as the shawl collar on the sparkling blue gown she wore for Charles’ 70th birthday and the suit sport interesting details.
This gown was worn twice, at the aforementioned 70th birthday celebrations and at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019 (shown below).
The white gown worn for the 2019 U.S. state visit sports a deep cummerbund bodice detail, for showing off one’s stars.
This lacey number was worn for the British Asian Trust gala, in 2016.
The suits and jackets designed by Oldfield for Camilla sport details to add interest to a standard silhouette, like the white embellishments on the mint jacket.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
The Countess of Wessex turned to Oldfield for one of the highest profile events she was to attend, the wedding of Prince William and Kate MIddleton. The fabulous suit, designed for the ceremony, includes some eye-catching detailing. It’s a stellar success, in my opinion. The gown for the gala the evening before also includes some unusual details, the success of which I’ll leave up to you.
Diana, Princess of Wales
Oldfield is on record as describing Diana as a “perfect client” who “had to be dressed as if going to a wedding every day.” Their relationship lasted ten years, and we know Diana had a special place in her heart for her designers, particularly one who fit her aesthetic so well.
We *did* mention Oldfield was known for attention-grabbing, right? Bear in mind this gown was worn in the eighties and was designed for the world’s most famous glamazon. Grabs attention from the front, but you need to click through the slideshow to see the back for the full effect.
To much despair among the glittering crowd (or what’s left of it), Oldfield recently closed his central London shop. He promises that it’s just the end of a phase, not an entire era. Spam your favorite Oldfield in the comments.