Confession: I was going to skip Edelstein entirely. I did a quick Google search, fell into a rabbit hole, and realized that many of Diana’s distinctive looks were designed by him. To miss them was to miss an entire aspect of her sartorial career. Since we have already reviewed Diana’s fairy princess period, let’s move on to something more streamlined.
During his design prime, Edelstein was known as a corturier who simply made women look good. The fashion editor at Tatler described Victor as ‘the best of the British stable of couturiers at that time, a true talent’.
Like Belinda Bellville, Victor Edelstein’s design career was influenced by the family business. His father, who emigrated from Russia, manfactured ready-to-wear suits and coats. Victor worked for Biba, Salvador and Dior, and recounted he was ‘sacked from every job’, for being dreamy and restless, although Biba was his favorite. He attempted a ready-to-wear business, but found he couldn’t sell enough high priced merchandise to make a profit. He did not achieve success until he branched into couture design in the early eighties.
The Princess was referred to Edelstein by Anna Harvey at Vogue. Diana was in her first pregnancy, and her office sent over measurements that, according to Edelstein, were “elephantine”. Having seen photos of her, Edelstein knew they simply could not be correct, but he ran up a pink organza dress regardless. Although the dress was, indeed, far too large, Diana remained intrigued and after William’s birth they met in person.
Interestingly, the best of the Edelstein/Diana collaborations were the pieces she chose from his collections, which often required only small tweaks. Diana would sit in on the dress rehearsals for his couture shows at the Hyde Park Hotel, make her choices, and Edelstein would then come to Kensington Palace for her fittings.
Some of Edelstein’s most recognizable designs were for Australian tours. Below is a deep pink gown worn to a banquet in Australia in 1983.
Diana purchased some bespoke Edelstein evening wear as well, including the brocade gown worn to the Elysee Palace, Paris, for President Mitterrand’s banquet, and the famous “le smoking” sleeveless velvet gown.
The most famous dress, of course, was the dress worn to the White House for the dance with John Travolta. According to Edelstein, Diana insisted Charles must see her in it, and dragged her husband, “covered in medals and obviously on his way somewhere”, into the fitting. Charles was duly admiring, as was the rest of the world. It became an iconic look for an era.
As life became more relaxed and less dressy in the nineties, Edelstein decided there was no real market for his expensive couture clothes. He closed his shop and embarked on a career as a painter. He has been very successful at it, and lives mostly in Spain with his wife, also a artist. He is shown below with some of his art.
Diana stepped out of what she called her “fairy princess” years into an altogether more dramatic period, and one in which she honed her famous working princess wardrobe. Stay tuned for the Catherine Walker decade.