The Catsuit

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‘The Shirley Catsuit’

Thanks to Gown Guru Ian for this report, with Mikey Mike’s 1997 Althorp Park concert photos.

IAN’S DESCRIPTION

A stunning catsuit designed by Doug Darnell in 1969, consisting of natural coloured chiffon which is covered in Swarovski crystals of aquamarine and turquoise.

The catsuit originally had wonderful bell-bottom trousers, finished off around each hem in ostrich feathers, very late 1960’s!

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Dame Shirley loved this outfit and wore it on many appearances between 1970-1974, including her season at the Talk of the Town in 1970 and for several album shoots.

In 1997 for the occasion of her 60th birthday Dame Shirley decided to have Doug reinvent the catsuit to modern day fashion!

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Doug revamped it with straight trouser legs and took off the ostrich feathers. Dame Shirley wore this on her 60th Birthday TV show to sing ‘Slave to the Rhythm’ and on her 1997 open air picnic concert at Althorp House, the family seat of the Spencer family, a few months before Diana died. It’s now run by Charles Spencer, with a museum and an exhibition of Diana’s gowns. Her grave is on an island in the lake.

At a similar picnic-style concert the same year, at Castle Howard in Yorkshire, Shirley wore the ‘Pizza Gown’.

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This outfit is a testimony to DSB’s hard work at keeping a stunning figure, being able to wear an outfit at 60 and look as good (if not better) than she did when she first wore it at age 32!

We would love to hear from whoever bought this gown at Christie’s charity auction in 2003 and know what became of it.

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CHRISTIE’S DESCRIPTION

A fabulous stage ensemble by Douglas Darnell comprising: a sleeveless Catsuit of natural coloured chiffon applied with lace, lavishly embellished with Swarovski aquamarine, topaz and aurora borealis crystals, turquoise teardrop beads, imitation pearls and vari-shaped and coloured sequins, the lower legs additionally encrusted with beads and sequins in an exotic floral pattern, lined in gold silk tissue; a matching short-sleeved coat-dress, the corresponding ornate bodice attached to a full skirt of layered sparkling eau-de-nil voile piped with gold silk tissue; a voluminous turquoise stage coat, densely embroidered with translucent iridescent sequins and trimmed at the cuffs, hem and flowing train with a deep border of turquoise ostrich feathers, lined in gold silk tissue; and a corresponding pair of stiletto heeled shoes customised by Darnell, stamped on the insole Peppino Vasso Hand Made and with the retailer’s name F. Pinet

Weight of catsuit and coat-dress: approx. 3.5kg.

This catsuit was worn by Dame Shirley on many occasions throughout her career from the 1960s until recently. The legs were originally flared and the hems trimmed with turquoise ostrich feathers. These were removed by Darnell some time later and the trouser legs were straightened, the corresponding coat included in this lot was designed at the time of the trouser leg alterations.

The photograph illustrated on the frontispiece of the catalogue is taken from the inside gatefold sleeve of the 1971 album Something Else. The catsuit was also worn by Dame Shirley during the Talk Of The Town shows, April, 1970 and is featured on various album covers from the 1960s and 1970s including: Diamonds Are Forever: Pieces of Dreams; Star Des Bal Pare ’70; Love Story Por Su and The Shirley Bassey Collection. Dame Shirley also wore both the catsuit and the stage coat during her 60th Birthday Concert at Althorp Park, July, 1997.

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Dame Shirley told us that she loves this outfit.

Final Price £6,000

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Catalogue image displayed with kind permission of Christie’s Images Ltd. © 2002

Althorp Park concert photos thanks to Mikey Mike

Thanks to Bigspendah for editing the text.