The Pigalle gown

Today the re post of an old blog from Peggy about the Pigalle Gown. This week I got a message from Dian asking me if I know anybody who bought one of the gowns and is willing to sell it.


From Ian, our resident Gowns Guru.

The Black Column Pigalle Gown


( Christie’s sale Lot 1, Shirley Live at the Pigalle 1965 LP cover)

Another gown designed by Doug Darnell.

This stunner was designed in 1960, it started life as a straight column dress at the Pigalle club in 1960. THE look of that year for gowns!

The first alteration to this dress occurred in 1965, an ostrich hem was added to it for Shirley’s performance at the Royal Command Performance, the gown was also worn in this form for Dame Shirley’s season that year at the Pigalle club ( see picture on album sleeve).


The last alteration to the gown was in 1973, it was given a side slit and an ostrich feather trim up the slit ( see Christie’s brochure page 23) DSB wore it at the Chile song festival, that year.

This sexy look to the gown was also given a run on the 1988 UK tour. I think the gown looked great in all it’s three forms. Just goes to show,even a millionairess had her old favourites which she always loved to wear!


J-F in Christie’s showroom

Our dear friend Jean-Francois purchased this gown for £6,400. It has been professionally restored and delicately cleaned. It now is the centrepiece of his beautiful apartment lobby. It fits a friend perfectly and she occasionally wears it. She looks incredibly good! So this gown is in good hands, and even makes appearances!



A glistening stage gown by Douglas Darnell, the black silk faille ground densely embroidered overall with vertical rows of black bugle beads, the skirt slit to the hip at one side, the flowing train and slit trimmed with deep layers of black ostrich feathers, lined in gold silk tissue

Weight: approx. 3.5kg

This gown has been adapted by Darnell since he first made it in 1960 from the original form of a simple column gown to which he added the ostrich feather to the hem, and later the side slit with further ostrich trim.

The photograph illustrated on the front cover of this catalogue shows Dame Shirley wearing this gown on stage at the Royal Command Performance, London Palladium, November, 1965. Other photographs show her wearing this gown previously during performances at the Pigalle Club, London, September, 1960. Subsequently it has been worn at various venues including the Royal Albert Hall in 1973, and during her Spring Tour, 1988. It also features on various 1960s album covers including: The Best of Bassey; Shirley Bassey As Long As He Needs Me; and Shirley Bassey Live At The Pigalle.

Dame Shirley recalls wearing this gown on stage at a key moment in Chile at a music festival (Vina del Mar 1989). She told us:
“I wore this in Chile at a two day song festival. The first day they put me on at 2 o’clock in the morning. Those kids [in the audience] had been going since 7pm and were ready to rock. Then this woman comes on and starts singing ‘Goldfinger’…they weren’t interested at that hour. By the time I came to do my third song…it was in Spanish…because I could hear them wasn’t boo boo [she laughs] but the Spanish equivalent …I forgot my words and I was saying mumbo jumbo words…I was distracted and my showbusiness voice in my head was saying “Get off before you get lynched” I came off and I cried…there was no consoling me and everyone thought “Oh tomorrow’s off” …But before I went to bed I said “Now this is how it goes. You want me to sing tomorrow. I want to go on first and I only want to sing three songs…this is how it’s going to be”. And I chose this dress…and they put me on first and I marched on …and they saw this leg .. [in defiant voice] and I did ‘Goldfinger’, I did the Spanish Song then I ended up with ‘This Is My Life’…there was huge applause…also because of what had happened the night before. The audience were cheering …the audience awarded the gong…I won…I would have got two if they’d put me on first the night before [laughs]. I would have been the only singer ever to have got two…so that’s the significance of this gown…”