The see-through gown




Thanks to Ian, our Gowns Guru, for this WOW! frock

( Christie’s Lot 44, LP cover ‘Shirley Stops The Shows’)

This gown was designed by Doug Darnell in 1963 for Dame Shirley’s season that year at the Pigalle nightclub in London.


This was DSB’s first see through gown and caused quite a revelation when it was first worn!

When Dame Shirley was photographed with the light behind her the dress became transparent!

I am sure all male members of the audience were quite appreciative of this as Dame Shirley has a stunning figure, just right for this gown!


It was worn many times in the late sixties. The gown was redesigned by Douglas for the occasion of Dame Shirley’s 60th birthday show on ITV television. It became a strapless gown with a slit skirt and a turquoise net overskirt, was also added.

This is a testament to DSB’s hard work over 40 years of maintaining her figure. To be able to wear the gown at 60 that she first wore at 26!


Here are the notes reproduced from Christie’s 2003 Charity Auction catalogue:

A striking stage ensemble comprising: a gown by Douglas Darnell, the white lace ground embroidered overall with clusters of Swarovski aurora borealis loch rosen crystals, translucent sequins, turquoise beads and drops, the tulip skirt slit diagonally to the hip, the scalloped edges of the slit and hem additionally decorated with a wave design of graduated gold pearl beads, gold pearl oats and Swarovski margarites; with a matching voluminous sleeveless coat of white sparkling voile edged with silver beads, fastening at the shoulder with an elaborate clasp of stylised flowerheads of turquoise drops and sequins; and a corresponding multi-layered skirt of turquoise net slit diagonally to the hip, worn over the gown.


Weight of gown: approx. 2.5kg.


The photograph illustrated shows Dame Shirley wearing this gown with the turquoise net overskirt during a performance at her 60th Birthday Concert, 1996, hence Darnell’s nickname for it ‘The Birthday Dress’, and which he told us is also one of his favourite creations.

The LP cover illustrated Shirley Stops The Shows, Columbia, 1965, shows Dame Shirley wearing this dress in its first incarnation as a ‘see-through gown’.



Dame Shirley recalls that this gown was the first she had which was almost completely see-through:

DSB: This is the first see-through gown I had

DD: It isn’t see-through anymore

CW:…Where did the inspiration for this come from?

DSB:…It was my first husband Kenneth Hume’s idea to have a see- through gown, and I said “No, my God” and he said “Yes, Talk of the Town’s your first night”… and he spoke with Doug and between them they came up with this..

DD: It was lace…white lace

DSB: Just lace

DD: Unbelievable

DSB: My husband had a light [put on] behind me …which I didn’t know …and when the light came on I heard the audience go….Huuuuuuuuh ..[intake of breath]…and I go [to myself]…what…what happened? Did I come out of my dress or something…

CW: Has that ever happened?

DSB: That has happened [giggles]


Final Price