By Karen B. Kurtz
Diana, Princess of Wales, was many things. She lent royal prestige to victims of unfashionable afflictions. She championed their causes and spoke courageously in public about her own demon, a lifelong struggle with bulimia. She was also a fashion icon whose style is still emulated by designers, celebrities, and fashionistas around the world.
Singer Rihanna, in a 2013 interview with Glamour, spoke for many when she said, “Diana killed it. Every look was right. She was gangsta with her clothes. She had these crazy hats. She got oversize jackets. I loved everything she wore!”
Many of Diana’s fashions were captured in paper doll books.
Collectors appreciate paper doll art because it “shows how Diana’s life evolved from the gauche 19-year-old, who only owned one dress, to fashion icon,” said Lorna Currie Thomopoulos of London. “Clothes are a connecting language. How you dress is part of the joy of life and boy, did Diana spread the joy!” Thomopoulos is the editor and publisher of Europe’s only paper doll magazine, The Paperdoll Circle, which celebrated a 100-issue milestone in 2016. Royalty is a regular department in every issue, an advantage for American subscribers who wish to keep up with news not otherwise easily available to them.
“Diana’s life journey was a splendid example of how even a person of privilege can overcome serious challenges,” said Jenny Taliadoros of Kingfield, Maine. Taliadoros publishes two magazines, Paper Doll Studio and Paperdoll Review. She also owns Paper Studio Press, a publishing imprint for paper doll books, and an online store.
We don’t know if Diana actually played with paper dolls growing up on the Sandringham estate, but it is fun to imagine. At that time, paper dolls subconsciously taught children about color, style, and fashion, through the drape of a costume, proper pose or posture, and the imaginative use of accessories. Reality “played out” in lesson–learning ways: how to behave, what to wear, how to act with others.
Diana’s early dressing style came from the Royal Family’s demands and popular modern British trends. She wore dresses with floral collars, pie-crust blouses, and pearls. While carrying out royal duties on behalf of the Queen, representing her at functions overseas, Diana’s outfits matched the beautiful, traditional costumes of the countries she visited. Off duty, she preferred loose jackets and jumpers.
Diana’s popularity turned her into the worldwide object of media scrutiny. She preferred blazers, off-the-shoulder dresses, two-toned themed suits, military-styled suits, and nude-colored outfits. She liked white shirts with jeans, plaid dresses, and sheath dresses. Diana’s favorite designer, Catherine Walker, created a very fluid silhouette that flattered Diana’s slender frame. It was a timeless look for Diana, a royal uniform, if you like.
Artist Tom Tierney created more than 400 paper doll books for Dover Publishing, many on the British royals. “Many paper doll artists have paid tribute to Diana,” Taliadoros said, “but Tom’s books have garnered the most notoriety. He enjoyed a long career as the foremost paper doll artist of all time, illustrating a veritable Who’s Who of royals, celebrities, and fashion icons.”
“He did Princess Diana & Prince Charles, Royal Weddings, Royal Family of Britain, and Diana Princess of Wales: The Charity Auction Dresses, and he did them very well,” Thomopoulos agreed. “However, self-published artists create wonderful work too. Ralph Hodgden, Eileen Rudisill Miller, and Sandra Vanderpool, in particular. Jenny has also added beautiful new books to the genre.
“Interestingly, British publishers are slow to take advantage,” Thomopoulos continued. “World International did four lovely Diana books in the 1980s. Courtier Fine Art covered the wedding. ASHCO produced a set with a large 15-inch Diana doll.”
“We will soon feature Queen Elizabeth II in a new book by David Wolfe,” Taliadoro said. “Diana appears with Jacqueline Kennedy in Fashion Icons, which combines David’s fashions with authoritative commentary.
“I played paper dolls with my grandmother,” Taliadoro continued. “With publishing, I still get to play paper dolls by dressing them in test cuttings to ensure a good fit and proper tab placement. I create lovely magazine layouts now, instead of spreading paper dolls all over the floor.”
Paper dolls are masters of small-spaced efficiency. Retail prices start at $5-$13 for commercially manufactured sets with large print runs. Sets from original artists have smaller runs, which evaporate quickly, and thus command higher prices.
Vintage paper dolls books run $50-$150. Antique paper dolls usually double the top vintage prices. A “holy grail” begins at three figures and climbs. Pristine, uncut sets in any category always bring top dollar. Cut sets run at least 50 percent less.
A world fascination with the British Royal Family — the United Kingdom’s premier public relations asset—bodes well for the future. Royal watchers always find collecting paper dolls an interesting and rewarding search.
For more on the British Royals and European paper dolls, contact Lorna Currie Thomopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org. To order American paper doll magazines or buy paper dolls, contact Jenny Taliadoros at www.paperdollreview.com. View more about Diana’s legacy at Kensington Palace at https://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace .