Princess Diana's dresser Dame Zandra Rhodes, 80, discusses work

Princess Diana’s dresser Dame Zandra Rhodes, 80, recalls ‘very, very shy’ royal worried about outfits ‘falling open’ and being photographed at the ‘wrong angle’

  • Dame Zandra Rhodes, 80, from Kent, has called Princess Diana ‘very, very shy’ 
  • Recalled royal ‘needing to know’ a dress ‘wouldn’t fall open and show her legs’  
  • Meanwhile the fashion designer also discussed her lockdown cancer diagnosis  
  • Was doing a yoga session with a friend when she felt tumour in her stomach 
  • Said: ‘When I was diagnosed, it didn’t upset me, it made me pull my life together’ 

Princess Diana’s dresser Dame Zandra Rhodes has recalled the royal worried about her outfits ‘falling open’ and being photographed at the ‘wrong angle.’ 

The fashion designer, 80, from Kent, who is famous for her shock of pink hair,  dressed Princess Diana as well as a host of stars from Shirley Bassey to Nicole Richie.   

Speaking to The Observer, Dame Zandra said ‘very, very shy’ Princess Diana was a dream to work with.

She offered a glimpse into the pressure the princess found herself under, recalling: ”I made her white wrap dress, and she said she needed to know that it wouldn’t fall open and show her legs if she got out of a car, “Because, you can be sure that when I get out of that car, there’ll be people waiting at just the wrong angle to get me.”‘  

The 80-year-old also said she has ambitions to work with the Duchess of Cambridge, 38. 

Princess Diana’s dresser Dame Zandra Rhodes, 80, from Kent, has said being diagnosed with cancer during lockdown made her ‘pull her life together’

Since opening her first shop in London in 1967 Zandra has become renowned for her imaginative use of colour and vivid prints. 

During the interview, the designer said her lockdown cancer diagnosis had led her to ‘pull her life together.’

The designer said she immediately wanted to ‘get my will in order with a power of attorney that included a do-not-resuscitate order.’  

She revealed she was ‘lying on a lilac mat’ in her penthouse when she realised her ‘stomach felt full’ despite not having eaten a meal.  

 Meanwhile the 80-year-old said Princess Diana had been ‘very, very shy’ and called her a dream to work with (chatting at an event in 1997) 

Princess Diana often wore different pieces by the 80-year-old designer (pictured, in a white wrap dress attending a charity gala in 1987) 

Doctors later diagnosed the ‘fullness’ as a tumour in the bile duct with treatment involving weeks of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, which is she still on. 

She said the diagnosis had prompted her to get her affairs in order, including recording everything she has ever made in a sketchbook she dubbed ‘the bible.’

What is bile duct cancer? 

Bile duct cancer, also called cholangiocarcinoma, is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the bile ducts.

The bile ducts are small tubes that connect different organs. They are part of the digestive system.

How serious bile duct cancer is depends on where it is in the bile ducts, how big it is, if it has spread and your general health.

Bile duct cancer may not have any symptoms, or they can be hard to spot.

Symptoms of bile duct cancer can include:

  • your skin or the whites of your eyes turn yellow (jaundice), you may also have itchy skin, darker pee and paler poo than usual
  • loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
  • feeling generally unwell
  • feeling tired or having no energy
  • a high temperature, or you feel hot or shivery


The 80-year-old has also cataloged 15,000 of her pieces in 100 silver chests, waiting to be distributed to museums around the world, or sold off to raise money for her foundation, which she set up last year to secure her legacy. 

Dame Zandra previously revealed she never goes out out without a full face of make-up – and even keeps on when she goes to bed at night.

She told Susannah Constantine in an episode of My Wardrobe Malfunction: ‘I never ever go out without make-up. I sleep with my make up on, I wash it in the morning, and then I make myself up again in the morning.’

Speaking about her current look, she added: ‘At the moment, I just have demure brown eyebrows,’ while lifting up her fringe. 

‘I don’t have eyebrows because in the 1960s I plucked them all out.

‘I first of all had little glitter dots, then when it was punk I had long and short eyebrows. I’ve done lines all round my eyes, eyelashes.

‘It’s been a bit too long like this but I have to think it out or wait until I do another wonderful picture with someone and then I’ll rework it.’

With salons shut across the UK, Zandra has also been maintaining her bright pink hair herself while on lockdown.

She said: ‘I dye it myself. It’s bleached and then I dye it myself and, when it looks like I’ve got too much grey, I touch it up, because I haven’t got a hairdresser to do that bit.

‘She would have a heart attack because it really does need a neat trim. She has a heart attack when she sees how I’ve trimmed my fringe.

‘I have a stash of Pinkissimo dye and I think I use cyclamen and Pinkissimo mixed together.

‘I sleep in a very ugly plastic hat and pull it off in the morning. If the grey shows, I dab it on and hope it looks all right.’ 

The designer is famous for dressing Princess Diana and a host of stars from Shirley Bassey to Nicole Richie (pictured, with the Queen in 1998) 

The designer’s partner US film producer Salah Hassanein (pictured together in 2013) died aged 98 in 2019 

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