Costume thumbnail 1
Costume thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Theatre & Performance, Room 106

This object consists of 3 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.

Costume

Costume
1960s (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This three part ensemble was made for Shirley Bassey in the late 1960s by Douglas Darnell (1933-2012), a British couturier who designed and created the majority of Bassey’s stage costumes over almost 50 years. Well-respected for his expertise working with sequins, beads, and stones, Darnell’s list of other star clients included Joan Collins, Dusty Springfield, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich.

The catsuit was worn by Bassey on a number of occasions spanning the late 1960s to the 1990s, including her record-breaking run of performances at London’s ‘Talk of the Town’ nightclub in April 1970 and several album shoots in the 1970s. Famous photographs of Bassey wearing the outfit include the inside gatefold of her 1971 album Something Else; and on the cover of the James Bond theme tune 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971), Star des Bal Pare 70 (1970), 'Love Story / Por Su Amor' (1971) and The Shirley Bassey Collection (1972)

Bassey wore both the catsuit and evening coat at her 60th birthday concert in Althorp Park, July 1997. To modernise the catsuit for this event, the legs, which were originally flared with feather-trimmed hems, were straightened by Darnell and the feather detailing was also removed.

The ensemble epitomises Bassey’s glamourous ‘diva’ style, and the regularity with which she wore it indicates it was a favourite outfit.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Dress
  • Catsuit
  • Coat
Materials and Techniques
Silk, glass bead, sequins, plastic, ostrich feathers and metal. Applied and handsewn decoration.
Brief Description
Three-part costume, consisting of an overdress, catsuit and evening coat, worn by Dame Shirley Bassey and designed by Douglas Darnell, late 1960s.
Physical Description
S.199:1:2018 (overdress)



Short sleeved dress with full long voile skirt (which opens at the front). The bodice is elaborately decorated at the front and rear, with three dimensional cream flowers, interspersed with imitation pearls, turquoise droplets, gold metal leaves and small gold glass beads.



It is formed from a lightweight pale brown fabric, covered with a matching net and lined with gold lame. The bodice has a long round neckline and short, close fitting sleeves. It fastens at the centre back with a metal zip some 38cms in length. The sleeve cuffs are plain, but the scalloped hem of the waist has been edged with gold braid piping.



The skirt is extremely full and flares out towards the hem in a wide circle. It is formed from layered panels of eau de nil voile, with the scalloped hem of each layer being edged with gold braid.



S.199:2-2018 (catsuit)



Sleeveless catsuit with a close-fitting bodice and a wide round neckline at the front. The catsuit is backless and extends into long flared trousers, which end in a scalloped hem. It fastens at the centre back with the vertical zip (some 18cms in length) and a metal hook and eye (at the waistline).



The catsuit has a brown silk chiffon[?] ground which has been faced with panels of gold lamé. The upper section of the bodice interior is also faced with brown net and incorporates a white, strapless bra.



Panels of net have also been added to the ground fabric and provide a foundation for the lavish decoration that has been applied across the surface of the catsuit, with a particular focus on the neckline and trouser hem. The decorative details are clustered together in lines and small motifs and they incorporate: turquoise droplets; gold metal leaves; gold glass beads; imitation pearls; sequins and three-dimensional shells and petals.



S.199:3-2018 (coat)



Floor length coat in pale aqua silk chiffon[?], with a gold lamé lining. The coat has a wide, round neckline and elbow length sleeves. It extends into a slight train at the rear. The sleeve cuffs (which are formed from ostrich feathers) are wide and full.



The surface of the coat is covered with translucent sequins which have been positioned in groups of four and run in angled lines across the ground fabric.



The cuffs, centre front, collar and hem of the coat are trimmed with ostrich feathers, which have been dyed pale blue to match the ground fabric of the coat.

Dimensions
  • Part 1, dress, shoulder line to hem length: 169cm (approximate)
  • Part 1, dress, centre back neck to waist. length: 38cm (approximate)
  • Part 1, dress, top of skirt waist to hem length: 185cm (approximate)
  • Part 1, dress, centre front bodice to front waist length: 30cm (approximate)
  • Part 1, dress, rear waist. width: 36cm (approximate)
  • Part 1, dress, across front shoulders width: 41cm (approximate)
  • Part 1, dress, hanging. weight: 1.9kg (approximate)
  • Part 2, catsuit, shoulder line to hem length: 150cm (approximate)
  • Part 2, catsuit, inner leg length: 78cm (approximate)
  • Part 2, catsuit, across front bust width: 35cm (approximate)
  • Part 2, catsuit, across front waist width: 27cm (approximate)
  • Part 2, catsuit, across front hips width: 30cm (approximate)
  • Part 2, catsuit, as hung. weight: 1.7kg (approximate)
  • Part 3, coat, centre back neck to base of rear hem, maximum, not including feathers length: 184cm (approximate)
  • Part 3, coat, centre back neck to base of front hem, maximum, not including feathers length: 124cm (approximate)
  • Part 3, coat, across front shoulders. width: 47cm (approximate)
  • Weight: 2.9kg (approximate) (Note: Weight of costume as packed in box.)
Object history
The catsuit was worn by Bassey on a number of occasions spanning the late 1960s to the 1990s, including her record-breaking run of performances at London’s ‘Talk of the Town’ nightclub in April 1970 and several album shoots in the 1970s.



Bassey wore both the catsuit and evening coat at her 60th birthday concert in Althorp Park, July 1997. To modernise the catsuit for this event, the legs, which were originally flared with feather-trimmed hems, were straightened by Darnell and the feather detailing was also removed.

Summary
This three part ensemble was made for Shirley Bassey in the late 1960s by Douglas Darnell (1933-2012), a British couturier who designed and created the majority of Bassey’s stage costumes over almost 50 years. Well-respected for his expertise working with sequins, beads, and stones, Darnell’s list of other star clients included Joan Collins, Dusty Springfield, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Marlene Dietrich.



The catsuit was worn by Bassey on a number of occasions spanning the late 1960s to the 1990s, including her record-breaking run of performances at London’s ‘Talk of the Town’ nightclub in April 1970 and several album shoots in the 1970s. Famous photographs of Bassey wearing the outfit include the inside gatefold of her 1971 album Something Else; and on the cover of the James Bond theme tune 'Diamonds Are Forever' (1971), Star des Bal Pare 70 (1970), 'Love Story / Por Su Amor' (1971) and The Shirley Bassey Collection (1972)



Bassey wore both the catsuit and evening coat at her 60th birthday concert in Althorp Park, July 1997. To modernise the catsuit for this event, the legs, which were originally flared with feather-trimmed hems, were straightened by Darnell and the feather detailing was also removed.



The ensemble epitomises Bassey’s glamourous ‘diva’ style, and the regularity with which she wore it indicates it was a favourite outfit.

Collection
Accession Number
S.199:1 to 3-2018

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record createdJune 15, 2018
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