IT WAS the fashion show of the year when Christian Dior agreed to bring his latest creations to Oxfordshire.

The famous French designer was persuaded by the Duchess of Marlborough to stage the show at Blenheim Palace in 1954 in aid of the British Red Cross Society.

Oxford Mail:

These Red Cross nurses do not seem impressed as the models parade

More than 2,000 people packed nine state rooms to see his new £50,000 winter collection in the presence of Princess Margaret.

It was estimated that at the end of the two-hour show, each model had walked three miles through the palace corridors and rooms.

But there was a bonus for the Red Cross – it benefited to the tune of £8,000 (about £190,000 in today’s money).

Memory Lane this week

It was also a good night for one lucky punter, Mr Watson, of Haslemere, Surrey, who won a £150 Dior dress for the price of a £1 ticket.

His number – 754 – was the first to be drawn out of the hat by the princess.

The Oxford Mail reported: “The woman to whom Mr Watson makes this handsome present will be able to go along to the Dior salon in London and have a made-to-measure dress, suit or evening gown created for her.”

The Blenheim show had created great excitement not only in Oxfordshire, but in many parts of the country.

With rationing over and the war becoming a distant memory, women were keen to look for something new to wear.

The Dior parade offered the chance to see the new H-line frocks, which had nipped-in waists, flattened chests, emphasis on the hips and usually full skirts.

The princess, wearing a V-necked black velvet dress with a mink shoulder wrap and a black hat trimmed with white fur, watched the show from a crimson-brocade armchair in the flower-decked Long Library with the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and other guests.

The Mail reported: “The princess looked at the clothes with a critical eye and made notes in her specially-bound souvenir programme, at the same time smoking through a long gold holder.

Oxford Mail:

A model displays one of the Christian Dior latest designs at the fashion show at Blenheim attended by Princess Margaret

“During the parade, Dior remained backstage.

“Perhaps he was uncertain of the impression his famous H-line collection, shown for the first time, would make.

“But he needn’t have worried.

“Although at first his concave mannequins in long, narrow riding-habit jackets and flared skirts were received in pin-drop silence, the audience began to clap as soon as they had got their eye in.”

The dresses had been brought across the Channel in black tin boxes aboard a large red van, with two men, one “wearing a bowler hat and clutching an umbrella”, in the back providing security.

Once the collection arrived at Blenheim, it was guarded by police overnight.

Earlier, the princess had arrived in Oxford by train and a large crowd was waiting outside the station to greet her.

The Duke of Marlborough was also there to meet her.

She was then driven to the palace where she was presented with a bouquet by Red Cross cadet Anne Hollis and inspected a guard of honour by Red Cross members.

Later, the princess and duke and duchess were made honorary life members of the Red Cross to thank them for their support.

The only sour note on a glittering occasion was struck by the publicity conscious M Dior, who apparently complained that no members of the French press had been invited to the show.