A throwback to happier times

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A RECENT collection by designer Albert Andrada, famous for his pageant evening gowns, highlights the life led by one of Britain’s most memorable figures: HRH The Princess Margaret.

If her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) wouldn’t have created a Princess Margaret, she would have had to be written into life. She serves as a perfect character to represent the dilemmas of the world’s class system after the World Wars.

Born with wealth, position, beauty, sharp wit, and raw, unfocused intelligence, The Princess Margaret missed everything by a heartbeat. An accident of birth made her older sister Elizabeth, the Queen, a living representation of all that was sacred about Britain. Her status as a younger sister gave her privilege without power and a duty to merely to look good. In the 1950s, she risked to lose everything because of another heartbeat; her love for her parents’ former staff member, Group Capt. Peter Townsend. Denying her the one thing that she ever truly asked for drove her to the arms of a man too much like her on the outside, but differing fundamentally with at the core: her husband, society photographer, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, later the Earl of Snowdon after his marriage. Finally, her frustration with her lot in life — there’s her love life, but then there’s her creeping sense that the world no longer needed a caged bird like her — drove her to party to a grave that still didn’t come early enough: by the time she died in 2002 after a series of strokes, she could hardly walk, and sadly, wasn’t even pretty anymore.

In her heyday however, Princess Margaret served as a symbol of an exuberant new world just waiting to emerge from the rubble of the Second World War. She wore Dior when the rest of her relatives wore tweeds. Princess Margaret is making headlines again, more than a decade after her death, thanks to Netflix series The Crown, where Vanessa Kirby shows the turmoil hidden by her glamorous facade. The show’s costumes, of course, heighten the effect.

Mr. Andrada’s gowns were shown late in January in a fashion show in Sofitel, as part of the hotel’s promotion Le Grand Royal Brunch, with other dates slated on April 29, July 29, and Oct. 28, featuring sumptuous brunch-themed dishes and wine and champagne.

As for Mr. Andrada’s gowns, a collection of 14 pieces, they take much inspiration from the costumes from The Crown, which in turn took inspiration from the outfits worn by the princess in real life. Glamorous shift dresses in heavy fabric with asymmetrical hemlines transports one to the 1950s, while a slinky strapless number with a raised pattern channeled the nightclubs Princess Margaret frequented.

Finally, ball gowns in white and sweet pastels might take a wearer to the fairy-tale existence that Margaret lived in during happier times. — Joseph L. Garcia