She may never have been Queen of the Belgians, but she was the Queen of Fashion. Here is a press release dating from Sotheby's 2003 auction of Lilian's magnificent wardrobe and jewelry collection. To quote:
The collection, which was maintained to perfection and stored in more than 20 wardrobes, features exquisite items capturing the distinctive styles of the early 50s, groovy 60s and classic 70s. With more than 200 pairs of shoes, 100 hats, 400 pairs of gloves, riding habits and boots in every colour and fabric, handbags by Hermès, pairs of silk stockings in original wrappers and delicate handkerchiefs, no detail was considered too small.
Kerry Taylor, specialist in charge of the sale, said: "Princess Lilian had close relationships with all of her couturiers and their vendeuses, and was one of Dior's first clients. This combination resulted in a splendid wardrobe and I doubt I will ever see another collection which is so diverse, stylish and in pristine condition. The quality of the gowns is astonishing and reflects an age of elegance when a woman's primary interest was to look good and go shopping. As Consort to King Leopold III of Belgium, it was important that she dressed to befit her status and wore lavish gowns for official occasions. Once worn, these gowns were set aside and carefully maintained by her maid, Madame Jeanine.
"Although the collection includes dozens of museum-quality pieces such as an Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior silver satin gown dating from 1958 (est: L5,000-6,000), there are many affordable and understated clothes by Givenchy and Balenciaga with estimates starting at just L200. An example of a very wearable ensemble is a delightful lemon wool suit by Chanel, with ikat silk contrasts, dating from the late 1950's (est: L600-800)."Lilian's children were introduced to the world of haute couture at an early age:
Princess Marie-Esmeralda said: "I have wonderful memories of visiting Paris several times a year with my mother. We would leave Brussels in the car and my mother would spend the morning at Christian Dior at the Avenue de Montaigne. This was the beginning of the 60's and I was six or seven years old, it was a magical environment for a young girl. I clearly remember my amazement as the Dior staff attended her, their arms heavy with precious embroidered cloths. After trying the clothes on, we would lunch together at Plazza. Amusingly, the same ritual would happen at Chanel, Givenchy and Balenciaga."
Princess Lilian's collection of jewels provided the perfect accompaniment to her stunning evening wear and some 60 lots will be offered in Sotheby's sale. Highlights include a gold and enamel bracelet by Schlumberger, in its original box, estimated at L6,000-12,000; a gold chain, also in its original box, by Cartier, (est. L2,500-3,500) and a pair of gold and diamond earclips, by Cartier, which is estimated at L2,000-3,000.Lilian was clearly a woman who loved grandeur!