Tickled pink - Cartland clothes auction sale fulfils novelist's last wish

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She vowed to live her life in it, was buried in it and now Dame Barbara Cartland's one-woman mission to convert the world to the joys of shocking pink has extended beyond the grave.

Some 39 lots from the wardrobe of the world's most prolific novelist, worth about £10,000 and including 31 of her deepest fuchsia gowns, are to go under the hammer in central London next month. The garments, with a collection of her costume jewellery, are being put up for sale at Sotheby's on the instructions of Dame Barbara's will, which stated her belief that they were "museum pieces".

Among the items on offer will be such Cartland confections as a "pink organza frou-frou baby-doll cocktail dress with mink jacket" and, as the sale catalogue puts it, a "paste festooned evening gown".

Sotheby's said that while it was not anticipating a stampede from the world's costume collectors, it expected many customers among the novelist's fans. A spokeswoman said: "It was Dame Barbara's wish that following her death, her clothes should be sold so others would have the chance to share her taste in fashion."

The normally sober auction house has dedicated 11 pages of the catalogue for its fashion sale on 18 December to the Cartland collection – each of them printed on electric pink paper.

Dame Barbara, who racked up a total of 723 romantic novels by the time of her death last year, aged 98, told friends that the inspiration for her sartorial code had come from a trip to Egypt. She wrote in 1998: "I was shown around Tutankhamun's tomb in the 1920s. I saw all this wonderful pink on the walls and the artefacts. I was so impressed that I vowed to wear it for the rest of my life."

The doyenne of the bodice-busters was a frequent customer at her favourite fashion house, Hardy Amies in Savile Row, arriving in her white Rolls-Royce with a side flash of turquoise – the only other colour she was known to tolerate. But while she may have lavished vast sums on diamante, chiffon and whale bone, none of the items in the sale has an estimate above £600. Bargain hunters could hope to pick up lot 283, a collection of costume jewellery, for £120.

The novelist, who lived in the Hertfordshire mansion once owned by Beatrix Potter, is thought to have fallen on hard times before her death.

Despite churning out her works at a rate of up to 20 a year and selling more than 600 million books in her career, her will showed the net value of her assets was nil.

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