Dress Down Sunday: An English Affair by Richard Davenport-Hines

published 2013


Sabrina’s agent, Joe Matthews, was profiled in the Spectator of 1957 as representative of a new generation of self-made men. A cockney with a sharp weather-beaten face… he operated as Sabrina’s Svengali, managing her celebrity appearances and publicising her charms. Among his stunts, Matthews insured Sabrina’s breasts for £100,000: she was promised compensation of £2,500 for every inch her bust measurement shrank below 40 inches. Another device to curry publicity was to spend £2700 buying a yellow and white Chevrolet for Sabrina, together with the registration number S41 (her bust measurement). Matthews drummed-up press interest in her romance with an American film-star, Steve Cochran: speculation about whether she would meet him on arrival at Heathrow airport relegated mine disasters from front pages. Dancing with Cochran at the Pigalle restaurant in 1957 she let her shoulder strap slip, and paparazzi snapped her in an expression of rapture.

observations: Not sure about the shoulder strap – she is wearing strapless dresses in most of the pictures with Steve Cochran. Strangely, she has featured on the blog before, again in a strapless dress – this picture came from a rather unlikely early entry:

Sabrina’s story is background – the book is a look at the Profumo Affair, a major scandal in the UK of the early 1960s, and is subtitled ‘Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo.’ Davenport-Hines looks at the world and politics in a long first section, with chapters on good-time girls, landlords, hacks and spies – as well as politicians – before describing what then happened in some detail. It’s an unusual and fascinating way of writing about the events.

Sabrina’s story really defies comment. It is hard to know what her thoughts might have been, then or now. There are still plenty of women around doing similar jobs, but it’s hard to imagine, for example, Katie Price/Jordan being manipulated by any male ‘manager’.

The top two pictures come from this extraordinary Sabrina site, where you can find out everything you might ever want to know about her.

The third photo comes from the New South Wales State Library.


  1. That first picture is ridiculous! No wonder she attracted attention...

    As an aside, my husband's great grandmother was housekeeper to the Profumo family. She retired back to France, and after she had died they found a scrapbook with some cuttings about the affair. She had been keeping an eye on the whole thing from her retirement in rural Brittany.

  2. Sabrina's extraordinary isn't she?

    How fascinating about your family connection - wouldn't you have loved to talk to her about it!

  3. Moira - Oh, interesting! The Profumo affair! I would have liked to meet Sarah's husband's great grandmother too. That story made news all over the world. And the book sounds fascinating too. Thanks for sharing.


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