Fit For A Princess

03.20.13

Princess Diana’s Fabulous Dresses Sell for $1.2 Million

The star lot was the Edelstein gown Diana wore when she danced with Travolta at the White House.

The dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, when she danced with John Travolta at a White House state dinner was sold at auction for $360,000 last night to an anonymous bidder, who said he wanted to surprise his wife with a special gift. The stunning off-the-shoulder, midnight blue velvet gown, designed by Victor Edelstein, was worn by Diana as she was spun around the White House dance floor by Travolta during a visit to the U.S. in 1985.

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Catherine Walker Burgundy sheath worn for a state visit to Korea in 1992: sold for $75,000. (Simon Burchell)

The resulting image is one of the most celebrated pictures of the glamorous and vivacious Diana at the peak of her fame.

The Edelstein gown was the star lot in a sale of 10 of Diana’s dresses at vintage fashion auctioneers Kerry Taylor Auctions in London, which raised more than $1.2 million last night, reflecting the extraordinary renewed interest in the British royal family since the marriage of William and Kate.

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Detail of Catherine Walker dress. (Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images)

Auctioneer Kerry Taylor said of the Edelstein gown: “It was bought by a British gentleman who said he wanted to buy it as a surprise to cheer up his wife. I hope that the sale has really made someone’s day.” She added that the new owner of the gown, which reached the top price of the sale, was a “lucky woman.”

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Catherine Walker pink sequined ivory crepe gown with asymmetric neckline, worn at the banquet given by President Collor on a state visit to Brazil in 1991, sold for $118,000. (Simon Burchell / Getty Images)

The dresses were originally sold, along with a number of others, by Diana after her divorce from the Prince of Wales to raise money for charity, at the suggestion of Prince William. American Maureen Rorech Dunkel, from the U.S., initially bought the dresses, including a beaded black Catherine Walker evening gown worn by Diana in a Vanity Fair fashion shoot by photographer Mario Testino, which raised $163,000 last night, as did a crushed velvet burgundy dress by the same designer donned by the then Princess of Wales during a state visit to Australia. The collection fetched almost twice what Dunkel paid for them 15 years ago.

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Dresses worn by Britain's Princess Diana (L-R): a Catherine Walker pink sequined ivory crepe gown worn during a visit to Brazil in 1991, a Victor Edelstein evening gown worn at a state dinner at the White House in 1985, and a Catherine Walker evening gown worn for a state visit to Austria in 1989. (Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images)

Two of the dresses were bought by representatives from Kensington Palace, which already displays some of Diana’s dresses, to add to their existing collection.