More than 25 years later, Princess Diana is still turning heads and breaking records.
Last week, Sotheby’s New York sold one of the late Duchess of Wales’ favorite gowns, a purple evening number designed by Victor Edelstein in 1989. The dress, which Diana wore for the 1991 royal portrait, hammered down for $604,800 (including premiums), more than five times the presale estimates. It is now the most expensive dress worn by the late royal to be sold at auction.
The strapless gown is made of aubergine silk velvet and features intricate ruching around the bodice, a tulip-shaped skirt and delicate gold diamante and pearl buttons at the back. It was originally part of the late princess’s 1997 charity auction, which put 79 dresses up for bid to raise more than $3.25 million for five of her favorite charities. As for the purple stunner, a private bidder snapped it up for $24,150.
Diana donned the lavish dress for a number of key moments in the last years of her life. In addition to the royal portrait, she chose the dress for a Vanity Fair photoshoot with Mario Testino. The photos accompanied a July issue cover story, “Diana Reborn,” in which she spoke about her motivations for holding the charity auction. Testino’s pictures were the last official photos taken of the princess before her death in August 1997.
“Princess Diana has long been renowned and celebrated for her timeless sense of style, and this sleek and sophisticated bespoke ball gown, designed by Victor Edelstein, encapsulates Princess Diana’s effortless elegance,” Cynthia Houlton, Sotheby’s global head of fashion and accessories, said in a statement. “Today’s sale of this historic dress is a reminder of Princess Diana’s enduring legacy that continues to inspire people all over the world.”
For his part, Edelstein appears to have designed the dress with the princess in mind, as his early sketches show the outline of a tiara. That would make sense since the designer worked with Diana throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Indeed, it was Edelstein who designed another famous gown worn by the princess—the dark blue velvet dress she wore to dance with John Travolta at the White House in 1985, and again in 1986 during a state visit to Austria.
Of course, gorgeous gowns aren’t the only royal possessions coveted by collectors. Diana’s precious gems have also attracted eager buyers with high profiles of their own. Earlier this month, Kim Kardashian grabbed headlines for buying Princess Diana’s famous amethyst cross for $197,453—more than double pre-auction estimates. The bejeweled piece was designed by British jeweler Garrad in the 1920s and worn by the princess at a charity gala in London in the fall of 1987.
The lesson? If you hope to add one of Princess Diana’s garments or jewels for your collection, be prepared to spend big.