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Princess Diana Wore This Ball Gown in Two Official Portraits. Now, It’s Heading to Auction.

The silk velvet Victor Edelstein dress will be sold by Sotheby's New York on January 27.

Princess Diana ball gown worn headed to Sotheby's auction Courtesy of the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund/Sotheby's

Sotheby’s is auctioning off a coveted piece of royal memorabilia.

On Friday, the luxury auction house announced that it will offer a strapless evening gown once owned by Princess Diana on January 27 in New York. The opulent Victor Edelstein dress was crafted from silk velvet, and the late princess wore note that she wears it in a famous royal portrait from 1991, alongside then-Prince Charles. Diana also wore the gown, which is estimated to sell for between $80,000 and $120,000 at auction, for a 1997 Vanity Fair story shot by Mario Testino.

Princess Diana worn ball gown headed to Sotheby's auction, back side
A look at the back of the strapless ball gown by Victor Edelstein. Courtesy of the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund/Sotheby’s

Edelstein, a society dressmaker, crafted the gown for his Autumn 1989 collection. Its deep aubergine silk velvet material, which he sculpted into a tulip-shaped skirt, is held together with three paste buttons on the back. The designer reportedly included an outline of a tiara in its original sketch, suggesting that he may have had Diana in mind during its creation. After the dress was given to the princess, Edelstein designed dresses for her for over a decade, from 1982 to 1993.

In 1991, British portraitist Douglas Hardinge Anderson depicted Princess Diana wearing the ball gown in a painting that now hangs at the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund. The princess visited the charity (located in England and Wales), supported its efforts through philanthropy and served as its president. By 1998, the dress was also featured on Franklin Mint’s 1998 limited-edition Princess Diana dolls, as part of a collection of 1,000 dolls that sported replicas of her most iconic dresses. A total of 80 other dresses from the royal style star’s collection were auctioned in 1997 as well to benefit the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund. 

Princess Diana worn ball gown headed to Sotheby's auction, front and back side
Diana wore this dress for two portraits, one with then-Prince Charles and another on her own. Courtesy of the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund/Sotheby’s

Edelstein’s creations for Princess Diana were recognized in the 1997 auction. And in talks with Sotheby’s, he briefly explains what it was like to be around her highness. “I was walking almost on air,” he told the auctioneer, after meeting her for the first time. “Diana had that effect.” Others like Scott Williams, collections curator at Historic Royal Palaces, also speak to the ethos of her style profile. “She understood how what you are wearing could really convey a warmth, intimidation, it could reinforce hierarchy or it could undermine hierarchy and create more of a relationship.” 

The evening gown being offered this month is part of Sotheby’s inaugural curated auction, dubbed “The One,” which will also offer LeBron James’ game-worn jersey from the 2013 NBA Finals, estimated to sell for up to $5 million. You’ll get to view the gown in person during Sotheby’s Masters Week exhibitions starting January 21. The One live auction will take place on January 27 at Sotheby’s New York.

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