Princess Diana’s record-breaking gown sells for more than $600,000 at auction

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A bidding war over a purple velvet gown that belonged to Princess Diana pushed the dress to sell for more than US$600,000, reaching five times higher than its pre-auction estimate to become the most valuable of the late royal’s gowns ever sold at auction.

Diana, Princess of Wales, wears an outfit during a state visit to Canada. | Photo Getty Images

Key facts

Four bidders competed for the gown for nearly five minutes at Sotheby’s in New York, the auction house said, which helped drive up the final US$604,800 price tag, which includes fees.

It’s the most valuable of Princess Diana’s dresses ever sold at auction, Sotheby’s said, and far surpassed the $347,000 fetched in a 2019 direct sale by the black, off-the-shoulder gown Diana wore when she famously danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985.

The deep-purple velvet gown sold was designed by British dressmaker Victor Edelstein—one of Diana’s longtime fashion collaborators—for his Autumn 1989 collection. However, Sotheby’s noted the original dress design sketch features a drawing of a tiara on the page’s margins, which could indicate he had Diana in mind when creating the gown.

The dress was first sold in 1997 for US$24,150 as part of a charity auction in which Diana sold off 79 gowns to raise more than US$3 million for cancer and AIDS charities.

Diana wore the dress as part of an iconic 1997 Vanity Fair photoshoot with fashion photographer Mario Testino just months before her death and in a 1991 royal portrait shot by Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret’s then-husband.

Key background

Clothing and jewellery worn by Princess Diana can fetch sky-high prices at auction, even 25 years after her death. Kim Kardashian recently purchased a cross pendant Diana wore to a charity event for nearly US$200,000 in another Sotheby’s auction. In 2022, a dress worn by Diana during a 1986 trip to Bahrain sold for almost US$200,000 at auction after it was reportedly discovered in a secondhand shop in England. Another one of Diana’s most famous gowns, the so-called revenge dress she wore the day her husband, now King Charles III, admitted on the air that he had been unfaithful to her, sold for US$74,000 at the 1997 auction. It was purchased by Scottish businessman Graeme Mackenzie, who has rarely put the dress up for public display since.