Princess Diana's iconic gown was bought by the charity that acquires and cares for important royal artifacts and exhibits

By Simon Perry
December 11, 2019 09:19 AM
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The iconic gown worn by Princess Diana when she danced with John Travolta at the White House is heading back to the palace — for good.

After failing to sell at auction, the ensemble was bought by the charity that acquires and cares for important royal artifacts and exhibits, some of them off at the palaces and castles.

Historic Royal Palaces announced Wednesday that it was the successful purchaser of the Victor Edelstein dress, which Diana wore to a state dinner in 1985, for $290,000.

The dress will join the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection and will be conserved by Historic Royal Palaces specialists before any future display.

Eleri Lynn, Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, said in a statement early Wednesday, “We’re delighted to have acquired this iconic evening gown for the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection — a designated collection of national and international importance — over 20 years since it first left Kensington Palace.”

Credit: Everett/Shutterstock

“Not only is the ‘Travolta’ dress a fantastic example of couture tailoring designed to dazzle on a state occasion, it represents a key moment in the story of twentieth century royal fashion,” she continued. “The photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales, dancing with John Travolta at the White House wearing this midnight blue Victor Edelstein gown are known the world over, with the dress’s twirling velvet skirt playing no small part in making this such a memorable image.”

Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

The dress was loaned to the charity for use in its Diana: Her Fashion Story in 2017 — the 20th anniversary of the princess’s death.Princess Diana requested her iconic bare shoulder look be made in midnight blue after seeing a burgundy version at designer Edelstein’s studio, according to the auction house. Fittings for the gown took place in Diana’s private apartments at Kensington Palace — and she was so pleased with the final result that she rushed to show it to Prince Charles, who told her she looked “wonderful.”

Credit: Historic Royal Palaces

Eleri Lynn adds, “Diana has become a fashion icon in the same way as Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn — timeless, elegant, and still so relevant. She helped popularize the romantic look in the early ’80s, the fabulously glamorous ‘Dynasty’ look in the late ’80s, and the sleek silhouettes of the ’90s. Each of these looks reappears on the catwalk from time to time, and are inseparable from Diana.”

“So many designers have spoken to me about Diana’s incredible charisma and presence,” she says. “Even designers who had many years’ experience of dressing celebrities and royalty talked about how Diana had the ability to make them feel as if they were walking on air. I think Diana’s real triumph in fashion was that she rose above it, so that by the end, all you saw was her.”

John Travolta and Princess Diana

Two of Princess Diana’s other ensembles were sold at the auction for above estimated prices: a blue velvet evening gown by Katherine Cusask sold for over $60,000, while a navy Catherine Walker outfit went for nearly $37,000.