This month, Sotheby’s is auctioning a dress formerly worn by Princess Diana. Christina Prescott-Walker, the global director of regional art and objects at Sotheby’s, said: “Among her many lasting influences, Princess Diana was revered for her effortless sense of style, which is perhaps best captured by this sleek and sophisticated ball gown designed by world-renowned Victor Edelstein.”
The aubergine strapless evening gown features a tulip-shaped stiffened skirt and three paste buttons down the back, and it is expected to fetch up to a whopping £100,000.
It was initially designed as part of Victor Edelstein’s Autumn 1989 collection, however, a media release from Sotheby’s says: “Edelstein included the outline of a tiara in his sketch—perhaps suggesting he specifically had Diana in mind for the dress.”
The late Princess of Wales first wore the gown for her royal portrait in 1991. It was also one of the selections for her iconic 1997 Vanity Fair portraits taken by Mario Testino, which were the last ones taken of her before she died.
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Mario Testino says on his website: “Photographing Diana, Princess of Wales for Vanity Fair in 1997 was one of the most memorable days of my career.”
In 1997, the gown was auctioned by Christie’s for $24,150, or roughly £19,871, along with 80 other dresses from Princess Diana’s personal collection, to benefit the AIDS Crisis Trust and the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund.
In her interview with Vanity Fair, Diana said: “Of course it is a wrench to let go of these beautiful dresses.
“However, I am extremely happy that others can now share the joy that I had wearing them.”
Diana’s relationship with Mr Edelstein began in the early 1980s. Anna Harvey, the deputy editor of British Vogue at the time, was a fashion adviser to the Princess.
She suggested Diana work with the couturier, who had recently left Christian Dior, to develop her style.
The British designer eventually became one of the key shapers of Diana’s wardrobe; he designed the famous midnight blue dress she wore to waltz across the White House floor with John Travolta, as well as a strapless black evening gown she wore to the premiere of Dangerous Liaisons.
Nowadays, the designer is credited with helping Diana transition from her girly 1980s looks to a more mature, sleek aesthetic.
“Few names are as resonant as Princess Diana’s, and even fewer biographies are revisited with the same frequency,” Ms Prescott-Walker said.
“While each account of her life has a unique focus and tone, one element is constant: Princess Diana was, and remains, a fashion icon.
“Even decades after her tragic passing, her style and attire inspire.”
Princess Diana was known for her philanthropic spirit, and this dress will be forever immortalised at one of her favourite charity organisations.
According to a media release from Sotheby’s: “In 1991, British portraitist Douglas Hardinge Anderson depicted Princess Diana wearing the ball dress in a painting now hung at the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund, which she visited, supported through philanthropy and served as president for.”
The gown was also featured on Franklin Mint’s 1998 limited-edition Princess Diana doll, as part of a collection of 1,000 dolls wearing her most iconic dresses.
The dress will be displayed alongside Sotheby’s Masters Week exhibitions starting on January 21, 2023, and will be auctioned live on January 27 in New York.
Ms Prescott-Walker added: “To feature this gown in our inaugural, curated auction ‘The One,’ which places it in dialogue with many other best-in-class objects spanning millennia of human history, is a testament to Diana’s irrepressible spirit.”