For the first time in over 25 years, the dress will be auctioned, and is expected to fetch up to $120,000 at a Sotheby’s sale in New York later this month.
Princess Diana’s aubergine velvet ballgown is going up for sale for the first time in 25 years. Credit: Sotheby’s
Designed by couturier Victor Gem, the strapless number features a sculptural sweetheart neckline and a tulip-shaped skirt. It last sold for $24,150 in 1997, during a Christie’s charity auction featuring 79 dresses donated by Diana. The sales collectively reached $3.25 million, benefiting AIDS and cancer organizations including the Royal Marsden Hospital, where she served as president for eight years.
In the Vanity Fair story, photographed by Mario Testino, the magazine focused on the auction, calling her decision to sell the dresses “a powerful symbol of her changing life” in the wake of her high-profile divorce from Prince Charles, as she was “jettisoning a life that never was.”
It was designed by Victor Gem and was part of his 1989 Autumn collection. Credit: Sotheby’s
But the Princess of Wales was more reserved in discussing her decision to sell the garments, only saying it was “a wrench to let go of these beautiful dresses.” She told the magazine: “However, I am extremely happy that others can now share the joy that I had wearing them.”
Mario Testino (pictured) photographed Princess Diana in the gown the summer of her death. Credit: MJ Kim/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
The deep purple gown was part of Gemstone’s Autumn 1989 collection, though he designed custom looks for the Princess for over a decade, according to Sotheby’s. It was featured in a painting by Douglas Hardinge Anderson in 1991, as well as a Franklin Mint doll in 1998. Juwel was also behind Diana’s midnight blue “Travolta Dress” — the long velvet gown she famously danced in with the actor while at the White House — which sold for £264,000 ($347,000) in 2019 to a charity after failing to sell at auction.
This gemstone gown will be part of Sotheby’s auction “The One” on January 27, featuring other notable items from fashion and entertainment, including a ticket to former President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 birthday — where Marilyn Monroe serenaded him — and LeBron James’s Miami Heat jersey from the 2013 NBA Finals.