Princess Diana’s Gowns Back on the Block

Hello-Hello, happy Monday.

Today, a look at what will be another remarkable auction of evening gowns worn by the late Princess Diana, ten of her most famous frocks will be auctioned tomorrow. Below, a 1987 dress created by Zandra Rhodes.

All Images via Kerry Taylor Auctions

All Images via Kerry Taylor Auctions

In the notes for each lot there are some fascinating details, I loved reading about the many design elements for the Rhodes dress, especially the pattern for the material.

…printed with ivory ‘Buttons & Bows’ pattern, zig-zag bands to the hem on white silk chiffon, over white silk jersey lining, the cross-over pleated bodice studded with pearl beads and sequins, waistband of quilted, top-stitched white satin over gently draped skirt, the whole edged with pink crystals and white pearlised beads, small pearl quatrefoils to the rear closure all applied by hand

Also, a Catherine Walker Burgundy Velvet Sheath, the estimate on this is $40,000-$60,000.

All Images via Kerry Taylor Auctions

All Images via Kerry Taylor Auctions

An interesting tidbit on the dress, the following is from designer Catherine Walker’s autobiography:

This design was in fact inspired by the colouring of an Imperial Russian court dress and was originally offered to the Princess as a burgundy tailcoat over a rich ivory silk crêpe bustier dress. The Princess, however, felt that all burgundy would be more fluid and easier to wear, and I think she was right.’

If you think you’ve seen the gowns at auction before, you have. These were all part of the 1997 Christie’s auction the Princess organized herself as a charity fundraiser.  More from the Daily Mail:

U.S. businesswoman Maureen Rorech Dunkel bought the ten dresses in 1997 as an investment. But following the Princess’s death that year, she exhibited them to raise money for charity – and is now selling them after running into financial difficulties.

With auctioneers estimating the 14 gowns could make as much as $4.15million, Ms Dunkel will at last be hoping the dresses can bring her financial help rather than woe.

In the auction catalogue, she wrote: ‘It is time to close the “Diana Dress” chapter of my life and focus on my greatest love, my desire to use my time, talents and treasure to serve God.’

Until seeing the auction catalog photos I had no idea this Catherine Walker was slit so high on the side.

All Images via Kerry Taylor

All Images via Kerry Taylor

More of the history on the gown seen above, from the auction catalog:

Catherine Walker made two of these dresses, the first in black silk crêpe was worn for a dinner given at the palace of Versailles in December 1994. The Princess returned it to Catherine Walker for a slight alteration at which point Catherine suggested that the dress would work even better in black velvet. Princess Diana agreed and the second velvet version (this one) was worn for Princess Diana’s famous Mario Testino photo-shoot at Kensington Palace for Vanity Fair in 1997. The photographs of Diana with slicked back hair, looking healthy and happy are arguably some of the finest portraits ever taken of the Princess.

Mario Testino/Vanity Fair

Mario Testino/Vanity Fair

Arguably the most famous frock is this one, the midnight blue Victor Edelstein worn for a State Dinner at the White House.

Via Kerry Taylor

Via Kerry Taylor

This is one of those gowns that shows much better on a real person as opposed to a mannequin.
Courtesy Everett Collection via Kerry Taylor

Courtesy Everett Collection via Kerry Taylor

Back to the Daily Mail’s story:

Auctioneer Kerry Taylor said: ‘Princess Diana knew how to dress and the midnight-blue gown is one of her most memorable.

‘When she visited the US, her one wish was to dance with John Travolta and she spent more than 20 minutes being twirled around the floor by him in that beautiful dress.’

We look at one more dress, this is another by Catherine Walker.
All Images via Kerry Taylor

All Images via Kerry Taylor

More about the extraordinary gown from the auction catalog:
…the sleeve-less gown with deep scooped neckline, long princess-line bodice densely embroidered to the dropped waist-line with three-dimensional exotic blooms in looped and satin-stitched corded silk, layered pink sequins, centred by amber, green and pink crystal beads, scattered with small white floret-shaped sequins against a green iridescent sequined ground with gold chain-stitched leaves, the bolero jacket similarly embroidered to front and back, lined in ivory satin, the plain silk cuffs each with three large buttons inset with emerald and pink rhinestones…
A better view of some of the details described above.
All Images via Kerry Taylor

All Images via Kerry Taylor

For those of you bidding from home, that is Lot #9 from tomorrow’s auction.
You can view a virtual catalog by clicking here.


Filed under preppy

5 responses to “Princess Diana’s Gowns Back on the Block

  1. She had such an amazing sense of style!

  2. Oh how I miss her…such grace and elegance. All so beautiful and iconic, that Catherine Walker gown is a total work of art.

  3. VickyMacDonald

    Thank you for your beautifully written discussion. I wish you would do a book!

  4. Thank you for all of this information. I’ve never seen that last dress, the bodice details are incredible, truly princess worthy. The other images make me smile, especially her dancing with John Travolta in that gorgeous navy dress. How cute that she expressed her “dream” to dance with him {and that it happened!} She was so wonderful, a nice walk down memory lane.

  5. They truly were extraordinary gowns, seeing her in them again really brought back memories, this was definitely a bittersweet post to write.

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