Diana wore the dress to a dinner in Florence, Italy in 1985 and again to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1986.
A dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, during a 1985 royal tour of Italy just sold at auction for nearly $1.15 million — 11 times more than what the auction house predicted.
Alongside the elegant evening gown, created by the Moroccan-British fashion designer Jacques Azagury, was a matching illustration that detailed the design of the dress: black velvet with metallic stars, a blue organza skirt, a large bow, a sash, and shoulder pads, a staple of Diana’s fashion style.
The inclusion of the ballerina-style skirt was said to be a nod to Diana’s love of dance and her patronage of the English National Ballet. She also wore the dress to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1986.
The garment sold for nearly double the price of what was previously the most expensive dress belonging to the late princess ever auctioned — a purple gown designed by Victor Edelstein that sold for $604,800 in January 2023.
Auctioneers predicted the black and blue evening dress would sell for $100,000. The final price paid at the auction — put on by Julien’s Auctions in Hollywood — was a staggering $1,148,080.
“The fact that this dress, all these years later, goes for this amount — I think people continue to be in awe of her and her fashion,” fashion critic Elizabeth Holmes told The New York Times. “Diana has remained a fashion icon.”
Part of Diana’s lasting influence can perhaps be attributed to Netflix’s The Crown. The series, which retells the dramatic history of Britain’s modern royals, is currently in its final season. There are several episodes within the series that focus on Princess Diana, her many controversies, and ultimately, her untimely death in 1997.
Diana’s sense of fashion was an inherent part of her allure as a member of the British royal family.
“She knew the power of a picture,” Holmes told the New York Times. “You can see that in this dress. You can place it in time.”
Holmes explained that even as Diana’s public speech was stifled by the royal family, she continued to draw attention via her fashion choices, often in support of various charities.
The black and blue evening dress that just sold at auction is indicative of a time when Diana was beginning to experiment more with her personal style, breaking from what had once been conventional for royals. She wore clothing with shorter hemlines and lower necklines. The silhouettes were bolder.
Even if the dress is modest by modern standards, it was a clear departure from the more traditional, conservative style of the British royal family. Diana’s fashion blended the demands of the royals — which imposed modesty and properness — with the larger fashion world of Britain. As such, she is often regarded as a fashion icon.
As one of the most photographed women of her time, it’s no wonder why Diana’s clothing is in such high demand, even still.
At the same auction in which her black and blue evening gown was sold, another one of Diana’s garments — a blouse worn in her 1981 engagement portrait — brought in $381,000. Again, this exceeded the auction house’s estimate about four times over.
In another auction in September, Sotheby’s sold a quirky sweater adorned with sheep that Diana wore in 1981, while she was engaged to King Charles III, for $1.14 million.
This is nothing new, however. Diana herself auctioned off some of her clothing while she was alive, selling 79 dresses in New York and donating $3.25 million of the proceeds to charity.
Julien’s did not reveal the identity of the buyer who purchased Diana’s dress.
Princess Diana was not the only celebrity whose clothing was featured at Julien’s, though. Alongside her garments were a Givenchy dress worn by Audrey Hepburn in Charade, Gloria Swanson’s gown from Sunset Boulevard, and a sailor dress worn by Barbra Streisand in My Name Is Barbra.
“I’m dying to know what the people who buy these clothes do with them,” Holmes noted. “Are you hanging it in your closet? What’s going on?”
After learning about the record-breaking sale of Princess Diana’s dress, read about the time some raunchy greeting cards Diana sent to the king of Greece were sold at auction. Then, explore the late princess’s life and legacy through these 33 images.