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Kate Middleton's see-through dress sells for $125,000

By Mairi Mackay, CNN
  • See-through dress that Kate Middleton wore on student catwalk sold for $125,000
  • Dress sold to private buyer for 10 times what it was expected to bring in
  • Auctioneer Kerry Taylor says people want it because of what it symbolizes
  • Designer Charlotte Todd: "She bagged her prince, so it got her what she wanted"

London (CNN) -- The see-through dress that caught Prince William's eye when Kate Middleton wore it has drawn the attention of another admirer -- a private buyer who bought it at auction for just over $125,000.

The gossamer-fine mini dress that William's bride-to-be modeled during a student fashion show in 2002 while the young prince looked on sold in London Thursday for 10 times what it was estimated to fetch.

"I'm not going to bother with the reserve," auctioneer Kerry Taylor of Kerry Taylor Auctions said when she stared bidding on the dress at just over $30,000.

The dress finally went for £65,000, plus a £13,000 buyer's fee, to a private buyer bidding over the telephone via an agent standing at the back of the room. The buyer's agent would only identify the buyer as being "Nick from Jersey." Jersey is an island in the English Channel between England and France.

"It's an iconic piece and he is very happy with the purchase," said the agent. "It's a great addition to his collection."

The crowd that assembled at the tiny London auction room included one buyer who'd come from Los Angeles as well as a very obvious fan of the royal family in a bright red jacket pinned with huge rosettes bearing photos of Kate and William.

If we're to believe the reports, it's the dress that caught the Prince's eye and captured his heart -- and that's why people want it.
--Kerry Taylor, auctioneer

Speaking the day before the auction, Taylor said: "I initially estimated (the dress) to fetch £8,000-£10,000 because how do you put a price on this little piece of lace? But I suspect my estimate's going to be smashed through in seconds tomorrow."

She thinks the excitement around the dress stems from what it symbolizes: the moment that's been reported to have sparked the couple's romance.

"If we're to believe the reports, it's the dress that caught the prince's eye and captured his heart -- and that's why people want it," she said.

The dress, which Kate wore at the annual University of St. Andrews Dont Walk charity fashion show when she and William were students started life as a skirt, designed and knitted by Charlotte Todd when she was studying textiles in Bristol.

The dress is made of knitted black-and-gold silk with turquoise blue bands at the top and bottom. The label says the dress has a 28-inch waist, a U.S. size eight.

Taylor says that the stress of all the press attention was one reason Todd decided to sell: "You know, Charlotte's been hounded by the press ... people coming to her work, ringing her up -- unbelievable."

Plus, of course, there is the massive insurance liability created by owning such a famous object.

"The moment is right, at the moment, I think, to sell it," said Todd. The dress had been sitting in a box in her mother's closet up until the auction.

She says the attention that has been focused on her since William and Kate announced their engagement last November "got a bit much," especially since it all happened so long ago. "It's sort of ... it's surreal, really," she said.

She can't shed much light on Kate's motives for wearing the dress, as she wasn't even there. She was in Bristol and was asked to send her collection up to St. Andrews for the show. She says she didn't know Kate and has never spoken to her.

"I don't know if Kate chose to wear this dress or if someone put her in the dress. So, I don't know if it was her intention to be there in her underwear in front of the prince," she said.

Todd's brief when designing the dress was "The Art of Seduction" and that that's what it represents for her. "So, in a way, if that's what she wanted, she definitely bagged her prince, so it got her what she wanted."

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