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Dress Princess Diana wore to dance with Travolta auctioned off

By Bryony Jones, CNN
March 19, 2013 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Dress worn by Diana to dance with John Travolta sells for $362,424
  • NEW: A total of 10 dresses owned by the late Princess of Wales sells for $1.2 million
  • Outfits were worn at state occasions, on official visits and for portraits
  • Entire collection was auctioned in London

London (CNN) -- Sumptuous velvet, delicate sequins, intricate beading: They are dresses fit for a princess -- Princess Diana, that is -- and if you've got a big pocketbook (with a designer label, naturally), they could have been yours.

Ten dresses worn by the late Princess of Wales went under the hammer at Kerry Taylor Auctions in London on Tuesday.

The top seller was the midnight blue number Diana famously wore to dance with John Travolta at a gala dinner at the White House in November 1985. That dress sold for $362,424 (240,000 British pounds) and was bought by "a British gentleman as a surprise to cheer up his wife," the auction house said.

The entire collection fetched $1.2 million (800,000 British pounds), the auctioneer said.

TV footage and photographs of the princess and the Hollywood star gliding around the room to the music of "Saturday Night Fever" were seen around the world, and Travolta later described the experience as having been "like a fairy tale."

Diana also wore the "Travolta" dress, designed by Victor Edelstein, for her final portrait by Lord Snowdon in 1997.

Auctioneer Kerry Taylor told CNN before the auction that putting a price on such items was "difficult," but that their high profile added value.

Rare photo of teenage Diana sold for $18,369

Diana was different. ... I think there will always be a special place in people's hearts for her
Kerry Taylor, auctioneer

"You can look at what they sold for, you can look at how simple the thing is," she explained. "If it was worn on a state occasion, or if it was for a private dinner, are there photographs of the princess wearing it, are there film reels of the princess wearing it, and is there a human story that adds to it?"

For example, as Taylor pointed out, a bottle green velvet evening dress, also by Victor Edelstein, bears what could be the traces of a young prince: "what looks like a little boy's (or little child's) handprint -- sticky fingerprints on the fabric." The dress sold for $36,281, including the buyer's premium.

Also included in the sale were dresses by some of Diana's other favorite designers. Six werer by Catherine Walker, including the beaded black dress Diana wore for Vanity Fair's 1997 photoshoot by Mario Testino -- that sold for $163,264 -- and the black Bruce Oldfield gown she wore to the gala opening of "Les Miserables" in October 1985 and for another official portrait by Snowdon. That dress sold for $76,190.

The outfits were originally sold in a charity auction at Christie's in New York in June 1997, just months before Diana's death in a Paris car crash in August of that year. Kerry says that despite the passing of the years, the princess remains hugely popular.

"Diana was different," she said. "She was very much a 'people's princess' and the ups and downs of her life, her loves, people followed them avidly. I think there will always be a special place in people's hearts for Diana."

Taylor also auctioned off the skimpy mesh dress worn by the Duchess of Cambridge -- then known as Kate Middleton -- during a fashion show at the University of St. Andrews, at which she is reputed to have attracted the attentions of her future husband, Prince William.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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