It might not be as famous as her head-turning “revenge dress,” but an aubergine-colored silk velvet piece is still one of Princess Diana’s most iconic gowns — a status confirmed when it sold for $604,800, just over five times the $120,000 auction estimate — at Sotheby’s in New York Friday.
The late royal wore the dress for both an official royal portrait in 1991 and an intimate Vanity Fair spread in 1997, just before her death.
Designed by couturier Victor Edelstein, 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.”
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.”
The deep purple gown was part of Edelstein’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. Edelstein 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.
Friday’s auction also featured 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.
Correction: A previous version of this story and its headline misstated the amount the aubergine-colored silk velvet dress sold for on Friday.