The "Travolta dress" (also known as the "John Travolta dress") is a dress once owned by Diana, Princess of Wales. It was worn for the first time at a gala dinner at the White House on 9 November 1985. It is named after the American actor John Travolta, with whom the princess danced at the dinner.
Princess Diana visited the United States in early November 1985 with her husband Prince Charles. The couple stayed at the White House, where they attended a gala dinner on 9 November. On that occasion, the Princess of Wales wore an off-the-shoulder mid night blue velvet dress. She was photographed dancing with the actor John Travolta to the music of his 1977 film Saturday Night Fever in the Entrance Hall. The photographs and TV footage of them "gliding around the room" were widely circulated around the world, and the gown came to be known as the "Travolta dress".
The Princess of Wales wore the dress again in Germany in December 1987 and at the premiere of the film Wall Street in April 1988. She wore it for her last official portrait photograph, taken by Prince Charles's uncle, the Earl of Snowdon, in 1997.
Designed by London-born Victor Edelstein, the Travolta dress is an off-the-shoulder midnight blue velvet evening gown. It was inspired by Edwardian fashion, giving it a "slight sweep of costume drama".
Edelstein recalls the Princess saw a burgundy version of the dress in his studio and requested it be made for her in midnight blue. The fittings for the gown took place in her private apartments at Kensington Palace. After the fitting, the Princess was so delighted with the final result she rushed to show it to Prince Charles. He reputedly told her she looked wonderful in the gown and that it would be perfect to wear with jewels.
The journalist Jackie Modlinger described it as "dramatic in style" and "regal in fabric".
Shortly before her death in August 1997, Diana requested that the dress be sold in a charity auction. Florida-based businesswoman Maureen Dunkel bought it for £100,000 in New York in June 1997, along with nine other dresses formerly owned by the Princess. The Travolta dress was the most expensive one sold at the auction. When she went bankrupt in 2011, Dunkel was forced to put them up for auction, but the Travolta dress was one of six that were not sold. It was finally auctioned off by Kerry Taylor in London on 19 March 2013, fetching £240,000 ($362,424) and again being the most expensive auctioned dress. It was bought by "a British gentleman as a surprise to cheer up his wife".
In 2019, it sold for £264,000 ($325,317) to Historic Royal Palaces, a charity which looks after royal memorabilia including clothing and artifacts. The dress has joined the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection and belongs to the palace. The dress was later displayed for public in Kensington Palace, after 20 years since it first left the place.
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