Princess Diana’s Travolta dress failed to sell at auction but purchased by British charity for £264,000
In early November 1985, Princess Diana visited the United States with her husband Prince Charles. They stayed at the White House, where they attended a gala dinner on 11 November.
On that occasion, the Princess of Wales wore a midnight blue silk velvet gown designed by British designer Victor Edelstein who had also designed her wedding gown in 1981.
After the dinner, Princess Diana danced with the American 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 silk velvet gown again in Germany in December 1987 and at the premiere of the film Wall Street in April 1988 and she wore it for her last official portrait photograph, taken by Prince Charles's uncle, Princess Magritte’s husband the Earl of Snowdon, in 1997.
The iconic velvet gown has been auctions several times.
In June 1997 ( just two months before her death) Princess Diana auctioned off the gown for £100,000 to raise funds for Aids charities. It was bought by Florida-based businesswoman Maureen Dunkel who kept it until she went bankrupt in 2011 and was forced to put it up for auction but did not succeed.
In March 2013, the gown was sold for £240,000 by London Auction House Kerry Taylor to a British man, who reportedly bought it as a gift to cheer up his wife.
And now, 34 years after Princess Diana first wore it, Kerry Taylor included it in its auction catalogue again, with pre-sale estimate of £350,000.
According to Victor Edelstein who had designed for Princess Diana for 11 years before her untimely death in 1997 the princess of Wales often visited his studio and saw this off-the-shoulder gown in burgundy, and wanted to have it made in midnight blue. The fittings were done in the Princess’s private apartment in Kensington Palace. During the last fitting, Princess as so happy with the final result she decided to show it to Prince Charles who told her she looked wonderful and it would be perfect with jewellery.
The gown has off the shoulder straps, while a diagonally swathed velvet skirt hugs the figure tightly to the knee with a bow to one side, then flares out into a broad flounce above layered tulle petticoats.
The auction was held on 9 December 2019, titled “Passion for Fashion” by the auction house, but this blue velvet gown failed to reach its reserve price of £200,000, provoking the media’s assumption that the fashion of Princess Diana is perhaps not relevant anymore.
One day later, however, Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), an independent charity that looks after palaces in the UK bought the gown out of auction at £264,000 ($347,000).
According to Eleri Lynn, curator at HRP: “We're delighted to have acquired this iconic evening gown for the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection -- a designated collection of national and international importance -- over twenty years since it first left Kensington Palace. Not only is the 'Travolta' dress a fantastic example of couture tailoring designed to dazzle on a state occasion, it represents a key moment in the story of twentieth century royal fashion."
And it will also means that the Travolta dress will stay in Britain.