Princess Diana gowns go under the hammer

Dresses worn by Princess Diana (L-R) a Catherine Walker ivory crepe gown, a Victor Edelstein evening gown and another Catherine Walker evening gown.Photo / AFP
Dresses worn by Princess Diana (L-R) a Catherine Walker ivory crepe gown, a Victor Edelstein evening gown and another Catherine Walker evening gown.Photo / AFP

A dress worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, when she danced with John Travolta at a White House state dinner has been sold at auction for NZ$440,000 to an anonymous bidder who said he wanted to surprise his wife.

The off-the-shoulder midnight blue velvet gown, designed by Victor Edelstein, captivated the public when the late princess was pictured wearing it as she was twirled around the dance floor by the Hollywood star during a visit to the US in 1985.

It was the star lot in a sale of 10 of Diana's dresses at vintage fashion auctioneers Kerry Taylor Auctions in London.

"It was bought by a British gentleman who said he wanted to buy it as a surprise to cheer up his wife. I hope that the sale has really made someone's day,'' auctioneer Kerry Taylor said.

The second highest prices were achieved by two gowns by Catherine Walker, one of Diana's favourite designers.

A black velvet and beaded evening gown, which Diana was photographed in by Mario Testino for a Vanity Fair photoshoot at Kensington Palace a few months before her death, sold for STG108,000.

It is the only one of the 10 dresses to have been worn after her divorce from Charles.

Another Catherine Walker dress, a burgundy crushed velvet evening gown worn for a state visit to Australia in 1985 and also to the premiere of Back to the Future the same year, also sold for STG108,000.

Despite bidding from Australians on the auction house floor, it was bought by an American museum.

The garments were originally sold, along with a number of others, by Diana herself following her divorce from the Prince of Wales to raise money for charity at the suggestion of Prince William.

American Maureen Rorech Dunkel initially bought the dresses as a long-term investment, but after Diana's death in 1997 she decided to exhibit them to raise money for good causes.

The collection, dubbed Fit For a Princess, reached a total of STG862,800.

Taylor described the dresses as "a little history of Diana's life through her clothes''.

Bidders came from as far afield as Australia and the US, but there were British buyers for several of the dresses, including an "important'' museum which bought two gowns - something Taylor said she was particularly pleased about.

"It's important for the generations to come,'' she said.

"Diana was the people's princess, so the people should be able to see these dresses. This is our heritage, our history.''

- PAA

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