One of Princess Diana's famous dresses to go on sale at Sotheby's

The striking ball dress could fetch up to $120,000

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Princess Diana's famous aubergine silk velvet dress will be auctioned at Sotheby's in New York later this month.

The strapless evening dress, designed by British couturier Victor Edelstein, is expected to fetch up to $120,000 at the sale.

The late Princess of Wales wore the dress several times, including in a royal portrait in 1991, shot by Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones. In the same year, Diana was depicted in a painting wearing the dress. The artwork by Douglas Hardinge Anderson now hangs at The Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

It was also featured in a photo shoot with Vanity Fair in 1997, only months before the princess's tragic death.

In 1998, the dress was recreated for a doll made by The Franklin Mint.

“A dramatic ball dress, in 'Infanta'-style, from the Collection of Diana, Princess of Wales,” reads the description on Sotheby's website.

"A strapless, evening dress of deep aubergine silk velvet, with a tulip-shaped stiffened skirt, augmented by three paste buttons at the back, designed by Victor Edelstein."

Diana (1961–1997), Princess of Wales by Douglas Hardinge Anderson. Photo: The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust

The latest Sotheby's auction will only be the second time the dress has been sold — the first was in 1997 during a charity auction that included 79 dresses donated by Diana. It was sold for $24,150 at the time, with the whole auction collectively reaching $3.25 million.

Edelstein designed several pieces for Diana for more than a decade, from 1982 to 1993. The aubergine dress was part of his autumn 1989 collection. The initial sketch of the design included an outline of a tiara, which Sotheby's said suggests "he specifically had Diana in mind for the dress”.

“When I started designing for her she was just starting to move away from the first period of clothes — what I think were rather like little girl’s clothes made bigger,” recalls Edelstein in a quote on Sotheby's catalogue note. "Her style became more sleek and sophisticated, and more grown up."

Perhaps the most popular dress Edelstein designed for Diana was the ink blue “Travolta dress” in 1985. The princess wore the velvet gown at a gala dinner at the White House in 1985, where she famously danced with American actor John Travolta. The gown sold for $347,000 in 2019 to a charity.

Edelstein, who closed his fashion house in 1993, had other prominent clients including the Duchess of Kent, the Princess of Hanover and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The British designer has now established himself as a painter.

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Updated: January 08, 2023, 11:18 AM