Historic Royal Palaces, a private charity focused on preserving and showing palaces and other pieces of historical significance, announced on 11 December that they have acquired an iconic gown of Diana, Princess of Wales’s. The black off the shoulder Victor Edelstein gown failed to sell at auction two days prior. They paid £220,000 to acquire the gown that was worn for the famous photo of Diana dancing with actor John Travolta at a White House dinner in 1985.
In a press release announcing the acquisition, Historic Royal Palaces say that the gown will join their Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection which they describe as “a treasure trove of over 10,000 items of historic dress from the 16th century to the present day.” The collection is used to showcase the history of fashion and the role fashion plays in the monarchy and British ceremonial traditions.
Eleri Lynn, the curator for Historic Royal Palaces, was excited by the acquisition. Historic Royal Palaces looks after Kensington Palace, and the curator was quick to note the link between the dress and the palace. She said, “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.”
Lynn described the gown as “a fantastic example of couture tailoring designed to dazzle on a state occasion” and observed the role the twirling velvet skirt played in making the photo of Diana and Travolta iconic. The press release also cites the dress as a critical point in Diana’s style evolution when she went from a frillier, seasonal style to a sleeker and more timeless style.
While Historic Royal Palaces had to pay a lot of money to acquire the gown, it adds one of the more iconic gowns of 20th-century royal fashion to their Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, a collection designated by the Arts Council England Designation Scheme as a collection of national and international importance.