Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Diana's Dresses: the Travolta Dress

The life and style of Diana, Princess of Wales is currently being celebrated at Kensington Palace with an exhibition of her dresses. And amongst the displays is a gown that isn't just one of Diana's best known, it's one of the most famous dresses in the world. The Historic Royal Palaces' exhibition Diana: Her Fashion Story features the Travolta Dress, a frock so famous it needs no introduction. Actually worn on numerous occasions, it is forever associated with one night at the White House when royalty met Hollywood and the world watched on. The latest installment on Diana's Dresses is all about the Travolta.

The event that gave this dress its name is iconic and then some. During an official visit to the United States in November 1985, Diana and Charles attended an evening reception given by the then US President, Ronald Reagen, and First Lady, Nancy, at the White House. It was a star studded event and among the celebrities was John Travolta, then one of the most famous film stars in the world. The man who made his name in Saturday Night Fever and Grease whirled the Princess of Wales around the chequerboard floor of the White House and danced himself into the history books.

For such a world famous event, still remembered today, there are surprisingly few photos but those that remain show the gown Diana wore to dance with Travolta to great effect. The dress was designed by Victor Edelstein and is made of midnight blue velvet. It has an off the shoulder neckline, fitted bodice and slightly flared skirt and was matched with one of Diana's favourite Eighties accessories, a pearl choker. It had another brush with Hollywood when Diana wore it to the premiere of Wall Street in London in 1988 and the princess wore it for one of her last official portraits, taken by Lord Snowdon in 1997.

The dress became the best seller in the auction of her gowns in 1997 when Diana sold off much of her wardrobe to raise money for charity. The hammer fell on a price of around £100,000, then the highest amount ever paid for a dress at auction. When it was re-sold in 2013, it broke records again, bringing in £240,000. It's now back at Kensington Palace for the exhibition - a dress so famous it needs no introduction.

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