She wore the ballerina-length evening dress to a 1985 dinner hosted by the mayor of Florence, Italy, and again to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra the following year. On Sunday, that dress, which belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold at auction for nearly $1.15 million — a record amount for one of her dresses.
The piece, created by Jacques Azagury, the Moroccan-British fashion designer, was “synonymous with the Princess of Wales’s royal elegance and eternal grace,” the Hollywood auction house, Julien’s Auctions, said in a statement, noting that it had sold for more than 11 times what the auction house had predicted that it would bring.
The dress was sold along with a matching illustration that detailed its black velvet bodice embroidered with metallic stars, a two-tier royal blue organza skirt with a sash and bow (a nod to Diana’s love of dance) and one of her signature looks: shoulder pads.
“The fact that this dress, all these years later, goes for this amount — I think people continue to be in awe of her and her fashion,” Elizabeth Holmes, a fashion critic and expert in the royal family’s style, said in an interview on Monday. “Diana has remained a fashion icon.”
The sale of the dress came as “The Crown” — the opulent Netflix series about the British royal family that has renewed interest in the life of Princess Diana and her children — airs its final season. Several of the show’s 60 episodes are devoted to the princess and the controversies in the years leading up to her death in a car crash in 1997.
The series also showcases her famous clothes. Diana, among the most photographed women in the world at the time, knew her fashion would be observed by millions, and evolved from a modest young woman into a glamorous international celebrity.
“She knew the power of a picture,” Ms. Holmes, the fashion critic, said, describing how Diana used fashion to communicate with onlookers and draw attention to the charities she supported — even as her public speech was limited. When Diana wore the ballerina dress in the 1980s, the princess had truly begun to lean into her personal style, taking risks with shorter hemlines, lower necklines and bold silhouettes, Ms. Holmes said. “You can see that in this dress,” she added. “You can place it in time.”
The sale followed an auction in September at which Diana’s iconic black sheep sweater was sold by Sotheby’s for $1.14 million.
At Sunday’s sale, a blouse the princess wore in her 1981 engagement portrait sold for $381,000, four times its original estimate, Julien’s Auctions said.
Diana was the first to auction off her clothing — cleaning out her closet just months before she died to sell 79 dresses in New York and donate $3.25 million to charity.
“It’s interesting to see how her style, thank God, changed,” Joan Rivers, the comedian, said at the time, as she observed the cocktail and evening dresses. A Los Angeles real estate broker, Donna Burgess, noted at the same event that she had come “to Never-Never Land to get a piece of the fairy tale” that, at the time, appeared to some to be Princess Diana’s life.
As is common, Julien’s did not reveal the buyer of the Azagury ballerina dress. Ms. Holmes, the critic, said she hoped whoever it was would treat it with appropriate care.
“I’m dying to know what the people who buy these clothes do with them,” she said. “Are you hanging it in your closet? What’s going on?”