A blouse worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, in her engagement portrait could sell for as much as $100,000 at auction next month.
Diana wore the shirt in 1981 for a portrait that officially announced her engagement to Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. The photograph, published in the February 1981 issue of Vogue magazine, was taken by Antony Armstrong-Jones, First Earl of Snowdon, who was married to Princess Margaret, Elizabeth II’s sister.
The long-sleeved blouse is made of crepe silk chiffon and features a pink satin ribbon that ties in a bow under the ruff-like collar. The front of the blouse has loose pleats, while the long sleeves end with flounced cuffs.
Designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel created the blouse by repurposing one of their custom-made gowns, according to the auction house.
Diana spotted the shirt on a rack of clothing presented to her by the fashion team at Vogue. Her sisters had worked at the magazine, so after getting engaged to Charles, Diana asked if the staff could help her build out her wardrobe.
Elizabeth Emanuel kept the blouse for decades but sold it in 2010. The shirt was displayed at Kensington Palace from 2017 to 2019 as part of the “Diana: Her Fashion Story” exhibition. Soon, it will be up for grabs during a Julien’s Auctions sale that runs from December 14 to 17.
The shirt’s buyer will also get a signed letter of authenticity from Elizabeth Emanual, plus a copy of the 1998 book Diana: Her Life in Fashion by Georgina Howell. The auction house expects it to bring in between $80,000 and $100,000.
The Emanuels later designed Diana’s wedding dress, which she wore on July 29, 1981, in front of an audience of 750 million television viewers. The gown was made of silk and taffeta and hand-embroidered with approximately 10,000 pearls and mother-of-pearl sequins. It had a 25-foot train, and Diana wore a 40-foot-long veil.
Fans can also bid on one of Diana’s evening gowns. Designed by Moroccan-British fashion designer Jacques Azagury, the dress has a black velvet bodice and a two-tier royal blue organza skirt. Diana wore the dress at least twice—once during a dinner held by the mayor of Florence, Italy, in April 1985 and again while attending a Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performance in May 1986. The pre-auction estimate for the dress is $100,000 to $200,000, per Julien’s.
But don’t be surprised if both pieces of clothing sell for far more than expected. Diana’s purple velvet evening gown sold for over $600,000 earlier this year, far exceeding the pre-auction estimate of $120,000. And in September, three of Diana’s gowns sold for a total of $1.62 million.
The latest auction comes as the hit Netflix series “The Crown” revisits Diana’s death and the tragedy’s ripple effects. The show’s sixth season, which premiered on November 16, explores the years from 1997 to 2005.
Diana, 36, was killed in a car accident on August 31, 1997, while trying to evade paparazzi photographers. She had recently started dating Dodi al-Fayed, who also died in the crash, along with the couple’s driver. Diana and Charles had separated in 1992 and officially divorced in 1996.
The series’ latest season—and the high prices Diana’s apparel can command—suggest that, even after all this time, many are still fascinated by “the people’s princess.”
“The fact that [Diana] died in her 30s, with so much possibility, is part of her enduring mystique, … but it’s also that she wore so many different hats in that short life, and that we really saw this woman coming into her own in full public view,” Arianne Chernock, a historian at Boston University, tells Smithsonian magazine’s Meilan Solly.