Diana’s ‘John Travolta dress’ to go on display

Diana, Princess of Wales’ famous gown dubbed her “John Travolta dress” is to go on display after remaining in lockdown for months.

The dress, bought by Historic Royal Palaces for £220,000 last December, will now be the star attraction when the princess’ former home Kensington Palace reopens to the public on Thursday.

Diana wore the midnight blue velvet gown, designed by Victor Edelstein, to a White House Gala in 1985, and was famously swept onto the dancefloor by Travolta.

Images of the princess and the Hollywood star twirling made headlines around the world and immortalised the dress in the eyes of the public.

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Arguably the most iconic and memorable gown Princess Diana ever wore, second only to her wedding dress:⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ The midnight-blue velvet evening gown by Victor Edelstein, worn to attend the White House State dinner on the 9th November, 1985, where she famously danced with John Travolta⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ Victor Edelstein made dresses for Princess Diana over an eleven-year period. She would often pop into his shop at 3-4 Stanhope Mews and look through the collections whilst her security guard waited outside. The Princess saw this model in his studio in burgundy and requested it be made for her in midnight blue. The fittings for the gown took place in her private apartments at Kensington Palace. At the last fitting, Princess Diana was so delighted with the final result that she rushed to show it to Prince Charles. Mr Edelstein recalls that the Prince, who appeared in full regimental dress (as he had an official engagement that day), told the Princess that she looked wonderful in the gown and that it would be perfect to wear with jewels⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ Falling alluringly off the shoulders and with a diagonally-swathed velvet skirt which hugs the figure tightly to the knee, then flaring out into a broad flounce above layered tulle petticoats, this is one of the most glamorous gowns she ever wore. And it was clearly a favorite, being worn for at least five further Royal engagements⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ Poignantly, Princess Diana chose this gown 12 years later to wear for the last official portrait ever taken of her. The photograph, by Lord Snowdon, shows a thirty-five-year-old Princess appearing self-assured, confident and, of course, dazzlingly beautiful⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ (Lot 237, estimate £250,000-350,000. Auction 9th December)⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ .⁠⠀ #princessdiana #fashionhistory #johntravolta #thewhitehouse #victoredelstein #passionforfashion #vintagecouture

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The actor later described the experience as being “like a fairy tale”.

Sam Owen, Head of Kensington Palace, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming visitors back to the palace again this Thursday.

“Kensington Palace was built to be enjoyed by hundreds of people and it’s been sad to see it so quiet over the past couple of months.

“Myself and the team can’t wait to welcome visitors back again and give them a suitably royal welcome. We’ve never needed their support more – each visit is an important contribution to help us maintain this wonderful building for generations to come.”

The gown – which Diana originally spotted in burgundy but asked Edelstein to make in blue – did not reach its reserve price of £200,000 when it went to auction.

Academy Awards – Oscars – Kodak Theatre
John Travolta (Ian West/PA)

It had been expected to fetch between £250,000 and £350,000 at the Passion for Fashion sale at Kerry Taylor Auctions in London.

But it later sold post-auction for £220,000 to Historic Royal Palaces, a charity which looks after a number of historic buildings including Kensington Palace.

Kensington Palace closed in March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and has since been quiet, with the shutters of its famous galleries closed to protect the collections on display.

A royal residence for more than 300 years, it is the birthplace of Queen Victoria and the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their family.

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