Princess Diana's iconic gowns, letters sell for $1.5 million-plus at Beverly Hills auction

Princess Diana walking in a black dress and pearl choker holding a black purse on her left with the other arm thrust forward
Princess Diana in June 1994, clad in what would later be remembered as her "revenge dress." (Princess Diana Archive / Getty Images)

Twenty-six years after the death of Princess Diana, her spirit — and style — are as influential as ever.

That much was proved true Thursday at the Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel, where Julien's Auctions sold more than 50 of the philanthropist's personal items, ranging from glittering gowns and heels to handwritten notes discussing her young children. It was the largest collection of the princess' clothing for sale since an auction for charity she held herself at Christie's in 1997. Auction items fetched more than $1.5 million.

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The collection sold Thursday, "Princess Diana's Elegance & A Royal Collection," was so extravagant that it went on its own royal world tour, making stops in Hong Kong, New York and Ireland before the items found new owners in Beverly Hills.

"The Princess Diana exhibition and auction are not only a celebration of her enduring legacy but also a testament to the power of fashion, art, and personal objects to evoke emotions, spark memories, and connect people across generations," Julien's wrote on its website. A portion of the proceeds benefited Muscular Dystrophy U.K., a charity Diana was involved with.

The highlights were undoubtedly the gowns — in particular, a 1987 Victor Edelstein magenta silk and lace evening dress that sold for a jaw-dropping $910,000, making it the second most-expensive piece of the princess' wardrobe ever sold. Diana wore the gown twice in 1987, first on Jan. 25 in London and then Nov. 6 in Hamburg, Germany.

The second showstopper was a Murray Arbeid gown made of cascading blue tulle accented by glittering stars. It was reportedly one of Diana's favorites, and she wore it repeatedly — including at the world premiere of "The Phantom of the Opera" in London on Oct. 9, 1986, a dinner for King Constantine of Greece on July 6, 1986, and later a ballet on Dec. 17, 1987. The dress was valued at $200,000 to $400,000, but bids soared to $780,000.

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Also available were several of Diana's personal notes, cards, photographs and letters, one of which discussed her being pregnant with Prince Harry. The three-page letter sold for the highest amount in the category, going for more than $44,000.

The public's enduring obsession with the princess has been revived in full force in recent years, with popular shows such as Netflix's "The Crown" and the film "Spencer," starring Kristen Stewart, exploring Diana's upbringing, chaotic marriage to now-King Charles III, prolific philanthropic work and tragic death at 36.

As the current royal family struggles through controversies — King Charles' "serial killer" portrait, Princess Kate's bungled announcement that she was stepping away from royal duties for cancer treatment, and revelations surrounding Prince Andrew's unsavory acquaintances — love for Lady Di seems to endure.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.