What Happened To Some Of Princess Diana's Iconic Outfits Is Heartbreaking

Princess Diana left behind an expansive (and enviable!) collection of fashion upon her death in 1997. The late Princess of Wales, who tragically lost her life in Paris, France, following a fatal car accident, was a beloved fashionista whose style was widely revered, imitated, but never quite duplicated, both in her native England and beyond. During and after Diana's marriage to Prince Charles, she helped shape fashion trends for other royals and everyday women wanting to embrace their regal side. And despite the princess' humility, she knew the power of her influence. For example, two months before the crash that took her life, she graciously parted with 79 of her gowns for an auction supporting medical research. According to Money, attendees spent $3.25 million on her most beloved pieces.

While Princess Diana left much of her wealth to Prince William, Prince Harry, and other loved ones she held dear, upon her death, some of her robust collection found its way outside of the family for less philanthropic reasons. Over the years, professional auctioneers have gotten their hands on some of Diana's dresses and have sold them to private collectors or anyone with the means to score a piece of her legacy, often for mind-boggling amounts. According to Forbes, in 2023, Sotheby's auctioned a purple velvet gown that Princess Diana once donned for Vanity Fair for around $600,000. And while it was the most expensive auction dress from Diana at the time, it's since lost that title.

Collectors spend up to seven figures on Princess Diana's clothes

Princess Diana's purple velvet gown was unseated as the most expensive of her auctioned gowns in December 2023. According to Reuters, a private buyer shelled out $1.1 million to claim the black and blue gown that the late princess wore in the mid-'80s for themselves. The auction was orchestrated by Julien's Auctions, a famous auction house which has sold items belonging to some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Elvis Presley and Lady Gaga. "Julien's now holds the new world record for most expensive dress worn by Princess Diana sold at auction," the company boasted in a statement.

However, this feminine number was one of several of Diana's gowns the auctioning house was fortunate enough to acquire. The remainder of the collection, around 150 pieces, was also set aside for the public to purchase at the end of June 2024. If you're wondering how the famous auction house acquired the covetable pieces, including her Catherine Walker black velvet evening gown, which has a starting bid of $25,000, well, their record-setting sale in December helped a lot. "Because of that record amount, you've got press, then of course, people started to come to us and say, 'We have this to sell, we have that to sell,'" co-founder Martin Nolan told Today. "So we built this sale. We're still building it, in fact."

What happened to Princess Diana's wedding dress?

Princess Diana's backup wedding dress may be lost to fashion lovers forever, as the designers lost track of it over the past few years, but her original wedding dress is known and accounted for. Fortunately, it hasn't been passed between various members of the one percent by way of public and private auctions. Instead, it's remained in the possession of the royal family, who periodically lends it out for public viewings and displays. During the early 2010s, Diana's wedding dress was featured in "Diana — A Celebration," an exhibit hosted by the Grand Rapids Art Museum between November 2010 and February 2011, per M Live. The exhibit then migrated to Union Station in Kansas City in March 2011.

Although the Brits were gracious enough to temporarily entrust the U.S. with the historic wedding dress, it eventually made its way back home to the U.K. In 2021, Kensington Palace displayed Diana's wedding dress to the public in an exhibit called "Royal Style In The Making." But don't worry, Princess Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry approved of the decision! "We'll be exploring how the partnership between each designer and client worked and revealing the process behind the creation of a number of the most important couture commissions in royal history," shared Matthew Storey, exhibition curator at Historic Royal Palace with Vogue in 2021.