Ahead of some of Princess Diana’s most iconic fashions going up for sale at Sotheby’s inaugural Fashion Icons auction, one style expert is analyzing how a certain gown of the late princess’ asserted her reputation as the “people’s princess.”
On Thursday, the fine art auctioneer firm announced Diana’s black and white strapless Murray Arbeid gown, which she wore on two occasions in 1985, would be a part of the event. Diana first wore the evening gown on Prince Edward’s 21st birthday during the Midsummer Night’s Ball held in celebration of the occasion. The second time she donned the dress was in December of that year during the Worshipful Company of Fanmakers Banquet, and Cynthia Houlton, Sotheby’s Global Head of Fashion and Accessories, says the re-wear contributed to Diana being thought of as a “relatable” person, despite her royal status.
Houlton told People, “This was a gown that other people could purchase, but she chose to wear this gown again.” She explained, “I think what’s special about it is that most women who buy evening gowns wear them more than once, so there’s this relatable situation where she wore a gown that you could buy retail. Someone else was wearing it [at the party], but she still liked the gown enough that she decided to wear it again.”
Houlton refers to the Midsummer Night’s Ball when another guest, Natasha Fairweather, showed up in the same dress as Diana. Fairweather told Vogue in 2021, “When I noticed that Diana and [Prince] Charles had gone to the dance floor, I went and danced very close to them so that they would notice [the dress]. As I remember it, Charles pointed it out to her and she laughed; it certainly wasn’t a big deal.”
Of Diana’s re-wear making her seem a kindred spirit for many, Houlton said, “There are different elements of her supporting British designers, people referred to her as a ‘people’s princess.’ She did things that were often relatable, she wasn’t just always doing things that only someone in her position could do. That’s what makes this gown specifically special,” she explained.
In addition to the late princess’ Murray Arbeid gown, her iconic “black sheep” sweater will also go up for auction at the Fashion Icons event. Houlton shared that the two items, as well as pieces once belonging to Michelle Obama, Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kate Winslet, are “all unique, one-of-one pieces that kind speak to the wearer, the time, who that person is, and that’s ultimately what our sale is about.”
Before you go, click here to some of our favorite fashion moments from Princess Diana.
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