Princess Diana's Dresses Up for Auction

On June 25, 1997, just eight weeks before she died, Princess Diana auctioned off 79 of her most-famous dresses in order to raise money for charity. "The inspiration for this wonderful sale comes from just one person... our son William," she wrote at the time.

The auction, held at Christie's New York, drew 1,100 bidders (and 220 journalists) and, in just two and a half hours, all of the dresses were sold, bringing in more than $3.6 million.

Fourteen of those iconic dresses went to Maureen Rorech Dunkel, a Florida businesswoman who paid $670,000 for them, including a record $225,000 for the midnight-blue velvet stunner that Princess Diana wore when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985. She intended to turn the dresses into a traveling collection meant to inspire young girls and keep the memory of Princess Diana alive. But bankruptcy has forced Dunkel to put the priceless fashion finds up for auction again, this time to pay off her massive debts, estimated at more than $2.5 million.

In a note published by Waddington's, the Canadian auction house that's organizing the sale, Dunkel writes that she originally bought the dresses "strictly with the eye of an investor."

"The strategy I determined would be most valuable was to collect an array of important dresses, which visually depicted the style transformation of the Princess who was claimed to be the most notable style icon of the century," she wrote. "I methodically chose pieces, which represented Diana's 'look' as the future Queen of England... from the early '80s through the late '90s."

"Selling the collection is a poignant and personal event to me," she added. "My only hope is that the new owners of the dresses, whoever they may be, enjoy them as I have and in some way use them to assist those in need. After all, that is the reason Princess Diana put them up for sale to begin with."

Most of the dresses in Dunkel's collection were designed by Catherine Walker; the others are by Bruce Oldfield, Victor Edelstein, Zandra Rhodes White, and Jacob Schaepfer - all British designers.

Though the dresses did tour the world for a while, spending time back in Kensington Palace as part of a royal ceremonial dress collection, they also ended up at Disney World and on display in a furniture shop in Tampa, Florida. They were also used to secure a $1.5 million loan for a real estate deal that collapsed. "She worked out a plan to pay all her creditors in full. After these dresses are sold, her creditors will be paid first," Dunkel's attorney, Jeffrey Warren, told the St. Petersburg Times. "And the dresses are far more valuable than what she owes."

The 14 gowns are expected to bring in about $4 million; the one Diana wore to the White House may bring in $1 million on its own. While we wait to find out how much money they fetch, let's take a look the dresses themselves.

Check out the list of Princess Diana's famous dresses for auction HERE.

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