A racy black gown worn by Lady Diana Spencer on one of her first official engagements has been snapped up by a Chilean fashion museum for more than $276,000 — several times the original estimate.
The strapless silk taffeta dress's revealing cut and striking black color caused a minor scandal when Diana was pictured stepping out of a limousine in the outfit in at a London charity event in 1981. But while some thought the dress was too daring for the 19-year-old royal bride-to-be, it helped turn Diana into an overnight fashion icon.
"I think Diana didn't really have a particular sense of style, I mean, she dressed as a typical 'Sloane Ranger' of that time, you know, with the skirts, cardigan, little sweater, pearls, it was kind of a uniform for girls of that age," said Elizabeth Emanuel, who designed the black dress with her then-husband David.
Emanuel said the couple didn't anticipate the reaction the dress would draw.
"Royals aren't supposed to wear black, apart from when in mourning," she said. "And you know, it was dangerously low ... So of course when she did wear it the press went absolutely crazy and every front page had pictures of Diana wearing the black dress stepping out of the car.
"I think from that minute on, Diana became a fashion icon that the press couldn't wait to see what she would be wearing next."
The dress was part of a collection that includes the blouse Diana wore for her official engagement portrait in 1981, and the cotton toile prototype of her wedding gown — also designed by the Emanuels — which was used to ensure the fit was just right.
Also for sale were sketches, notes, invoices connected with her wedding to Prince Charles — including the handbag Emanuel carried to the event at St. Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981.
Chile's Museo de la Moda paid 192,000 pounds, or about $276,500, for the dress, a price that includes the buyer's premium.
The Emanuels, who are no longer married, were the sellers.