Diana fans clamour for details as THREE of her iconic dresses go up for auction – and the gowns are expected to raise more than half a million pounds for a scholarship in her memory
It’s one of the most anticipated auctions for royal fashion aficionados – and when three of Princess Diana’s dresses go on sale next month, they’re expected to fetch more than £500,000.
But for widower Louis Petho, the sale at Julien’s Los Angeles auction house will bring back bittersweet memories, as his wife Ellen, who bought the dresses 26 years ago, passed away earlier this year.
Mr Petho, 82, an economist, who lives in Port Heron, Michigan, is selling the dresses to raise money for a scholarship fund for adult art and design students in memory of his late wife, who has raised more than £1 million for good goals for children with special needs.
“Ellen knew that Diana loved children’s charities and thought this would be Diana’s mission,” he says. “We had some wonderful memories traveling across the United States with the dresses.
Catherine Walker’s green silk Georgette dress, worn by Diana to an evening party at the Dorchester Hotel in November 1993
Mrs. Petho sold the dress and raised a whopping €67,406.63 – a profit of €52,880.63
Ellen Petho, who bought Diana’s dresses at New York’s Christie’s for 26 years, died in January
“She beamed when she saw those kids you’ve never seen. We have seen many sad things, but also many happy ones. A large part of the auction consists of setting up a scholarship fund in her memory.’
The dresses for sale include a red silk Bruce Oldfield gown, which Diana wore to the Hot Shots movie premiere! at the Odeon Leicester Square in 1991; a black and jade Catherine Walker dress that Diana wore to a gala dinner in Toronto that same year; and a black and ivory strapless velvet dress that Diana wore in private.
Mr. Petho, who has three daughters, Karrie, 60, Christine, 55, and Kathy, 54, vividly remembers the day his wife, who ran a design business, bought a total of five dresses from Diana at Christie’s in New York.
It was June 25, 1997, and the event would prove all the more poignant in hindsight as it was only two months before the disaster of Diana’s death in Paris.
A total of 1,100 people, including museum owners, fashion connoisseurs, haute couture collectors and Diana fans, poured into the Manhattan auction house to bid on 79 dresses from the late Princess.
Within two and a half hours, the auction had raised £1.96 million for its chosen charities: the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund and the AIDS Crisis Trust.
‘Her interest in Diana goes back to my youngest daughter Kathy,’ explains Mr Petho, who celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary four months before his wife’s death.
She was a huge fan of Diana and stayed up half the night to watch the royal wedding.
So when Diana announced her auction, we ordered the coffee table book with the dresses on it. There were two tickets inside to view the dresses. So Ellen went to see the dresses and got a ticket to the auction.
“She ran a commercial design firm and wanted to do something different. She thought, “What a great opportunity it would be to start a new adventure in life.”
“So look, she bought five dresses. Then she went to see Larry King later that night. Then she called me and I said, “I have something to tell you before the press gets to me.”
Catherine Walker’s pink two-piece outfit, which Diana memorably wore during performances of the English National Ballet and the Puccini opera La Bohème in 1993
Being the second piece of the late Princess of Wales to be sold by the family, the dress raised £62,221.50 – a profit of £49,078.50
A black and jade Catherine Walker dress worn by Diana to a gala dinner in Toronto in 1991
This stunning dress was purchased for £14,526 and is expected to fetch between £80,000 and £160,000
After ten years of traveling the United States with the dresses, Ellen, who had seven grandchildren Haley, 28, Zach, 24, Carson, 21, Rachel, 20, Sophia and Marley, 18, and Nolan, 16, decided to buy two of sell the dresses. , making a significant profit.
Catherine Walker’s green silk Georgette dress, which Diana wore to the late conductor Sir George Solti’s 80th birthday party in 1992 and for her last state banquet in 1993, brought in £67,406.63 – a profit of £52,880.63.
And Catherine Walker’s pink two-piece outfit, which Diana memorably wore during performances of the English National Ballet and the Puccini opera La Bohème in 1993, brought in £62,221.50 – a profit of £49,078.50.
Both are now in the Fundación Museo de la Moda in Santiago, Chile. “She didn’t want to part with all of them, so she kept three, as we have three daughters,” he adds.
The Julien’s Auction ‘Legends: Hollywood & Royalty’ takes place in Beverley Hills – and online – on September 6, 7 and 8 and includes the three dresses, designed by two of Diana’s favorite designers Bruce Oldfield and Catherine Walker.
The red silk Bruce Oldfield dress Diana wore to the Hot Shots!
Diana wore the dress at the Odeon Leicester Square in 1991, which Mrs Petho bought for £20,752 – and is now listed for between £150,000 and £300,000
A black and ivory strapless velvet dress that Diana wore in private is on offer for £48,000 to £63,000
The red silk Bruce Oldfield dress was bought for £20,752 and is now listed between £150,000 and £300,000.
Catherine Walker’s black jade dress, bought for £14,526, is expected to fetch between £80,000 and £160,000.
And the black and ivory strapless velvet dress Diana wore privately, bought for £15,218, is listed at £48,000 to £63,000.
- Diana: A Life in Dresses by Claudia Joseph is published by ACC Art Books, price £40