14 Dresses: Princess Diana's Iconic Gowns Go Under the Hammer

Florida woman puts 14 gowns under the hammer in Toronto.

June 22, 2011, 1:23 PM

June 22, 2011 -- Some of Princess Diana's most iconic dresses -- including the gown she wore when she danced with John Travolta at the White House -- are to be auctioned off Thursday in Toronto after the Florida woman who owned them went bankrupt.

The dresses up for grabs also include two Diana wore for her photo shoots with Mario Testino that were designed by Catherine Walker, whose fashion house designed the outfit that Kate Middleton's mother Carole wore at the royal wedding in April.

Waddington's auctioneers will place 14 dresses under the hammer, with the "John Travolta" dress designed by Victor Edelstein estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1 million, according to Vince Ciarlo, a spokesman for the auctioneers. He said interest has been expressed by bidders in China, Germany and Britain as well as the U.S. and Canada.

The sale will take place exactly 14 years after Diana herself auctioned off the gowns for charity at Christie's -- a move suggested by Prince William. Diana, who would have been 50 on July 1, 2011, died in a car crash in Paris two months later.

Tampa businesswoman Maureen Rorech Dunkel bought the 14 dresses at Christie's in New York for $670,000.

In her comments in the auction catalogue, she wrote, "As with other important life experiences it is time to close the 'Diana Dress' chapter of my life."

The 14 dresses, she says, show the evolution of Diana's style.

"Her look had developed substantially evolving from frilly, almost fantasy looking pieces to sexy, streamlined creations which clearly provided evidence of both her personal and style maturation," she wrote.

Dunkel bought the gowns as an investment, and now she needs to cash in. She went bankrupt last year.

Her lawyer, Jeffrey Warren, told the St. Petersburg Times, "The dresses are far more valuable than what she owes."

Dunkel founded the People's Princess Charitable Foundation and sent the dresses around the world. They later were on display for a decade at Kensington Palace, Diana's former London home, and returned last year.

The gowns also were shown in some more modest settings, including a Hard Rock hotel and a Missouri exhibition hall.

But with the newly named Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving in Canada next week, the time may be right for the dresses to be in the limelight once again.

"It's a new generation of royalty that has now come in," Ciarlo said. "William and Kate are being viewed as a very stylish duke and duchess, and we're now looking to the future."

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