Princess Diana Dresses Being Auctioned

Princess Diana keeps making headlines, even years after her passing. Now, she is making headlines in the economic news, as 14 of her dresses are about to go on sale at Christie’s.

Dress Auction

The dresses, bought in June of 1997 by Maureen Rorech Dunkel, were supposed to be used as part of the owner’s charitable foundation. She was planning to display the gowns around the world to continue Diana’s legacy.

Instead, Ms. Dunkel has apparently accumulated at least $2.5 million in debt and she has been forced to put the dresses up for auction.

In the Beginning

Buying the dresses at Christie’s in New York in June of 1997 when Diana auctioned off 79 of her dresses for charity, Ms. Dunkel paid $670,000 for the 14 dresses. She is hoping to get that much for each dress, as she looks to pay off her staggering debts.

The auction, taking place in Toronto, is projected to make about $4 million for Ms. Dunkel. While some of the proceeds are supposed to go to the National Ballet School of Canada, much of it will be used to square away Ms. Dunkel’s debts.

The Dress Collection

The dresses include the midnight-blue Victor Edelstein gown that the Princess wore when she danced with John Travolta at the White House in 1985. They include a black halterneck dress she wore at Versailles, one she wore to the premiere of Steel Magnolias, another Bruce Oldfield gown she wore to the Les Miserable premiere in 1995, and two used for her Vanity Fair photo shoot with Mario Testino.

Inspiring Girls

After Diana died in September of 1997, Ms. Dunkel announced that she planned to bring the dresses around the world to inspire young girls and to raise money for charity. She planned for her show to be called Dresses for Humanity. As part of her efforts, she created the “People’s Princess Charitable Foundation” which, she hoped, would “perpetuate the charitable objectives supported by the late Diana, Princess of Wales” as described in her IRS form that year.

While her intentions were lofty, her finances didn’t fit her goals. The Foundation spent more than $1 in its first year on legal fees, pr consultancy and building the exhibits. The insurance to transport the dresses was extremely high and the attendance at her events was much less than expected.

When she filed for bankruptcy in 2010, she owed approximately $3.5 million. With her projected profit tomorrow of over $4 million, Ms. Dunkel is hoping to break even with her debt as she says goodbye to Diana’s dresses.

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