Princess Diana’s dresses on display in Hong Kong ahead of auction

Even for the younger generation, Diana looms large in pop culture, the auction is expected to be quite a success.

Shoulder-padded, daffodil yellow and accented with gleaming gold buttons – a very of-its-time suit Princess Diana wore during her 1989 trip to Hong Kong is now among six outfits on display in the former British colony.

The collection of dresses, shoes and handbags – some of which are familiar fashion moments from the Princess of Wales – is part of a 12-day exhibit at a Hong Kong mall which launched on Thursday.

They will then be on display in Ireland at another exhibit before going on auction on June 27.

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Princess Diana’s fashion statements

“She made a fashion statement every time she got dressed and went out the door,” Martin Nolan, executive director of California-based Julien’s Auctions, told AFP.

The yellow suit, designed by Catherine Walker, is estimated to fetch up to $50 000 – a fraction of the $400 000 that a midnight blue star-embellished tulle gown is expected to bring at the auction block.

Diana had worn the show-stopping number designed by Murray Arbeid to the 1986 “Phantom of the Opera” premiere in London’s West End.

Visitors milled about the small, pop-up space on Thursday, pausing every once in a while to take a closer read of an outfit’s history.

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Remembering Diana’s visit in 1989, an elderly shopper surnamed Fung said the streets of Hong Kong were crowded with people hoping to catch a glimpse of the glamourous royal.

The 65-year-old added that the city’s affection for her went beyond the usual fanfare for other British royals.

“Diana was charismatic, caring and devoted to charity. That’s why a lot of Hong Kongers respected her,” Fung said.

Other notable items included a Victor Edelstein-designed silk and lace evening dress, as well as a pink floral Catherine Walker dress, which Diana wore in 1991 when she kept bedside vigil beside close friend Adrian Ward-Jackson.

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‘Fashion and history’

The pieces are all “tangible assets and great conversation pieces”, said Nolan, given that people still find Diana relatable more than two decades after she died in a tragic car crash.

“People are still in love with Diana as if she was with us today, and that’s the amazing thing about it,” he said.

Last year, Julien’s Auctions sold one of Diana’s evening dresses for $1.14 million, breaking records and showing that collectors’ interest remained undimmed.

Even for the younger generation, Diana looms large in pop culture, said Kathleen, a digital marketer in her 20s, who reckons that might be in part due to Netflix’s hit series The Crown.

And her style might be coming back in vogue, she told AFP.

“It ties together fashion and history,” Kathleen, who only gave her first name, said of the exhibit.

“It’s different from just seeing photos.”

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