Introducing the Travolta dress

This is the first Dress Diaries entry on the Travolta dress worn by Princess Diana and made by Victor Edelstein. This entry is all about research, design choices, and material gathering. With a dress like this, you can’t just dive into the making.


At first the research of this dress was slow. I was stuck in a cycle of Wikipedia and old articles about when the dress first was auctioned for charity by Diana  in 1997. This was helpful for me to learn about the history of the dress but there weren’t too many photos of how it looks today.

Then in July 2020, the Kensington Palace facebook page posted a video of mounting the dress. This was my first glimpse into some of the structure and insides of the dress.

I’m glad to have seen so many photos of the dress and looked at it many times, because originally I thought it flared out from below the knee. This is especially since in the above photo it is flared out due to Diana’s wonderful spin movement.

As we see in other photos and in the video, while the bottom is a circle flare it collapses straight down when standing. This means I won’t need all the tulle and hem stiffening I was planning to get.

The other thing I noticed is that the sleeves themselves are firm and seem to be standing out on their own, away from Diana’s shoulders somewhat and also when displayed.

Design choices

Now we get onto the design choices I’m going to make in my own recreation of this iconic dress.

My own rendering of the dress with potential pearl beading.

The first choice I made was a change of colour. I could get the midnight silk velvet and it is a lovely colour, but in my dress I wanted to go with a colour I would have chosen if I were in Diana’s position. So I looked at various silk velvets and settled on a luscious aqua.

The next design choice was more about making this dress look stunning on me. I chose to build the dress on a couture style corset made of cotton bobbinet. This was for two reasons: 

  1. To ensure the dress stayed on and didn’t end up as a pool of velvet at my ankles. (The joys of an upside down triangle body shape!)
  2. To help me have the shape that I desired when wearing the dress. Luckily I’m rather squishy.

Finally, as a result of the last design choice, I decided to make it zip up at the back, instead of the side zip it originally had. This will interrupt the design in the back slightly but hopefully won’t be too distracting.


Now it was time to make my bank account cry – we started buying materials!

First off, some materials I already had on hand that I didn’t need to buy included various types of boning, silver eyelets, white thread, black thread, calico for mockups, hooks and eyes, hand sewing needles and machine sewing needles.

These are the materials I need to buy:

Item PriceAmountTotal
Silk velvet$90.008$720.00
Cotton bobinet$80.002$160
Coutil (soft)$45.002$90.00
Bone casing$2.8015$42.00
Silk taffeta$69.906$419.40
Aurifil thread$22.001$22.00
All Prices shown in NZD

That’s a whopping $1,453.40 and that doesn’t include shipping costs. Luckily Foundations Revealed has sponsored this project as an offer they made to staff in exchange for being able to use photos and such in promotion for the competition. (This was intended to be entered in the 2023 Competition in the showcase category, but life events got in the way)..

That in hand, I went off and ordered away! And then instantly became anxious about making my dream dress with some of the nicest materials I have ever used for myself. But I reminded myself that fabric’s purpose in existing is to be cut and made into garments and it needs me to do that, and that at the end of the day a dream dress gets made the same way all the other dresses I have made. I’ve got this!

Thank you!

With all the maths done, the choices made, and the research completed, I finished this leg of  the journey. Up next we will talk about pattern drafting and construction plans.

Thank you so much for reading about the research that goes into these recreations. Dream garments hold such magic in them, and it’s important to get it right. They are my absolute favourite project to do whether it is my own dream garment or a client’s.

Do you have a dream garment? What’s stopping you from having it in your life? I’d love to hear all about it, and maybe I can even help manifest your dream into reality. Tell me in the comments below.

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