How much they cost. From Princess Kate’s wedding dress to the designs of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe: the most expensive dresses in the world

The tour of the world’s most expensive dresses begins its public gaze at red carpet ceremonies or royal weddings. Then they can be protected by collectors, in addition to entering the collection of museums. In recent years, auction houses have joined the search for those designs that refer to craft production with the highest quality fabrics that characterizes the fashion of the last century, given the growing interest in the international market.

In 2015, the pink ostrich feather dress by Cristobal Balenciaga offered in his Fall/Winter 1965-1966 Couture collection sold at Sotheby’s for €56,200yes The house dedicated to the auctions of the entertainment industry Julien’s Auctions sold the emblematic white dress that Marilyn Monroe immortalized in the film The seventh year itchdirected by Billy Wilder in 1955, by $4.6 milliondesigned by Hollywood costume designer William Travilla.

The Cristobal Balenciaga dress that was auctioned at Sotheby's
The Cristobal Balenciaga dress that was auctioned at Sotheby’sSotheby’s

The value of Couture

Custom made designs increase in value over the years. Nowadays, a haute couture dress costs 10 times more than in the 60’s. The reason could be that since the end of the Second World War fashion became more democratic and women leaned towards prêt-à-porter and that notion of elegance that was sought in those days no longer exists, it is not necessary . Tailor-made dresses for an individual body are time-consuming, require a lot of testing and demands more than 100 hours of work.

Sidney Toledano, former president of Dior Couture and current CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, says that “The new generation is very fast, it is flexible” to explain the change of this process reduced to three tests without resigning the experience linked to tradition, where each stitch is made by hand by a craftsman.

Hand-sewn sizing, cutting, and seams are the essence of these exact-fit dresses that later command prices similar to works of art. These steps are in charge of “les petites mains”, the group of artisans that maintains the tradition: although in the images that are published the couturiers are seen finalizing details about the client’s body, most of the designers do not participate in this process until the final test and photo. Today there are around 70 seamstresses working, such is the case of Valentino’s atelier in Rome, while in the golden age of Haute Couture there were five hundred people who worked in the workshops.

Around 70 seamstresses work at Valentino's atelier in Rome
Around 70 seamstresses work at Valentino’s atelier in RomeInstagram

Unless they go on sale, the value of the designs is assessed according to the estimate given by the specialists. It transpired that The wedding dress that Kate Middleton wore at her wedding with Prince William in 2011 cost £250,000, a value that the House of Windsor denied. However, this number was defined given the design created by designer Sarah Burton, at the head of Alexander McQueen, the house chosen “for the beauty of its craftsmanship and its respect for traditional labor and the technical construction of clothing. ”

The wedding dress was made up of a skirt that, when walking, emulated a flower that opened, a train of 2 meters and 70 centimeters and a veil with four motifs that represented each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom, embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework. Amal Alamuddin’s wedding dress at her wedding to actor George Clooney was signed by Oscar de la Renta and valued at $380,000. chiara ferraginithe blogger behind The Blonde Salad analyzed as a success story by Harvard University as a business model, chose two dresses from Maison Dior for her wedding with Italian rapper Fedez: both designs are estimated at $420,000.

The wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William in 2011 would have cost £250,000
The wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton at her wedding to Prince William in 2011 would have cost £250,000COVER

Given the excessive value, these dresses become an inspiration for the industry and can create a trend. The creative houses of the design do not repeat them, so the maisons do not earn money for replicating them but they do earn a lot of publicity given by the diffusion (free) of these images. In fact, in the history of Dior, Chiara’s dress is the most viral. Or such the case of Audrey Hepburn and the opening scene of Blake Edwards’ 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s with the dress signed by Hubert de Givenchy: the couple of the actress and the couturier became an aesthetic myth in the history of fashion and she the muse of timeless and discreet elegance. The famous sleeveless black Italian satin dress with a cut-out neckline, accompanied by black elbow-length gloves was auctioned in 2006 by Christie’s for almost a million dollars: the piece was donated by Hubert de Givenchy himself to his friends Monsieur and Madame Dominique Lapierre for the City of Joy Aid charity.

The value of the Oscars awards gala

In 2007 Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar for Scandal and came to Hollywood boulevard with a Armani Privé dress valued at $250,000. At the same gala, Kate Winslet wore a Valentino when she was nominated for Secret Games, whose cost amounts to 100,000 dollars. Jennifer Lawrence took the stage at the Dolby Theater in 2013 to receive the statuette for her performance in The bright side of life, in a Dior Couture Spring 2013 dress valued at $4 million. The following year, Lupita Nyong’o lifted her award for 12 years a slave in a $150,000 Prada design. In 2016, Rooney Mara was nominated for her role in carol and for the occasion she wore a $100,000 Givenchy lace creation.

When Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar in 2007, she wore an Armani Privé dress valued at $250,000.
When Cate Blanchett was nominated for an Oscar in 2007, she wore an Armani Privé dress valued at $250,000. Shutterstock – Shutterstock

Unless they are ambassadors of the maisons, like Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman and Charlize Theron with Diorthe stylists are in charge of curating the dresses for the red carpets that their clients will wear. These are pieces that require 150 hours of craftsmanship, a number of meters of noble fabrics and specialized hands in this craft that millions of people around the world will see. Some of them will mark an emblematic memory. Although the Oscar award began to be awarded in 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the costume designers of the studios were in charge of dressing the stars during the golden years of the mecca of cinema. In the 1990s, the era of fashion houses began and since then they have assigned a department that is in charge of producing these expensive dresses tailored to the body and personality of a celebrity capable of creating a fashion moment that generates sensations in the great public.

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