An original Princess Leia dress, expected to fetch $2 million at auction, went unsold
Updated June 29, 2023 at 3:07 PM ET
A gown worn by Star Wars' Princess Leia (played by the late actress Carrie Fisher) in the first film of the blockbuster space saga, A New Hope, was up for sale at this week's Entertainment Memorabilia Live Auction.
The gown had been expected to fetch up to $2 million, with bids closing Wednesday. But things didn't quite pan out the way people had expected.
Instead, the dress went unsold, having failed to meet the seller's minimum sale price. Bidders stopped short of the minimum price its owners required to make a sale ($1 million), with a final bid amount of $975,000.
Propstore, the company behind the auction, said it was still actively accepting post-auction offers on the dress.
"It may be sold after the auction in a private-treaty sale, or may be re-offered again in a future auction," the company said in a statement to NPR.
The slim-fitting silk gown features in the final scene of A New Hope
The costume is believed to be the only surviving Princess Leia look from the film that launched a cultural phenomenon.
The 1977 film, later subtitled Episode IV – a New Hope, features the gown in its final scene, in which Princess Leia presents medals of honor to the newly minted heroes of the rebel alliance, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.
The white gown serves as the focal point of the mise-en-scène. It's even the last object visible as the final shot transitions to the director's credit, in the movie equivalent of what'd be a final bow on stage.
"The dress is a real relic. It's an absolute piece of film history," said Brandon Alinger, the chief operating officer of Propstore.
"When Star Wars fans see it, they stop in their tracks, they gasp a bit at the sight of it, because they recognize the significance of it," Alinger said.
The tone-setting dress helped its designer, John Mollo, win the Oscar for best costume design at the 50th annual Academy Awards in March 1978.
Referred to as Princess Leia's ceremonial gown, the floor-sweeping frock is made of slim-fitting silk and adorned with a single silver-plated belt.
It's in the senator's signature color (white), but, notably, features a scooped neckline and empire waist, which leave it less conservative than the hooded, roomy garments Leia wears for most of the franchise.
(That excludes the gold bikini get-up, trademarked as "Slave Leia," that'd come to define her later character transformation. The fact that the arguably more iconic look only sold for $96,000 in 2015 underscores the significance of the ceremonial gown.)
The original production had only a humble budget of $11 million, which may be why the costume team made just one single version of the ceremonial gown for filming and photos.
Those involved with the film thought that the piece had been destroyed alongside the original sets — until word got out that it was intact, collecting dust in a London attic.
The dress, long thought to be gone, was swiped from the set and stored in an attic
A crew member had swiped the dress from the burn pile, according to Alinger.
"It was 10 or 12 years ago that we first became aware of the piece," he added. "It was such a moment when we first learned of this and then, ultimately, when the Star Wars fandom learned that this piece still existed."
Professional textile conservators conducted a "meticulous, museum-caliber" restoration of the garment, according to its auction description. It took a total of eight months for teams to remove the dust that had accumulated on the gown and patch tiny holes that'd appeared in the fabric's fragile areas.
The hem and seams were restitched and restored with the highest archival standards — which ultimately means, the auction catalog implied, you could let the seams out if Fisher's dimensions don't match you perfectly.
But there's a decent chance the piece is destined for a display collection and not for personal wear, given the price point the dress had been expected to sell at.
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