© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY
WECS · WEDW-FM · WNPR · WPKT · WRLI-FM · WVOF
Public Files Contact · ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

An original Princess Leia dress, expected to fetch $2 million at auction, went unsold

A dress worn by actress Carrie Fisher in the 1977 film <em>Star Wars</em> is one of 1,400 items up for sale at a live auction of film and TV memorabilia in Los Angeles this week.
Frederic J. Brown
/
AFP via Getty Images
A dress worn by actress Carrie Fisher in the 1977 film Star Wars is one of 1,400 items up for sale at a live auction of film and TV memorabilia in Los Angeles this week.

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.)

A wax recreation of the famous scene featuring Princess Leia in a gold bikini was displayed at London's Madame Tussauds Museum in May 2015.
Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
A wax recreation of the famous scene featuring Princess Leia in a gold bikini was displayed at London's Madame Tussauds Museum in May 2015.

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."

The newly rediscovered gown was screen-matched with the film and promotional posters, such as the one pictured here along the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2023.
Valerie Macon / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
The newly rediscovered gown was screen-matched with the film and promotional posters, such as the one pictured here along the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2023.

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.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content