The story behind Princess Diana and John Travolta's iconic dance, 1985

Princess Diana toured the United States with her husband Prince Charles in early November 1985. The royal couple stayed at the White House, where they attended a lavish dinner on November 9.

The 24-year-old princess was seen dancing with actor John Travolta to music in the entrance hall of their 1977 film Saturday Night Fever.

Photos and TV footage of her "gliding around the room" were widely circulated around the world, and the gown became known as the "Travolta Dress".

The pair danced to some of Travolta's biggest hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and 'You're the One That I Want' from Grease, before another Hollywood star, Tom Selleck, cut for a waltz with Diana.

Attendees at the party included big names in every field, including Tom Selleck, Gloria Vanderbilt, Estee Lauder, Mikhail Baryshnikov and opera singer Leontyn Price. And some invitations came from Diana herself, including Travolta, Clint Eastwood and Neil Diamond.

Later it turned out that Diana's dance with Travolta has now become iconic, but this almost did not happen. It looked like the princess had her eye on someone else for the coveted spin on the dance floor.

When Nancy Reagan approached John Travolta to tell the famous actor that the Princess of Wales wanted to dance with him, that wasn't really the whole story.

What the future Pulp Fiction star didn't know was that the whole thing was done by Reagan for a press occasion and Diana was hoping someone else would ask her to dance that night.

According to Diana's former butler Paul Burrell, the princess arrived at the gala out of a desire to dance with the famous Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Travolta has spoken about the infamous moment over the years, calling it "one of the highlights of my life" and "the best moment of the eighties". "In the middle of the night, I had to pat him on his shoulder, and I had to say, 'Would you like to dance?' He turned and dipped his head in that Lady Diana and we danced for 15 minutes," Travolta recalled in 2007.

"I'll never forget it. I'm so honored that I was able to experience it, and I know for a fact that it was one of the highlights of being in the United States; it was his favorite moment. So I think I've made his life better; he's made my life better, and I'm so sorry he's not here."

Princess Diana's dress was designed by Victor Edelstein and is an off-the-shoulder midnight blue velvet evening gown. It was actually inspired by Edwardian fashion, which gave "a slight sweep of dress drama". Journalist Jackie Modlinger described it as "dramatic in style" and "royal in clothes".

The Princess of Wales wore the dress again in December 1987 in Germany and at the Wall Street film premiere in April 1988. She wore it in 1997 for her last official portrait photo taken by Prince Charles' uncle, the Earl of Snowdon.

In 2019, it sold for $325,317 to Historic Royal Palaces, a charity that looks after royal memorabilia, including artifacts and clothing.

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