Johnny Eggitt/AFP/Getty Images
In a true testament to the late Princess Diana's undying cult following, a cotton-polyester sweatshirt that was her top of choice for trolling the tabloids sold for $53,532 on Thursday night. An anonymous buyer, based in California, made the purchase 11 days after what would have been Diana's 58th birthday—and paid more than 10 times the Boston-based RR Auction's original listing price of $5,000.
The shirt's seller, Jenni Rivett, will no doubt welcome the news. In honor of Diana’s devotion to charitable causes in Africa, Rivett, who was Diana's longtime personal trainer, plans to use the proceeds to financially support a family in Malawi. (Though it’s possible she'll add a few beneficiaries to that list, given the uptick in price.)
If you're finding it hard to believe that a Diana devotee would fork over such a hefty sum for a piece of polyester, well, the top holds a bit more significance than that. According to Rivett, it made up one half of Diana’s go-to ensemble for her visits to the Chelsea Harbour Club gym in London. (The other half is the pair of orange bike shorts pictured above.) "She felt there were far more important issues to focus on in the world than her gym attire and therefore decided that wearing the famous Virgin sweatshirt to every session would be a good way to stop the media frenzy," Rivett explains in a letter that accompanies the top, which Diana gave her in 1997, several months before her untimely death.
Of course, despite her best intentions, the sweatshirt ended up becoming a symbol of Diana's reticence towards the press. As for why Diana chose a look that essentially turned her into a walking advertisement for Virgin Atlantic, that might have something to do with the fact that it was a gift from the airline's founder, Richard Branson, who also happened to be her friend. In the late '80s, the royal frequently joined Branson on vacations to his private Caribbean retreat, Necker Island—the same place where Barack and Michelle Obama were spotted yachting and kitesurfing with Branson.