A $200,000 estimate has been placed on one of the most iconic costumes in film history, John Travolta’s white suit from Saturday Night Fever.
The garment is due to be auctioned in California later this month as one of the lots in the Hollywood Classic & Contemporary sale by Julien’s Auctions and TCM, the US cable-TV movie channel.
The 1977 film is listed by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and preserved in the US National Film Registry.
Travolta was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of New York disco obsessive Tony Manero.
His dance in the suit to More than a Woman by the Bee Gees is the stand-out moment of the movie and an iconic image in the history of the music genre.
Julien’s Auctions describe the polyester 3-piece suit as “a pinnacle piece of American pop culture history”.
The outfit takes top billing in a strong sale bill that includes costumes (a Batman cowl from Batman Begins), props (a machete from Raiders of the Lost Ark) and production artefacts such as a story board from Die Hard.
With an attachment to the right star or film, movie costumes can realise huge prices.
The record price – $4.6 million in 2011 – was paid for the white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (1955). Audrey Hepburn’s extremely elaborate Ascot Dress from My Fair Lady (1964) sold for $4.5 million in 2017.
Both were from the extraordinary collection of actor Debbie Reynolds. During her own long Hollywood career she amassed a memorabilia collection, including more than 3,000 costumes, that was valued at more than $10 million when the museum in which it was housed went bankrupt in 2009.
Most of Reynolds’ star items were from the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood that ended with the mass availability of television sets.
Travolta’s suit is from another era, that of independent producers and maverick directors.
Collectors who look ahead and correctly identify which current, apparently ephemeral, trend will become a pop cultural touchstone can profit. It’s a skill that comes only with experience.
The Hollywood: Classic & Contemporary sale will be held on 22 and 23 April. Catalogues are online now.