Knightley dress sets Oxfam record

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The Independent Online

Most second-hand dresses tend to be bargain buys that cost just a few pounds from a high street charity shop. But now a dress worn by Keira Knightley is setting a new benchmark for Oxfam.

A Vera Wang dress that the actress wore once to this year's Oscars is attracting bids of more than £4,000 on the eBay website. The deadline for the auction has been extended from tomorrow until 5pm on Monday in the hope of raising even more money. The dress, a deep claret taffeta silk gown, was custom-made by the designer for Knightley.

The auction is in support of Oxfam's biggest appeal in its 60-year history. The charity is asking people to find £20m to help 11 million people suffering from drought in east Africa. Five countries - Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti - have been dry for many months, bringing death to hundreds of people and tens of thousands of cattle.

The dress went on sale on Monday, attracting initial bids of just 99p. But within hours, bidding had topped £3,000. By yesterday afternoon, there had been 57 bids with a top price offered of £4,160. A spokes-woman for Oxfam said the charity was delighted. "We hope it will go even higher over the next couple of days. We had no idea how much interest there would be and so we are very pleased.

"People should be aware that £4,000 would be enough money to feed 5,000 children in Tanzania, who are facing the worst food crisis they have known, for a whole month."

Knightley is among several British actors who have lent their support to the Oxfam campaign. When the auction was announced, she said: "This is such an amazing dress and I'm really pleased to be able to donate it to Oxfam.

"I've seen the television reports on the horrendous drought in east Africa and know how desperate things have become, so I'm happy to be able to do something to help."

This week, Knightley, who starred in Bend it Like Beckham and Pride and Prejudice, was confirmed as the new face of Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle perfume, taking over from Kate Moss.

Moss was dropped from her overall fashion contract by the company after allegations of cocaine abuse but continued to front the perfume advertising. Knightley follows in the footsteps of the actress Nicole Kidman and the singer Vanessa Paradis in fronting a Chanel scent campaign.