Spotlight on: Amy Winehouse’s Dress at Auction

Amy Winehouse's dress worn on the cover of Back to Black. Photo: Kerry Taylor Auctions

Last week, on November 29th, Kerry Taylor Auctions sold the dress worn by the late Amy Winehouse on the cover of her album Back to Black for £43,200 ($68,000). The dress, designed by British boutique label Disaya, was donated by the designer to Amy’s father, and all the profits from the sale will aid the establishment of The Amy Winehouse Foundation, to aid young people struggling with health, addiction and social problems.

The dress as (just barely!) seen on the cover of Back to Black

The auction catalog description of the dress reveals both its details of design, and the story behind its coming to grace the cover of Winehouse’s successful album:

Sold in aid of the Amy Winehouse Foundation The Disaya printed chiffon dress worn by Amy Winehouse for the cover of `Back to Black’, 2006, with engraved gilt metal Disaya label, the short dress printed with bands of graduated dark-red polka dots, the corset-like bodice with under-wiring and central lace bow insertion and waistband, elasticated puff-ball skirt, UK size 8, bust approx 82-86cm, 32-34in, the high waist 71cm, 28in; together with a letter of authenticity signed by the designer – Disaya, (2) Provenance: In 2006, the young St Martins trained, Thai based designer Disaya was approached by her British PR agent with a request for the loan of a dress for Miss Winehouse’s photo-shoot. This request came via his friend – Louise Winwood who was Amy’s stylist at the time and was working on the album cover project for Universal Island Records. Although this was Amy Winehouse’s second album (she was re-launching her career after a break) there was reluctance on the part of many of the leading fashion designers initially approached to assist. However, Disaya was happy to help as she was launching her new label in the UK and felt that the young, innovative designs would be a good match. The photo-shoot took place in the photographer Mischa Richter’s house. Louise took over a selection of clothes for Amy to try, and they both agreed that this dress suited her best. After the photo-shoot the dress was returned to the designer and carefully stored in the Disaya archive. The album went on to sell over 3.2 million copies. In the light of Amy’s untimely death Disaya has decided that rather than keep the dress stored away, that it should be sold and the money raised used by the Amy Winehouse Foundation to benefit young people in need in the UK and overseas. The image of Amy Winehouse is copyrighted to Mischa Richter/Universal Island Records.

Jorge Yarur Bascunan, Director of the Museo de la Moda Chile, photo NY Times

The winning bidder was the Museo de la Moda in Chile, whose director Jorge Yarur Bascunan, has previously purchased other high profile celebrity and designer garments for the museum’s collection. Most sensationally, in June 2010, the Museo de la Moda purchased Princess Diana’s black taffeta engagement dress designed by Emanuel for a record £192,000. The museum, who paid far above the auctioneer’s estimate of £50,000, has announced that thy intend to return the dress to the UK after the death of founder Bascunan. In March 2011, just prior to the Royal Wedding, the auction house sold the transparent dress worn by Kate Middleton at a charity fashion show, where she was “noticed” by future husband Prince William. While the dress itself would not necessarily be lauded for its design or craftsmanship, the value of the story behind it and its future importance as a piece of Royal history, caused it to fetch £65,000 to an anonymous private buyer.

The dress worn by Princess Diana on her engagement day with designer Emanuel

Like many aspirant fashion historians and curators here in London, I have worked as an intern for Kerry Taylor, and relished the opportunity to see and feel some of the fabulous and iconic garments that go up for sale in her auction room. In addition to the seemingly unattainable and expensive pieces, Taylor regularly offers lots of vintage clothes that are affordable even to those who may incorporate such garments in their daily wardrobes, or use them for design research.

The sale of Amy Winehouse’s dress follows in a tradition of clothing belonging to celebrities and performers as valuable, desirable and expensive artefacts.  Amy’s recent untimely death, and the fact of proceeds going to a highly publicised charity endeavor surely raised the hammer price, and will ensure that the dress, if it goes on display at the Museo de la Moda will attract droves of visitors and raise the profile of both the museum and Kerry Taylor’s auction house.

In a few weeks, I will be visiting the Museo de la Moda for the second time, and hope to find out more about the museum’s plans for the dress – and even perhaps to have a peek at it in storage! In the meantime, please share your thoughts about this topic here as well as noting any other significant instances of celebrity clothing at auction.


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