Parisian Insights: Vintage Fashion at Auction

I had already talked about a fashion auction here when I had reviewed the Elsa Schiaparelli exposition at Christies. I had intended to post today an article about the Sonia Delaunay exhibition held at The Musée d’Art Moderne but my attention was caught last week by the announcement of a major vintage and contemporary fashion auction held until today at Millon & Associés and I thought I could share that first. As often with fashion auctions, not much is said about the history and origins of the items sold: when individuals decide to sell off intimate belongings, it rarely has something to do with very positive compromises. But the catalogue is definitely eye candy for fashion amateurs with a heterogeneous selection of fashion and accessories from the 1930s to the present time.

Christian Dior Ensemble, 1979-1980 Copyright: PB Fashion

Christian Dior Ensemble, 1979-1980
Copyright: PB Fashion

The auction is not a celebrity sale but it does provide us with interesting pieces such as a Jeanne Lanvin 1939 wedding dress, a 1960 Chanel white tweed jacket, a 1971 Bill Gibb ensemble and of course the star object: an Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian 1965 dress….just to name a few. The 400 pieces on auction resemble the ideal wardrobe of an elegant Parisienne with its fancy furs, exquisite accessories and international garments.The Mondrian dress is a true piece of history of fashion and a major example of the combination of art and fashion – Yves Saint Laurent paying tribute to the constructivist lines of the artist, Piet Mondrian. The dress also brought an innovative comprehension of haute couture that was no longer only made of frills, flounces and strass but could also be strikingly minimalist.

Yves Saint Laurent, Mondrian dress, 1965 Copyright: PB Fashion

Yves Saint Laurent, Mondrian dress, 1965
Copyright: PB Fashion

To whom do such auctions address themselves? I would say, everyone. The fashion lovers, institutions and private collectors…Some buy items they could not afford at full price (such as the contemporary pieces or the attractive Hermès and Chanel handbags), others invest in fashion as they would do in art pieces (I remember one of my childhood friend’s mother who possessed an exquisite black dress that had belonged to Marilyn Monroe and who displayed it with pride and passion) and finally the museums that enrich their fashion and costume collections with rarely seen objects.

Jeanne Lanvin Wedding Dress, 1936 Copyright: PB Fashion

Jeanne Lanvin Wedding Dress, 1939
Copyright: PB Fashion

Yet a fashion auction (and its exposition) has nothing to do with the solennel and formal atmosphere of a fashion museum display: the public is allowed to touch, even try on, speak loud…the whole while fighting upon prices and enjoying an enthralling ambience of heart-racing and fighting for one’s favorite item.

The iconic Mondrian dress is ultimately the big draw of the auction (I’ll update this post once the reached selling price is known and why not its buyer, by any chance!) while the accessories attract a younger crowd interested in fancy shoes and bags that add a ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’ chic and nostalgic feel to their high street outfits.

Bill Gibb Ensemble, 1971 Copyright: PB Fashion

Bill Gibb Ensemble, 1971
Copyright: PB Fashion

Before being a fashion professional, I am above all a fashion lover who enjoys nothing more than to see and touch clothing pieces I would never have the chance to put my hands on in another context although I have never bought anything at auction. Have any of you?

I would be curious to hear from museum professionals and what they think of fashion auctions and if they are useful to their work and collections?

Further Resources:

You can browse the full catalogue of the action here.


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