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Weekly Auctions of Exceptional Items
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London, United Kingdom
DoneMon, Jun 26, 2006 9:00 AM GMT

Passion For Fashion & Fine Textiles

The eagerly awaited Passion for Fashion sale has arrived. The crème de la crème of haute couture and street fashion, gathered by Kerry Taylor from all over Europe will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s New Bond Street at the end of June. Parisienne-chic in the form of beautifully tailored gowns in confectionary colours by Hubert de Givenchy, fabulous handbags by Hermès, costume jewellery made for and owned by Madame Chanel herself will all go under the hammer. Museums and private collectors alike will be eager to acquire rare, early garments by luminaries of the fashion world such as Madeleine Vionnet, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Christobal Balenciaga and Elsa Schiaparelli. The Schiaparelli garments have an interesting English provenance, having been owned and worn by the stylish Lady Clark of Saltwood, who was President of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers in the 1930s. This important role meant that she had to dress to impress and the skin-tight gowns made for her by Schiaparelli emphasised her sinuous, slender figure. The black velvet gown illustrated with Mortitia-like flounced hem has two large celluloid zip fasteners to each side of the torso. The zipper was the latest innovation of the day and Schiaparelli rather than conceal them often made a feature of them in her designs. A jacket from her 1936-37 collection has unusual scrolling pockets. Salvador Dali one of her many Surrealist friends collaborated with her in the design of the pockets that particular season. Those who wish to buy-to-wear with hundreds to spend rather than thousands will be tempted by the myriad lots dating from the turn of the 20th century to the 1990s, from superb wearable Irish crochet-lace coats, twenties flapper gowns, thirties bias cut glamour numbers, forties and fifties day and evening wear through to mad, bad punk pieces by Westwood, Gaultier and McQueen of the 80s and 90s. All of the pieces in the sale are selected for their beautiful fabrics, style and good condition with estimates from £200 upwards. The sale boasts the sublime haute couture collection of the gamine actress Leslie Caron who starred in numerous films including `An American in Paris’, 1951, `Daddy Long Legs’ 1955 and `The L-Shaped Room’, 1962. Her clothes for the films were sometimes designed by Givenchy and Saint Laurent and the sale includes items she wore on set. She eschewed casual dress and said `I never had blue jeans, I asked Marc Bohan to design me a pair of diamante dungarees for the Oscars, that was my idea of a pair of jeans!’ Many of the gowns are accompanied by photographs of Miss Caron wearing them in her inimitably chic manner. The sale also includes garments of historic importance such as a pin-striped suit, night shirt and hand muff owned and worn by Sir Winston Churchill (with integral cigar burns) – but also a stylish black cocktail gown owned and worn by Diana, Princess of Wales. This is the first time that a `Diana dress’ has been auctioned in Britain since her tragic and untimely death almost ten years ago. The gown by the London-based Belville Sassoon & Lorcan Mullany made for the Princess in June 1991 is the last lot in this auction.. It was purchased by Paris Match magazine as a competition prize at the auction of Diana’s wardrobe in June 1997 for $43,700. Its French seller finds ownership of such an important gown a heavy responsibility and has decided to send it back to England for auction. It is hoped that the gown will find a new home where it will be adequately cared for, preserved and possibly displayed for members of the public to enjoy. Arguably the finest textile lot in the sale is an extra-ordinary album quilt made by Ann West in 1820. The patchwork is signed and dated by her and incorporates in the mosaic ground soldier’s uniforms from the Napoleonic wars. It is covered in vignettes of three dimensional appliqué, including imaginative renditions taken from the Bible as well as scenes from her everyday life including gipsies, chimney sweeps, harvesters, negro slaves, a highly fashionable wedding and even an auctioneer. It is not only a fabulous textile but a unique piece of English social history of the early 19th century. One patch is embroidered `Forget Me Not’ – something unlikely to happen now after its rediscovery in a trunk nearly two hundred after it was made. Its vendors hope to use the proceeds to fund their trip to the Football World Cup this year. Lace from the Fulvia Lewis collection is one of the best lace offerings on the open market this decade. Hopefully there will be something for everyone. Happy bidding!