Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Price of Famous Fashion

Black is the new black and maybe it was Madeleine Vionnet or Paul Poiret or Coco Chanel that did little black dresses but really it was Ms. Hepburn who made it iconic. I've begun collecting old fashion catalogs from Sotheby's and Christie's and buying fashion books on Amazon and Ebay. I've wandered through Lily et Cie, gently moving the hangers on the rack as instructed. Rita brought me into the back and showed me the perfect Bill Blass velvet swing coat. She was right, it was perfect; impossibly chic and yet it reminded me of a black velvet coat a seamstress had made for me when I was a child. The price for perfection was 2,800. and I wanted it but couldn't let go of the fact that it was also just a used coat in good condition. It just felt too expensive then. But out of curiosity, some of her things were old but straight from a showroom or from someone who'd never worn it and actually a little finer because designer clothes had fine details and hand sewing then. Then is just a euphemism for the way things used to be done. Christie's auction estimate for Ms. Hepburn's Breakfast at Tiffany LBD was 98,000. - 123,000. It sold for 923,000. The catalog is also collectible now. Ms. Hepburn's black (she and Hubert Givenchy, who did most of her wardrobe, had a thing for black; me too) Chantilly lace dress from How To Steal A Million had a much lower estimate of 23,000. - it sold for 100,000.

There's no moral, no special take-away from this that I can see. Except that Ms. Watnick has a very special shop with exquisite vintage designer fashion and things have changed. Vintage does not mean hand-me-down.

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