Wednesday, September 27, 2006

THE PERFECT LBD - FANTASY & REALITY...


Yesterday I toddled along to Christie's South Kensington to have a look at the 20th Century Fashion & Accessories Sale. Christie's was both much better and much worse than I'd imagined. Never having been to an auction house in my entire life before I'd imagined it as some sort of grand building with marble floors, something like the V&A museum nearby - everything in glass cases and an air of hushed reverence for the beautiful artefacts.

In reality Christie's South Ken resembles more of a storage warehouse, with tatty grey corporate carpeting throughout, and is in need of serious refurbishment (except for the auction room which is wood panelled and therefore fits my narrow criteria for what an auction room should look like). When I arrived I discovered that as well as the sale I'd come to view, there were also amongst others, a modern design sale and a film memorabilia sale. Oh my God. Three of my favourite things. There was also a Barbie sale but I could never relate to her - I was always more of a Sindy gal.

I found it really strange that everything from all the various sales was sort of mish mashed together. I had to hold myself back from rearranging a room full of Eames chairs and the like into more aesthetically pleasing arrangements than the way they'd been plonked haphazardly around the place. Some of the clothes from the sale I'd come to view were in the auction room where a Barbie auction was taking place. Every time I moved my arm to get a better look at something and heard the auctioneer say "to the lady in the back 300 pounds, bang", I panicked I'd inadvertently bought a 1984 Rollerdisco Barbie.

Now, something else I couldn't help noticing were the staff. I thought The Sloane Ranger was extinct. But no, a whole tribe of braying Sloanes are alive and well, and working as interns at Christie's. Yes, the Hugh Grant hair, the pink shirt and beige jumbo cords, the fnar fnar guffawing - if that does it for you, get down there and take your pick.

So any - way...now for the good bit. Are you ready? I met THE DRESS. The first thing I saw at Christie's which I was not prepared for was The Original Little Black Dress. Made by Hubert de Givenchy in satin for Audrey Hepburn and worn in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany's. The very same one I've watched a million times on Audrey as she gets out of the yellow cab on 5th Avenue and eats her pretzel, (or is it a bagel?) and coffee whilst looking in the window of Tiffany's.
This one...
Guide price (auction in December) ahem, £50,000 - 80,000. It was just there, on a mannequin right in front of me. It was roped off but I could get close enough to touch it and see every little gather at the waist. I can confirm that Audrey was a teeny, perhaps less than size zero waif. Smaller even than you'd think. In her films they used to pad her waist and hips out because she was so slight.

After seeing that dress I started to think maybe the staff/decor thing wasn't remotely important. I walked ahead to a glass case full of vintage Hermes Kelly bags which - if you were in the market for a Kelly were quite a bargain I thought. I don't know how much they go for in the end but a vintage one was certainly cheaper than a brand new one. There was apparently a Birkin but I couldn't find it. Wouldn't you rather have a worn in battered Birkin than a brand new one? Christie's - my new favourite shop. Ha! Although I did start to think I would not be entirely bonkers if I bid on something.

For example there was a beautiful 70s Ossie Clark dress in black crepe with red and yellow panels (lot 436) with a guide price of £200 - £400. You would have it forever, pass it down to your children - hmm wasn't really considering having children but the old heirloom justification seems pretty solid doesn't it? Everything I picked out as "would bid on in imaginary life if had sugardaddy" was black. They were the pieces in the best condition but were also classic and wearable.

There was also a gorgeous in person Balenciaga skirt suit (lot 249) in thick black wool - the brown jacket I'd seen on the website and liked was practically falling apart, as were many of the lots. There was also a black Gucci trenchcoat with this amazing red printed lining - mint condition - sold! And the best bargain of all: the original design that inspired designers which then inspired the high street to make the rip offs everyone will be sporting this winter. A 1960s Pierre Cardin mini shift dress in thick black wool jersey (lot 379, sold with alligator shoes!) £150 - £250. Bargain!

Speaking of bargains and speaking of LBDs I was on a roll yesterday. If you happen to be near Marylebone High Street and are a British size 12, do pop down to the Cancer Research charity shop. Because they have a black satin Prada classic knee length shift dress with a wide neck and 3/4 length sleeves. And they are selling it for £90. (It was there at 6pm last night, you might want to phone them first to check they still have it.) Really, could I give you any more hot tips? Yes, in fact I can also tell you that round the corner from there at Jezebell in Blandford Street, if you go downstairs they have shoes by Lyell and Rupert Sanderson on sale for as little as £50! (R.S shoes usually cost closer to £400).

*Grrr, there was no point posting pics of the lots because the quality of them on the Christie's website is so bad. (click the links, then click enlarge) Their website is the clunkiest, most unresponsive pile of poo I have ever been reduced to tearing my hair out by. Excuse the haphazard linkage, the site just wouldn't play ball. So it's not just the staff and the carpet that's stuck in the 80s!

9 comments:

lottie said...

Oh dear, I wish you wouldn't do that... I've just hurt my brain imagining how I could have run to the Eames rocker in the furniture sale. Thank goodness I'm going away tomorrow and can't get over there. Not so good to be leaving town though, considering the shoes I'll miss out on, not to mention the Margaret Howell sale at the Music Rooms... gah. I too was a Sindy gal. I think Barbie was a wee bit racy for Devon.

Lola is Beauty said...

Oh God, I LOVE Margaret Howell. My cold turkey consumerism clampdown will be sorely tested by this. The only reason my clothes and furniture are not exclusively from there is cos it's so bleedin expensive usually! merci for the tip!

lottie said...

Oh, me too, I'm so cross to miss the sale, but I spose it is a tick in the non-consumerist column. And her Ercol revival! Just sublime. I've resorted to Ebay for my Ercol fix as it is waaaaay cheaper!

Hester said...

You have SOOOO perfectly described exactly what Christie's sales are like... I went along to a Fashion Rocks (or something like that) one a few years ago and it is so crazy and haphazard and not slick at all - lots of champagne, sloanes and beautiful but tatty clothes... Fun for people watching though.

Bombay Beauty said...

You should have bid! When I go to auctions, I always leave a bid. Typically a lowball bid on something that I really like. It's a win-win (hate to use that expression, but no choice): the thrill of bidding, no disappointment of losing since you don't expect it, and if perchance you win, the double thrill of getting something fantastic and a fabulous price.

I hate to admit this, but I am going to. I'm going to visit the Star Trek exhibition and will bid on something (though I won't confess what).

BB

Julia said...

Oh I love the Pierre Cardin mini dress, it is a bargain!

Very interesting about the Breakfast At Tiffany's dress, thanks!

eurobrat said...

I really have just spilled my tea on my laptop in response to this brilliantly informative post.

Lola is Beauty said...

Next time, I'm telling you I'm bidding next time there's an auction that involves Kelly bags. Cheaper. than. ebay. Oh God...

Moi said...

Oh my god! Can you imagine owning THE dress? (I think she was eating a croissant or pastry, I remember reading that she didn't want to eat the pastry but Blake Edwards forced her to)