Published: September 27, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy Augusta Auctions
BELLOWS FALLS, VT. – Augusta Auctions welcomed the change of seasons with its Annual Autumnal Auction on September 14 that included garments from three centuries of fashion, including designer, couture and historic clothing. Many of the lots were new-to-market, having been deaccessioned from museums, historical societies and private collections including A.T. Jones & Sons of Baltimore, Md., known as the oldest costume shop in America. The auction’s sell-through rate was 89 percent with a total of $147,625.
Rising above its peers was a men’s semiformal robe from China that sold at the top of the sale for $4,000. Known as a jifu, the robe was a full-length garment worn for attending court or serving in the Manchu imperial government. The robe was comprised of royal blue silk and embroidered with couched gold thread, showing dragons, waves and clouds floating above a mountain. Couching thread is a method of reinforcing the embroidery to prevent fraying. Nevertheless, the robe was in fair condition with detached gold cords, minor shattering in areas, a tear in the left sleeve and some other tears; this did not affect the buyer’s, a private collector, decision as this was the only bid submitted online.
The second highest selling lot was a 1924-25 cream silk satin evening cloak from Paquin, made in France and from the Jones collection, that swanned in at $3,250. “Stalked in” may be less graceful but more accurate, as the cloak was trimmed with ostrich feathers on its collar and hem. The silk had a raised weft in a classical stylized leaf and undulating band motif, and the cloak was lined in pale peach panne velvet. Designed by Madeleine Wallis, who was the lead designer at Paquin from 1920 to 1936, the cloak was made for the house’s 1924-25 winter season. Paquin was one of the first fashion designers to feature dates on its labels, and with this information Augusta was able to trace this design to a croquis, or sketch, of the coat in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection.
About a century older than the ostrich-trimmed cloak was a cream silk satin evening dress from the mid-1820s from the Ohio State Historic Costumes & Textiles collection. The dress sported short silk tulle-covered puff sleeves that framed a bateau neckline, embroidered with three densely banded and pleated leaf appliqués. The fitted bodice showed self-cording with trefoil details, and this method was used again on the silk tulle overlay of the skirt’s hem with an undulating wave motif. The dress was in very good condition and sold for $2,875.
Nineteenth Century clothing was a popular category in the top lots, including the most voluminous of these and possibly the heaviest. A three-piece evening gown from the late 1860s was brilliant in glazed magenta wool sateen, which was the third highest selling lot at $3,125. It is likely that the gown was made in 1868, the same year that A.T. Jones & Sons opened its storefront. Its peers were slightly later, mostly from the 1880s to the 1890s. Another three-piece gown in horizontally ribbed silk made for a wedding was adorned with a high stock collar, side-bows, waxed-filled pearls, fine crystal seed beads and silk ribbon, and sold for more than its $500/800 estimate at $2,063.
Another late Nineteenth Century garment to multiply its estimate was a women’s embroidered chyrpy, a ceremonial mantle associated with the Tekke people of Turkmenistan. According to the website of former dealership Arastan Studio, “the Turkmen embroidery tradition is rooted in the belief that their intricate…needlework provides protection through birth, childhood and marriage.” This example from the A.T. Jones & Sons collection was in fair condition with its sleeves removed, yet still bid to $2,625 ($400/600).
As the Twentieth Century approached, the gowns in this sale became even more decorated. An evening gown made with an embroidered swag and floral motif, adorned with lamé-wrapped silk cord and beaded appliqués and lined with burnt umber silk velvet more than doubled its $600/800 high estimate at $2,000. Following this in price was a rose-colored silk satin dinner gown brocaded with flowers in cream, yellow and gold, with silk velvet leg o’ mutton sleeves, which also surpassed its $800-$1,200 estimate for $1,875.
Next was a reversible 1910s evening coat made from lamé and royal blue silk, woven and overprinted in Fauvist floral and arboreal motifs. This artistic movement emphasized strong color and movement, flouting representational art to express the “feeling” of its subjects. The movement easily lent itself to textile design. Listed as in excellent condition, the coat also came from the Jones collection and turned its $800-$1,200 estimate over to achieve $2,750.
The 1920s were a popular decade in the sale, including a party dress that is in itself a lesson in fashion history. The dress was made with cream Georgette, a type of crepe material that is usually made from pure silk and named for its inventor, French dressmaker Georgette de la Plante. With cutaway details throughout that were reinforced by silvered bugle beads in iridescent sequins, the dress showed Lunéville embroidery in petaled floral and medallion motifs on a beaded grid. This method of tambour embroidery originated in the town Lunéville of Lorraine, France, and is achieved by pulling a hook through the fabric and is often used with beading and sequins. The dress stitched up $2,000 past its $1,2/1,600 estimate.
Closer to the top of the price list was a group lot of the same era, but worlds away from the sale’s delicate, glamorous evening gowns. A five-piece prison inmate’s uniform from the 1920s ranked fourth in price at $3,000; the lot included a jacket, waistcoat, trousers and cap in a wool-cotton blend of horizontally striped fabric, as well as a long-sleeved cotton shirt with an inmate number printed over the pocket. Although it came from a Maryland state correctional facility, the waistcoat showed Parisian stamps. The uniform was in fair to good condition and from the Jones collection, most likely with more of a story than we will ever know.
A lamé silk damask evening dress, circa 1935. The single layer showed a chinoiserie-influenced motif with plunging neckline that echoed the asymmetrical handkerchief hemline. The spiral-pieced body and neckline was bordered with cream crepe chiffon exhibiting a lamé leaf print, which was also used for a tie belt. This silhouette shows a marked departure from the Lunéville dress that was made about a decade earlier. The dress sold for $1,813 despite its $500/800 estimate due to a few condition issues.
The San Francisco label Lilli Ann also made an appearance in the top lots with a brown and black wool princess coat. This style is named for the princess seams that run vertically over the bust; the coat also showed a trapunto quilted collar and graduated chevron skirt panels. It doubled the high estimate of $600/800 to $1,688 and was in excellent condition. Lilli Ann was founded in 1933 by Adolph Schulman, who named the company after his wife, Lillian. The label is known for its precisely designed and constructed coats and suits, and is much sought-after by vintage dealers and collectors.
The auction did not only include clothing and accessories, but also fashion history ephemera. Two document boxes containing press materials from 1965 to 1999, once belonging to American fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert (1903-2003), collected $1,875. These boxes contained more than a thousand documents between them, including runway packets, designer portraits and fashion photographs. Lambert was a driving force in the American fashion industry and instrumental in making New York City one of the world’s style capitals. She was the founder of New York Fashion Week, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the Met Gala and the International Best Dressed List.
Prices are quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Augusta Auctions’ Decades of Decadence sale will occur on December 7. For information, 802-463-3333 or www.augusta-auction.com.
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
September 19, 2023
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