Published: May 3, 2016
Review By Andrea Valluzzo,
Onsite Photos By Greg Smith,
Catalog Photos Courtesy Charles Whitaker
NEW HOPE, PENN. — Charles Whitaker’s spring couture and textiles auction April 15–16 achieved robust results across the board, with exceptional garments from the 1890s to the present day fetching good prices, proving the market for vintage garb remains healthy.
Boasting important deaccessions from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of the City of New York highlighting America’s Gilded Age, this sale was possibly the best offering Whitaker has compiled to date of his semiannual auctions.
Among early works in the sale were circa 1890s–1910s gowns by designer Charles Worth, likened to the Louis Comfort Tiffany of the fashion industry, who was well represented in the auction with not one, or a dozen, but a whopping total of 45 garments by Worth or the House of Worth. “Normally I would be very excited to have one Worth in a sale, but to have 45 is unheard of. I am certain it is the largest collection of Worth garments to be offered at auction ever!,” Whitaker said before the sale. Most of the Worth gowns fetched between $2,000 and $3,500. The top lot of the grouping was a Worth Paris empire gown in velvet brocaded satin, peacock blue, that earned $4,200.
“We saturated the market with Charles Worth. The prices leveled out but Twentieth Century couture was really strong across the board. It was a very strong sale,” Whitaker said afterwards.
Other early designs that topped the sale were a beetle wing and metallic embroidered dress, 1860s, a two-piece white organdy creation, outperformed its $1,2/1,500 estimate to bring $7,200; and a silk bustle dress, 1878, including a Paris studio photograph of a woman wearing the dress, brought $6,000. From the gilded age, a J.P. Morgan family dress ensemble, 1890s, sold for $4,500. The dress was from the Ann Morgan collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The top lot of the auction, however, was made decades later — a rare Charles James strapless tree ball gown, circa 1952, in pink silk taffeta, that more than tripled its high estimate to attain $12,000. Also performing well from the same time period was a Schiaparelli Paris couture dress from 1950 in cream silk with an overlay of Maison Dognin cream tulle embroidered with metallic gold foliate sprays that went for $9,500.
Christian Dior designs stand the test of time, and in this sale, a Dior wool ensemble, fall/winter 1958, featuring a blue boucle short-sleeve dress with matching bolero, made $9,600, while a Marc Bohan for Dior cocktail dress, fall/winter 1963, in two shades of blue silk-cut velvet having cap sleeves and a boatneck bodice took $8,400. Another Marc Bohan for Dior creation was a chiffon cocktail dress from the fall/winter 1964 line, Metropolitan Museum of Art. It fetched $6,600.
Leading contemporary pieces across the block was the auction catalog’s cover lot, an Alexander McQueen corset gown, black cotton-blend with stretch lace in the high-low style that is still popular. It trumped its $1/1,500 estimate to bring $6,000.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 215-817-4600 or www.whitakerauction.com.
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