Find of the Week: Castillo for Elizabeth Arden Coat

Sometimes, good things find you.  That certainly was the case last week.  Every step forward bought surprise and delight.  Good news just poured in like bright yellow sunlight on the morning that you want to sleep in.  It just kept inching its way toward me, making me pay attention.  So things only got better when I was able to purchase this coat:



If you’re new to my site, you may not be aware of my complete adoration of  the work of Antonio Castillo.  The Spanish designer took up couture after the Spanish Civil War, designing for major couture houses including Paquin and Lanvin.  He did design for a 5 year period in New York in the 1940s.


Jody of Couture Allure contacted me about the coat a few weeks ago.  She had read my previous post on Castillo’s time designing here in America for Elizabeth Arden.  (New to my site?  Start with this post.) I had posted a Vogue editorial containing the exact coat! It appeared in the November 1st, 1947 run of Vogue, page 142.


I had to wait a bit to purchase it, but it’s finally mine!  Don’t you think it will look stunning with the Castillo for Elizabeth Arden dress I snagged a few months ago?  Not that wearing them has ever crossed my mind . . .
Many thanks to Jody of Couture Allure!  Please visit her site.


Augusta Auctions, Part II

After work, I passed by Augusta Auctions preview of tomorrow’s New York sale.  Tomorrow at noon, 422 swoon-worthy lots will go on the block.  Sometimes people ask me how I amass my personal collection.  Once you really delve into a specialty, like American couture or a weak spot for Lanvin-Castillo, you begin to make all kinds of discoveries.  Like a vintage store in Houston.  Or a kindred spirit with an amazing blog.  You start to develop all sorts of relationships when you share your interests with other people.  Earlier this year, I took my fashion forecasting class to see the April sale preview offered by Augusta Auctions.  I can assure you that if you are a serious fashion collector, this auction is a must attend.


Lot 282: Paco Rabanne Coat & Helmet, c. 1965-67.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.

Everyone should attend at least one auction in their life.  Bidding on a coveted item is a unique experience.  It’s a lot like gambling or playing the stock market.  It’s a mix of adrenaline, sweat, fear, and lust.  Questions flurry your mind and you only have seconds to make a decision: What if someone outbids you?  How much is too much?  What is the real or perceived value of the item?  Is it a solid investment?  Your mind is in overdrive and the auctioneer is crooning to get a higher price.  You’re all of the sudden unsure what hurts more, your purse strings or your heartstrings.

Lot 77: James Galanos Silk Day Dress, c. 1955.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.

Augusta Auctions always has really amazing pieces.  Much of this is because they represent museums.  Museums have limited storage space.  They can only store so many objects safely.  New acquisitions and donations mean that space dwindles.  Curators can either re-organize the storage environment, or decide to edit the collection.  (De-accessioning is when the museum decides to remove items from their collection and sell them on the market.)


Lot 376: 19th Century Matador Cape.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.

The de-accessioning process is what makes the auction so fun.  There is such a rich variety of objects available for purchase.  I was absolutely over the moon for this 19th Century matador cape.  It was a faded light sage green satin with gold gilt raised embroidery.  While signs of wear were apparent, it was such a beautiful piece.

The 1920s were well-represented.  There must have been two dozen beaded flapper dresses.  They were in such great shape they could be worn out on the town today.
Magazines from the time period were also on display.






Another beaded dress I couldn’t take my eyes off of was this Edwardian ballgown.  Beaded objects generally need to be stored flat because of their weight.  The weight of the beads can tear the fabric over time.
Lot 308: Gold Beaded Ballgown, c. 1908.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
And the rest of the images are just items I thought were beautiful.  Take a look.  (And if you’d like to bid on anything, register for the auction on Live Auctioneers.  Good luck!)
Lot 189: British Consul’s Court Bicorn, c. 1799.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
Lot 118: Two Brimmed Cloches, 1930s.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
Dress by James Galanos.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.
Various Hermes Scarves.  Image courtesy of Augusta Auctions.




Passion for Fashion at Kelly Taylor Auctions

There is nothing quite like a good fashion auction.  I’ve written about Augusta Auctions, Christie’s auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate, and Thierry De Maigret.  Another drool-worthy set of fashion and accoutrements are set for the auction block in London on December 3rd at Kelly Taylor Auctions.
Leon Bakst for Diaghilev

Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe Scheherazade Costume for Young Man.  Designed by Leon Bakst, 1910.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

It was difficult not to squeal with delight flipping through the virtual catalog.  Aside from the beautiful curated offerings, photographs, and descriptions – the focus of the sale has a Russian spin.  There are several costumes from Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe available.  I have a big soft spot for the Ballet Russe, which was only intensified after my trip to the National Gallery this summer. (New to my site?  You should check out my previous post, Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe)
Ossie Clark

Ossie Clark/Celia Birtwell Printed Chiffon Evening Gown and Cape, c. 1976.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

Costumes aside, there are some serious designers represented in the lot.  From Worth to McQueen, you’ll be able to find something to pine over.  I was delighted to see this Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell evening gown with a cape.  This power couple virtually created the fashion scene in England during the 1960s and 1970s.  Celia designed textiles while Ossie made garments for famous clients including: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bianca Jagger.


Madame Gres


Madame Gres Black Silk Jersey Evening Gown, c. 1935-1944.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

There is a beautiful Madame Gres available.  The Grecian draping is always perfection.  In black, it’s timeless.


Edwardian Wedding Dress
Madame Hayward Bridal Gown for Regina de Bittencourt, 1914.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.
The 1910s are represented with this gorgeous wedding dress.  It belonged to Chilean heiress Regina de Bittencourt.  The dress is accompanied by primary source articles, wedding photos, and an impressive provenance.
Cecil Chapman
 Ceil Chapman Mint Green Taffeta Evening Gown and Coat, c.1954-58.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.
I pegged this evening dress and coat as Dior, but read that it was Ceil Chapman.  Chapman was an American fashion designer active in New York during the 1940s-1960s.  (She definitely merits an upcoming post!)  Grace Kelly was photographed wearing a similar coat.
Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons 2
Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons.  Denim dress, 2001.  Image courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions.

And my last favorite is this denim dress by Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons.  The spiraling panels of denim and seam-work are too beautiful for words.  If I bought this, I’d never take it off!
close up Junya Wantanabe for Comme des Garcons

See what else is available on the December 3rd auction via the virtual catalog.

Find of the Week: Swirl Dress


It’s always a great idea to read your colleagues’ work.  This can be challenging to do with a busy schedule, and literally thousands of websites to comb through.  But when you find a good blog, you should bookmark it and visit when you have the time.  That’s what I do.   And one site I learn so much from is The Vintage Traveler.  This week’s find is thanks to Lizzie!

The print of this dress caught my eye.  It’s a repeat of a little purple bird perched atop a rambling flower vine.  I wasn’t sure that the silhouette was quite “me”, but since when can I resist a great textile pattern?

I took a closer look, and more and more details made this dress irresistible.  Utilitarian pockets piped in blue and green cording . . .


overlapped tulip sleeves, also piped in the same blue and green cording . . .


a really simple and feminine silhouette . . .


As I examined the closures, I thought it could be a Swirl.  And it was!  (Thanks, Lizzie!)

To get the full story on this label, you really need to read this article, as well as view the numerous articles on The Vintage Traveler.  What makes the Swirl so wonderful is that it was an easy to wear, easy to care for dress.  The company started manufacturing during WWII, so the designs had to be simple.  Once you understand the the construction of the dress, it really shows the innovation and modernity of American sportswear of the era.


Unlike the wrap dress of today, the Swirl closes at the back with a small button at the neck.


 There is a cord and small opening in the side seam to allow the wearer to adjust the fit and silhouette herself.  Button, wrap, and go!  This design allows a woman to get ready in a few seconds, but still look polished and put together.


The dress is made of cotton, making laundering very simple.  Even after I washed it, it didn’t need ironing.  Lucky me!

The Great Gatsby & Brooks Brothers

Teaching fashion history this spring has been absolutely amazing.  There have been so many wonderful places to take my students.  It just so happens that the same week I covered the 1920s, Brooks Brothers also has the costumes from The Great Gatsby on display.  A stone’s throw from campus, we ventured over to take a look at the Fifth Avenue store.
The miniature exhibition was courtesy of Warner Brothers, and completely fascinating.  Brooks Brothers allowed costume designer, Catherine Martin, to access their archives.  Martin designed the historically accurate menswear after carefully studying everything in the archives relating to the 1920s.  There was a short video playing in which Martin talks about the importance of consulting primary sources to make costumes authentic.  Dancing images of old advertisements, swatch cards, and illustrations filled the background as she spoke.


The tuxedos and suits were so elegant.  Yet it was difficult for me to focus solely on the menswear, because the women’s costumes made by Prada were also on display.  Just look at the glitzy, embellished fabric.

Prada gown illustrated by Steven Stipelman.  Image courtesy of WWD.
There has been such a buzz about this film for good reason.  Leonardo DiCaprio always carefully selects his roles, so I’m sure he won’t disappoint us with the remake of this film.  The costumes are magnificent. And, perhaps the best part, WWD covered this topic and included gorgeous illustrations instead of photographs.
Prada gowns and Brooks Brothers tuxedos illustrated by Steven Stipelman.  Image courtesy of WWD.
Fashion illustrations have been abandoned with the advent of digital photography and CAD programs.  It’s so nice to see illustrations making a comeback, because they add  such a rich dimension to the mix.  It furthers the relationship between fashion and art.


  Bottles of Moet champagne complemented the display.  The whole environment just felt so opulent.



Brooks Brothers is also offering a limited edition line of menswear based on the film.  Everything from straw boaters, to oxfords, to full tuxedos are available for purchase.  I’m hoping that this creates a new trend of men dressing up!  It’s so attractive.  All of Brooks Brothers clothing is produced in America.  In fact, most of it is made right in New York.


Who wouldn’t like to be greeted by a man wearing something like this?


All images courtesy of Brooks Brothers and Warner Brothers Studios unless otherwise stated.