Every Sex and the City fan will instantly recognize two high-wattage looks up for sale in the latest event presented by Julien’s Auctions — one piece worn onscreen by series star and executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker — as they’ve transcended the function of costumes or fashion to become part of the show’s enduring iconography.
“Unstoppable: Signature Styles of Iconic Women in Fashion” is indeed an apt title for an upcoming auction that includes the three-tiered belted tutu skirt worn by Parker in SATC‘s opening credits (and again in the 2008 movie). The skirt was famously purchased by the show’s costume designer, Patricia Field, who discovered the piece in a $5 bargain bin and fashioned it into one of the most-recognized looks in the series.
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The auction also features a Christian Dior “newsprint” dress designed by John Galliano for his Fall/Winter 2000 collection for the Paris house. Parker wore a similar version in both the show’s third season and in the 2010 movie sequel. Each look carries an auction estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 in the online event, which will accept bids until Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024 at 7 p.m. PST.
While Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional style icon, “Unstoppable” also features fashion owned and worn by some of the 20th century’s real-life style icons, including Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. While Julien’s is known for partnering with Turner Classic Movies to curate auctions focused largely on costumes, this event puts an emphasis on personal items worn by Hollywood stars and other celebrated women when the cameras haven’t been rolling.
“There’s a huge audience out there of fashion collectors who have a passion for rare pieces,” Martin Nolan, executive director and co-founder of Los Angeles-based Julien’s Auctions, tells The Hollywood Reporter exclusively. “That’s why this auction is fashion-oriented to the great ladies of Hollywood, featuring [many] pieces that weren’t seen onscreen, but which are also quite special and rare.”
Among the lots is the ecru empire-waisted Yves Saint Laurent gown with blue velvet sash — auction estimate: $10,000 to $20,000 — worn by Hepburn in 1970 to the christening of her son, Luca Dotti. (An image of the actress and UNICEF ambassador wearing the gown can be seen in Dotti’s 2015 book, Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen).
Grace Kelly had been Princess Grace of Monaco for a little more than five years when she wore an Hubert de Givenchy tweed sleeveless dress and matching jacket, both in “Kelly” green, when she accompanied Prince Rainier in May 1961 to a White House luncheon with President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. That ensemble is considered one of the event’s high-ticket items, carrying an auction estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.
“What we find with fashion collectors is that they aren’t necessarily interested in costumes or Hollywood stuff, but they’ll buy important fashion, especially when it’s worn by a true icon,” Nolan says.
Also for sale is a white jersey caftan-inspired jumpsuit with seashell details that Elizabeth Taylor wore in the 1968 film Boom!, which co-starred her then-husband Richard Burton. The look’s pedigree also extends to its designer: Karl Lagerfeld, who worked for Roman fashion house Tiziani in the mid-1960s.
Taylor had become a fan of the brand, founded in 1963 by couturier Evan Richards, who employed Lagerfeld as his co-designer from 1963 to 1969. “This is a huge opportunity for someone to own something designed by Karl Lagerfeld before he became famous,” Nolan says. “And meanwhile, it was worn by a woman who, when you say her name, you can’t help but think of her fashion and her jewelry. She was always so elegant, and [Boom!] was around the period when she really began to embrace caftans, which became her comfort look.”
Another high-profile lot is a black silk velvet cocktail dress worn by Princess Diana and created by British designer Catherine Walker. The ongoing interest in the late icon’s wardrobe is exhibited in the hefty auction estimate of this piece, expected to fetch between $100,000 and $200,000. “As we know, Diana was conscious and deliberate about her style,” Nolan says. “When she joined the royal family, she looked back at images of Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, and she knew she wanted to exude a timeless, sophisticated glamour. I think she really perfected that.”
Pieces worn everyone from Dame Joan Collins to Lady Gaga, Cher, Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and Paris Hilton, as well as a pair of dresses worn by Kim and Khloe Kardashian in 2014, also speak to the range of fashion worn by the famed women highighted in “Unstoppable.”
And while who wore a piece undeniably adds to its provenance and pedigree, Nolan says collectors often look past the wearer to focus on the design itself. “Fashion collectors, I have to say, are quite brilliant,” he says. “They’re discerning buyers, and they know specifically what they want, the era they want, the label they want. It’s different from someone who loves a movie and wants to own something from a movie. We get more condition reports from fashion collectors who are seeking additional information about sizing, design details, or where the label is placed. They’re smart, sophisticated and looking for special pieces to expand their own collections. [In Hamlet,] Shakespeare said, ‘Clothes maketh the man,’ but as we know, they maketh the woman as well.”
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