Unveiling Fashion History: Sotheby’s Fashion Icons Auction

Sotheby’s New York recently announced its inaugural Fashion Icons sale, a captivating showcase set to enthral fashion aficionados and collectors alike.

Running from August 31 to September 14, this auction presents a meticulously curated assortment of bespoke and designer couture fashion and accessories. The auction pays homage to the most influential figures, designers, and cultural moments spanning from the 1800s to the modern era. The event promises to be an exquisite celebration of legendary personalities, unforgettable occasions, and unparalleled creative expression – all immortalised through the lens of fashion.

Princess Diana’s Enduring Elegance: A Tribute to Style

Few names resonate with grace and style as profoundly as that of Princess Diana. A standout among her notable ensembles is the creation by Murray Arbeid. The late Princess adorned this iconic piece twice in 1985. Firstly, she graced Windsor Castle’s royal residence for Prince Edward’s 21st birthday party – a themed gala named “A Midsummer Night’s Ball.” The same year, she wore it to the Mansion House for the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers Banquet.

The gown, a marvel of design, features a black velvet, lightly boned, and strapless bodice cascading down just beyond the knees. The silhouette blossoms into a white taffeta quasi-mermaid flair, supported by layers of tulle petticoats. The Midsummer Night’s Ball saw Princess Diana pair the gown with sapphire earrings, a pearl choker necklace – a gift from the Queen Mother – and black gloves.

Princess Diana’s ability to embrace situations with poise was evident when she was caught wearing the same dress as another attendee. Rather than being flustered, she embraced the coincidence gracefully, sparking admiration from all quarters. The Murray Arbeid gown is one of the two historic pieces worn by Princess Diana featured in this inaugural sale. Another highlight is the red and white wool Sheep Sweater from Warm & Wonderful, worn by Diana in 1981. This garment, appearing on the market for the first time, resonates with her unique fashion sensibility.

Carrie Bradshaw: A Symbol of Modern Elegance

In 2008, the world witnessed the much-anticipated union of Carrie Bradshaw and “Mr. Big” in the movie “Sex and the City: The Movie.” The New York Public Library, chosen as the venue, encapsulated the essence of New York’s glamour, aligning perfectly with Carrie’s identity as a sex columnist. The attire, a creation by Vivienne Westwood, made a bold statement. The punk couture dress, hailing from the 2007 autumn/winter collection titled “Wake Up Cave Girl,” was coupled with a taxidermied blue Bird of Paradise headpiece.

Unveiling Fashion History: Sotheby's Fashion Icons Auction

The audacious headpiece, a focal point of the ensemble, captured Sarah Jessica Parker’s admiration for its vibrant colours and fearless fashion expression. In 2021, Parker revived her role as Carrie in HBO’s “And Just Like That,” sporting the notorious wedding look, complete with the polarising headpiece, during the season two premiere for Carrie’s Met Gala appearance. The headpiece became an iconic representation of Carrie, embodying her empowered style. The Fashion Icons Sale estimates its value at an impressive $40,000 – $70,000.

Timeless Elegance: Kate Winslet’s Givenchy Gown

Kate Winslet’s enthralling portrayal of Rose in “Titanic” catapulted her to international fame in 1997. A year later, her nomination for Best Actress at the 70th Academy Awards solidified her position in the limelight.

Her debut on the major red carpet was marked by a custom Givenchy gown and matching bolero, designed by Alexander McQueen. The gown, crafted from green silk, featured intricate gold hand embroidery and crystal beads, depicting willow branches and a dragonfly – an ensemble she affectionately dubbed an “embroidered sculpture.”

Michelle Obama: Vintage Elegance Redefined

In a groundbreaking moment in 2010, Former First Lady Michelle Obama attended the TNT Christmas in Washington musical broadcast celebration, donning a vintage 1960s Norman Norell black lace dress.

Unveiling Fashion History: Sotheby's Fashion Icons Auction

This choice resonated deeply, as it marked the first instance of a First Lady wearing a vintage piece to a public event. Norman Norell’s legacy as a pioneer in American high fashion was paramount. He dressed Hollywood luminaries like Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, and Lauren Bacall, establishing himself as a trailblazer in American couture.

Madonna: A Trailblazer in Evolution

Madonna’s remarkable ability to navigate commercial appeal and music trends has sustained her prominence in popular culture. In 2023, she was featured on the covers of Vanity Fair’s French, Italian, and Spanish editions, an unprecedented honour that underscores her enduring influence.

Unveiling Fashion History: Sotheby's Fashion Icons Auction

Photographed by Luigi and Lango and styled by B. Åkerlund, this project showcased designs by John Galliano for Maison Margiela, Gucci, and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Lauren Bacall: Icon of Androgynous Elegance

Lauren Bacall, the embodiment of American style in the 1940s, left an indelible mark on the fashion landscape. Discovered by Diana Vreeland, the editor-chief of Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Bacall graced the cover of the publication in an American Red Cross advertisement. Her enigmatic “Look” became synonymous with sultry allure, and her preference for menswear-inspired attire solidified her legacy as a pioneer of androgynous elegance.

Bacall’s symbiotic relationship with Hermès exemplified her refined taste and appreciation for quality craftsmanship. Her penchant for the brand’s silk scarves and handbags seamlessly blended luxury with her effortless style, reflecting her commitment to artistry and attention to detail. This relationship encapsulated Bacall’s enduring impact on fashion.

In conclusion, the inaugural Fashion Icons Sale by Sotheby’s New York offers an enchanting journey through time, highlighting the profound influence of iconic figures and their sartorial choices. From Princess Diana’s grace to Kate Winslet’s elegance and Michelle Obama’s vintage sophistication, the auction celebrates the evolution of style that continues to shape the fabric of fashion history. Madonna’s revolutionary spirit and Lauren Bacall’s androgynous elegance add layers of diversity to this narrative. As the gavel falls on these remarkable pieces, a new chapter in the story of fashion begins.

Images: Sotheby’s

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