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Vivienne Westwood’s Personal Wardrobe To Be Auctioned

Vivienne Westwood, Milan Fashion Week 2017 Street Style. Shutterstock.
Vivienne Westwood, Milan Fashion Week 2017 Street Style. Shutterstock. (andersphoto)

A taffeta ball gown with the span of a light aircraft is one of the more magnificent items to go on sale at Christie’s in June as part of an auction of the personal wardrobe of Dame Vivienne Westwood.

From her 1999 Dressed to Scale collection, the gown may be dramatic but is a drop in the ocean among more than 200 lots of fashion, jewellery and accessories worn by the late designer, activist and patron saint of punk over the decades.

Adrian Hume-Sayer, a collections director at Christie’s, said: “This sale is without precedent and will always be without equal. The personal wardrobe of arguably Britain’s greatest ever fashion designer is pretty incredible. It’s a sort of once in a lifetime thing.”

The items have been selected by Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood’s husband of more than 30 years, as well as a design partner and the creative director of the Vivienne Westwood brand. He discussed his idea to organise it with Westwood in the final weeks before she died, aged 81, in 2022.

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The earliest look dates back to Westwood’s Autumn/Winter 1983-84 collection, Witches. Inspired in part by the US artist Keith Haring’s drawings on the theme, the navy blue two-piece features a skirt with a sheer panel placed cheekily just below the knicker line – a fitting design quirk from the person who eschewed knickers both times she attended Buckingham Palace to receive honours.

Another, from the spring/summer 2005-06 Propaganda collection – which was among Westwood’s most overtly political and was inspired by the work of Aldous Huxley – is printed with slogans including “NINSDOL”, which the designer said stood for nationalist idolatry, non-stop distraction and organised lying, and “Who the Fuck Needs Art?”

Her off-kilter, anti-establishment clothes, worn by everyone from Pharrell Williams to Theresa May, perhaps found their most apt and magical model in the Derbyshire-born designer herself, and most of the lots are made up of complete looks as worn by Westwood rather than single garments.

It was the signs of wear and personality that Hume-Sayer said were part of the “perfect storm” of the auction – some even still have her badges on them; “some buttons and pins and things”.

From the collection of a person who ate pizza with a knife and fork, you can expect the clothes to be in good condition. But, fittingly for someone who cared deeply for the planet, many of them show signs of repair. Some items, said Hume-Sayer, had been “mended and mended and mended”.

One dress from the Gaia the One and Only spring/summer 2011 collection, an ice-blue satin “Cinderella” dress – apparently one of Westwood’s favourites – has been extensively mended. On another item, Hume-Sayer said he thought he could recall seeing “a needle still stuck in it where she was mending it”.

This dedication to her activist ethos felt fitting, as well, said Hume-Sayer, as offering an insight into the woman behind the clothes, who grew up “in that wartime era of make do and mend.”

It was too early to tell who the buyers would be but Hume-Sayer expected that, “with a name of this scale and somebody who’s had this much influence on so many people”, potential bidders would be “everybody you expect and everybody you don’t.”

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The clothes will also be sold alongside Westwood’s playing cards project, which the activist-designer conceived to help raise funds for Greenpeace.

The entirety of proceeds from the sale will go to The Vivienne Foundation, Amnesty International and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The items will be presented across two auctions: a live sale in London on 25 June and an online auction from 14-28 June. They will also be on display as part of a free exhibition open to the public at Christie’s, King Street, London, from 14-24 June.

By Ellie Violet Bramley

Learn more:

Fashion Can Go for Eye-Popping Prices at Auction. Who’s Buying It?

After headline pieces — sometimes formerly owned by celebrities or featured on TV — sell for blockbuster prices, they can end up pretty much anywhere, from museums to collectors’ closets.

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