Last week was an exciting time for enthusiast of vintage fashions. Two events, the auction of Roger Vivier prototypes at Pierre Bergé & Associés held at the Drout in Paris (July 9, 2009) and the launch of the “Vintage Haute Couture and Designer Fashions” section at 1stdibs (http://www.1stdibs.com/), sent hearts fluttering.
1stdibs, an online marketplace dedicated to all things antique, has chosen to add “Vintage Haute Couture and Designer Fashions” to their roster of sales. While some of the other sections, such as furniture and decorative arts, may not have many significant pieces, the dealers involved with vintage fashions have outdone themselves. The selection includes some treasures for serious collectors such as a fur felt cloche and evening scarf by Sonia Delaunay (ca. 1924-1925), which comes with a certificate of authenticity, from the boutique The Way We Were in Los Angeles, and a Fortuny shell pink Delphos gown (ca 1930) exclusively from Vintage Luxury as well as, my personal favorite, a burgundy velvet vest, with a pleated velvet skirt and a gold lame blouse from Yves Saint Laurent’s Russian collection from the fall of 1976 (other examples from this terrific collection can be seen at the “Model As Muse” exhibition at the Costume Institute) at Katy Kane in New Hope, Philadelphia. There is also something for collectors of pop-culture: a maroon 1960s crochet bathing suit that was worn by Halle Berry in the August 2004 issue of GQ magazine also from The Way We Were in Los Angeles. The 1stdibs site is a great opportunity for potential clients to shop vintage boutiques which are not in their hometown but it is also an opportunity for dealers to attract new clients. According to dealer Katy Kane, exposure is exactly the reason why she joined the site. She also pointed out that “there is tremendous potential for crossover shopping by decorators and their clients, as well as other dealers” and commends 1stdibs for “starting small, with a good core group, and with a nice diversification in the category.” Dealers include Rare Vinatge, Inc., Lynn Ban of Barney’s New York, , Resurrection of New York and Los Angeles, and Marlene Wetherell just to name a few. As the week progressed, new dealers were added and a red SOLD stamp was proudly displayed. I imagine that it this will be a great way for museum curators, specializing in this field, to locate pieces missing from their collection and fill the gaps.
Due to the launch of the “Vintage Haute Couture and Designer Fashions” section 1stdibs has dedicated its magazine-like homepage to fashion. A glimpse into the world of Sandy Schrier, vintage fashion collector extraordinaire and who 1stdibs credits as having the “largest private collection of museum quality French and American couture, accessories and Hollywood costumes,” reveals that one of the things missing from her closet is a pair of Roger Vivier “comma” heels. I sincerely hope, then, that she did not miss the fabulous auction which took place at Pierre Bergé & Associés held at the Drout in Paris.
Roger Vivier (1907-1998) is considered to be the most important designer of the twentieth-century. He is heralded for inventing the stiletto heal, which he did by placing a thin rod enclosed in wood or plastic, to support the woman’s weight, at the sole of the shoe. Vivier wasn’t just a “cordwainer” (implying someone who made shoes as opposed to a cobbler who just repaired them) but an artist, creating shoes that were nothing short of sculpture, which is how he referred to them. Vivier’s shoes were highly decorative as he employed pearls, sequence, beads, silk, lace and even jewels to decorate his creation which were sought-after by royalty, of the Hollywood and monarchy sort. Aside from the stiletto heal, he was also responsible for the “comma” heal and received notoriety for designing the Pilgrim pump (named so because of its square, silver buckle), which Catharine Deneuve made famous in the Luis Buñuel film “Belle du Jour” (1967).
The sale, at Pierre Bergé & Associés, featured prototypes of his designs. Some lots were composed of as many as 12 or 13 shoes (because these were prototypes only one of each kind was sold). The sale did not just include shoes but also collages, photographs and other memorabilia that any Vivier worshipper would appreciate. The estimates for the lots were reasonable, most in the 300-500 euro range, with the most expensive lot totaling 2500 euros for 13 shoes while some brought in as little as 180 euro. The lots, like the shoes, all varied: brown leather boots with chunky, square heels could be found with beautiful maroon velvet comma-heels and emerald satin low- heels or pointy toe sandals with psychedelic butterflies and cut-outs. This sale was another coup for real collectors. It is too bad that even if the shoe fits, there is no prince with a second shoe in hand!