Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It only comes once a year. No, not Christmas, the couture auction at Freeman’s Auctions in Philadelphia. Freeman's Auctions bills itself as America's oldest auction house. They cater to the art-and-antiques crowd, a crowd I can’t afford to join - though I'm a fabulous browser.

I like their general estate sales, which occur four times a year, but the couture auction is the highlight of the year as far as I'm concerned. Today was the first day of the exhibition – the sale isn’t until next Tuesday, so I can visit a few more times before all these wonderful clothes disappear into their new closets.

How often do we get to look at stuff like this up close, much less take it off the hanger and try to figure out the construction? I'm intimidated by the stores that sell high-end clothing, and they certainly wouldn't appreciate my investigative techniques. As far as the vintage pieces, they're almost impossible to find anywhere outside of a museum exhibit. This is my opportunity to handle garments that I would normally only see behind glass. I can even try things on! Alas, no cameras allowed, but I snagged some photos from the auction catalog to share.

My personal highlights include Lot #85, a 1980s jacket by Oscar de Laurenta in aubergine velvet with embroidery and pewter buttons. For some reason, they’re calling it "Austrian." If it wasn’t for the slightly big shoulders, I would be whispering sweet nothings to this jacket. I could maybe get over the shoulders for that embroidery.

In the "what were they thinking?" category is Lot #119, the Chanel "scarecrow" suit (my word, not theirs). It photographs really well, that’s all I'll say. The catalog says "Yellow 'confetti' tweed light-weight double-breasted suit with raw fringed edging, shaped padded 'epaulettes' at the shoulders, four patch pockets, matching side-zip pants. Spring 98." If a stiff wind blew up, you might be naked.
They always have one ridiculous red showstopper in the window. Last year it was a full-length red-dyed ostrich feather coat from Christian Lacroix. This year, it's Lot #146, Valentino's fur stole checker-dyed in red and black. With rhinestone eyes. But of course.

In the vintage category, Lot #1, a dolman sleeve jacket in silk velvet with embroidered "florets," trimmed in dark green and gold chenille fringe and lined in immaculate quilted gold silk. Absolutely delicious.

Something that would push all PETA's buttons (and more than a few of mine) is Lot #146, a leopard fur capelet with, what else, buttons! "Boat-neck with side-buttoning closure, shaped shoulders and tailored arm openings. 1957." It's a serious old movie piece – picture it on Lauren Bacall in the fashion show from How to Marry a Millionaire.

In the "nothing succeeds like excess" category, Lot #83, a skirt suit from Koos van den Akker, black wool twill with appliqu├ęs of gold metallic lace and a gold mesh blouse. It's even more decadent in person. On the auction floor, they had it on a mannequin who was carrying a bag made of long black fur tails.

Last but not least, my personal favorite (in the realm of reality, anyway), the item I'm going to bid on even though it's technically one size too small, is Lot #93, a DKNY olive velvet frock coat (they called it a blazer in the auction catalog). It's only estimated at $40 - $60, so how can I not bid on it? It's much prettier in person, and it's silk velvet, so it drapes like a dream. And while it was a little snug over my sweater, it would be fine with a dressy tank. Almost.

Okay, so I just want it. Is that so wrong?

There were loads of goodies I didn't even get to at lunch today - vintage shoes, all kinds of bags including a batch of interlocking C's that were visible across the room, lots of Hermes scarves. More amazing vintage, including a Victorian wedding gown complete with train that was mounted on the wall.

Hmmm, maybe I can figure out how to use my camera phone after all. I mean, how hard can it be?

Don't answer that question.


Kat said...

Thanks for sharing, Karen! I loved looking at the pics :) .

Connie B said...

I am in complete envy Karen! I would so love to be there too!