Byline: Brooke Magnaghi

NEW YORK — Starting today, Doyle New York will host a two-day auction of rare couture items from the late 1800s up to the 1990s. Though it’s one of the house’s biannual auctions, it’s a little different this time — for Doyle, it’s the largest collection of important couture pieces they have ever offered. In addition to couture, the exhibit also features costume jewelry, textiles and a group of highly sought after Hermes Kelly bags.
The most anticipated items in the sale, however, are the creations of Charles James from the Forties, courtesy of Charles Kleibacker, who is also putting up many of the couture pieces. “James was America’s greatest couturier,” says Linda Donohue, couture specialist for the auction house, “His designs are highly sought after by serious collectors and museums.” Other highlights include several pieces from Charles Frederick Worth, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani and Balenciaga as well as Chanel, Valentino and Versace looks worn by Liz Tilberis. Of note are several gowns owned by Princess Diana, including a single-sleeved creation by Hachi, estimated at $15,000-$20,000, which the princess wore on tour in Australia, Japan and the U.S. as well as to two James Bond film premieres in 1989.
Louis Webre, vice president of marketing at Doyle New York, expects a big turnout for the auction based on the large crowd at the opening of the exhibition this past Saturday. Among the group were dealers, museums and private collectors. “Interestingly,” adds Donohue, “the design houses themselves are actively buying back dresses for their archives.”
Of late, vintage couture has been getting more exposure, specifically on red carpets — most notably at the latest Oscar ceremony where Julia Roberts donned a 1982 Valentino and Renee Zellweger wore a yellow Jean Desses. Donohue credits this new awareness and appreciation to the increased availability of couture through auctions, dealers and the many fashion retrospectives at top museums. “These dresses are no longer a memory,” she adds. “They are today’s fashion.”

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