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Big-Time Couture Auction: Vintage Chanel to Courreges

June 6, 1993

PARIS (AP) _ Twelve vintage Chanel items, 20 superb couture numbers by Givenchy and 24 by Madeleine Vionnet will be presented for auction at the Salle Drouot auction hall on Wednesday.

They will not be cheap, but by today’s haute couture standards most prices in the $1,000 - $5,000 range look reasonable.

″It is like a retrospective of fashion, with over 235 outfits ranging from the turn of the century right up to models by Cardin and Courreges from the Sixties,″ said Francoise Auguet, a fashion expert organizing the sale, to be run by auctioneers Joel M. Millon and Claude Robert.

The group of clothes that Mme. Auguet ferreted out from private couture clients was presented last week in designer Azzedine Alaia’s showrooms.

″The sale is called ‘Modernity of Yesteryear,’ ″ said Auguet, ″since those clothes were precursors of what fashion is today.″

This is the third-annual prestige fashion auction organized by Auguet, following her successful charity auction last fall sponsored by Madame Valery Giscard d’Estaing, wife of a former president.

Mme. Auguet pointed out the exceptional interest of the sale in the Vionnets. Madeleine Vionnet was considered one of the early greats of modern fashion who put women in body-freeing clothes cut on the bias.

″One of her models, an early 1921 model, has been estimated at a price of about 70,000 to 80,000 francs ($13,000-$15,000) the most expensive of this group of clothes,″ said Mme. Auguet.

It is indeed an extraordinary Twenties-flapper piece of work - a tour de force in which diamond-shaped ivory velours are connected all over with gold cords, small diamonds at the top growing larger to the hem.

And then there are all those Chanels - by Coco herself, not the latter-day upstart creator Karl Lagerfeld.

Chanel’s forte was forward-looking comfort for women. In the show/auction are many models from the Twenties period when Chanel was mistress of the Duke of Westminster, and influenced by the beaches of Deauville.

″The sportswear group is very rare,″ said Mme. Auguet, pointing out a series of black and white bathing, tennis and beach costumes dated 1928. To be sold as a group, the clothes are expected to fetch up to $4,500 for the lot.

Who buys these fashion relics?

″Very often museums, and we’ve had several inquiries from France and abroad,″ said Mme. Auguet. ″Also the houses like Chanel are looking, and may buy the models back for their archives.″

The criteria for high-powered sales include clothes in perfect condition, or nearly so - with the catalogue noting the smallest cigarette burn or lack of a belt.

″They must also be top quality style-setters of their time,″ said Mme. Auguet, noting other big-name couturiers whose work will be sold - from Schiaparelli to Jeanne Lanvin and Christian Dior.

The prices at auction - expected this time to average $2,500 or so - are usually considerably less than today’s couture prices, which begin around $11,000 for an outfit, and go way up.

Perhaps private collectors will buy, and even wear, the exemplary historic French fashions. But they’d better be slim, since sizes of these designs are usually the U.S. size 8.

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