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These Hollywood waves afen’t as high-maintenance as tney look have finally started to preserve their historical assets. Meanwhile collectors are holding on to pieces and watching their values climb.
A few visionaries, like legendary star Debbie Reynolds (see Costume Confidential, page 122, for more on Reynolds and other collectors), were way ahead of the curve. Since the early70s, Reynolds had been Hollywood’s premier collector of iconic costumes, ranging from Cecil Beaton’s Ascot dresses from My Fair Lady to a series of dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe including the infamous subway vent dress from The Seven Year Itch to Grace Kelly’s costumes from To Catch a Thiefto a pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Reynolds intended to showcase her collection in a museum in Tennessee, but when the mortgage crisis hit in 2008, she was forced to sell the bulk of her collection to cover her debts.
In 2011 she approached Maddalena about setting up a series of auctions. Debbie had everything. I do not think there will ever be another auction like that again, he says. It brought bidders from all over the world and the prices were astronomical. There were 450 lots at the first auction and it grossed $22 million. While some collectors specialize in items worn by legends like James Dean or Monroe, most often it is pieces from iconic films worn by iconic stars that are highly prized and priced accordingly.
People do not necessarily collect Bogart or Clark Gable, they collect Casablanca and Gone With The Wind, says Maddalena. For ultimate fans with deep pockets, estate sales are a treasure trove of personal effects and fashion/film history available to the highest bidder. Storied British auction house Bonhams is conducting the sale of screen siren Lauren Bacall’s estate on March 31, 2016. The vast collection of art and antiques includes monogrammed Louis Vuitton and Goyard luggage, evening gowns and jewellery worn by the star. We have about 20 lots of evening wear, says Jon King, VP and director of business development at Bonhams.
Armani, Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint Laurent including the dress she wore when she won the Academy Award. A lot of these things were made specifically for her. Despite their lofty pedigree, the estimates for these pieces ($200 and up) are very conservative. Bacall’s collection of fine jewellery, however, is in a different stratosphere altogether. Among the glittering lineup is a large selection of Jean Schlumberger and Darlene de Sedle pieces, as well as custom-made baubles from British designer Elizabeth Gage. These are expected to fetch anywhere from $500 to $20,000. Estate sales aside, before you plunk down the price of a Volkswagen for your own piece of Hollywood history, you need to be certain of its star power. The buyer has to be educated, says Maddalena. A costume buyer, for example, can look for obvious markers like tags with names and numbering from the original studio departments, but a savvy bidder can also look at the construction of the clothing.
Inside there’s no lining. All of the seams are going to be easily accessible for a seamstress to go in on the fly and open and close things, says Maddalena. Onceyou learn that, you know how studios made costumes because they all made them the same way. In Los Angeles, the direct line to the studios makes the chain of custody short and reliable. We work with prop masters and costumers, he says. There’s also the method of screen matching watching the movie to properly ID pieces for authentication.
With stellar merchandise available at all price levels, even the non-celeb-obsessed among us can be tempted by a piece that strikes a chord from our past. People come in and say Oh, I would never buy this stuff, and then after 10 minutes of talking to them, you find one TV show they really liked as a kid, says Maddalena. We all have something we grew up with that’s sentimental. I get nostalgic thinking of Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe collection let me know when that goes on the block. ?
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