Vivienne Westwood’s Personal Wardrobe Is Going on Sale at Christie’s London

LONDONVivienne Westwood’s spectacular everyday wardrobe has gone on display — early — at Christie’s London ahead of a live sale set for June 25, and an online one set to run from Friday to June 28.

Christie’s usually opens exhibitions a few days before its sales take place, but in this case the team knew interest would be high and they wanted the nearly 300 lots from “Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection” to be in the public eye for as long as possible.

More from WWD

Christie’s has gone all out, hanging a gigantic, neon pink Vivienne Westwood sign on the facade of its King Street St. James’s headquarters to herald the exhibition, which is located in the large mezzanine galleries. The show is in the same space where Coco Chanel’s wardrobe went on display in the 1970s.

In homage to Westwood’s detailed research on historical costume, textiles and techniques, Christie’s has hung paintings (from an upcoming Old Masters sale) behind the ballgowns, corsets and ropes of pearls with Westwood’s signature orb clasps.

Portraits of a youthful Elizabeth I and Queen Anne hang near a beribboned ballgown from the ’90s and the black caped dress that Westwood wore to Buckingham Palace the day she became a dame.

But it’s the everyday clothing, rather than the formal wear, that tell Westwood’s story and lay bare just how talented the iconic designer — whose clothes were a clever mix of subversion and tradition — was.

Those everyday duds include a draped, asymmetric, cocoa corduroy suit that Westwood relied on for business meetings; the patchwork cotton shirtdress she packed for her trip to Kenya with the United Nations, and the red, ribbed sweater with the fraying sleeves that she regularly wore on her bike rides to and from her London studio.

In the first room, a sharp-shouldered linen cape with a high collar stands at attention. It was the look that Westwood wore the day she commandeered a tank and rolled onto the lawn of then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s Oxfordshire home to protest the government’s fracking policy.

There is also ample evidence of Westwood’s skills with a needle — and her commitment to recycling. “Buy less, dress up” was one of her mottoes, and she certainly stretched her wardrobe to its limits, giving it as long a life as possible.

It’s clear that Westwood’s Cinderella dress, with its frayed hem and delicate stitching here and there on the bodice, was repaired multiple times, while the cotton dress that Westwood wore to Kenya still has a needle stuck through the back where she started — but never finished — making repairs.

The show also makes clear what a versatile designer Westwood was. Not only was she able to mount dramatic shows with exaggerated proportions and wacky hair and makeup, she was also able to dial it all down for everyday wear, and dress women of all shapes and sizes.

“She was the ultimate free-thinker and she could see beauty everywhere,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, head of sale and director of Private and Iconic Collections at Christie’s. “She looked at everything around her with fresh eyes.”

As part of the sale, Christie’s is also auctioning a series of prints based on Westwood’s “playing cards” which have environmental and political manifestos, urging people to wake up, start thinking like a punk, and save the world.

Proceeds from the sale will go to a variety of charities that Westwood supported in her lifetime, including The Vivienne Foundation; Médecins Sans Frontières, and Amnesty International. Proceeds from the sale of the prints will be donated by The Vivienne Foundation to Greenpeace Environmental Trust.

Launch Gallery: Vivienne Westwood Looks Go Up For Auction at Christie's in London

Best of WWD