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Vivienne Westwood’s Wardrobe Goes to Auction

The first half of Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection auction raised almost $600,000 for charity.

By Ellys Woodhouse

It’s the celebrity closet sale of the century. Vivienne Westwood’s personal wardrobe and prints went on sale during a live auction at Christie’s London on Tuesday, raising just over £465,000 (approx. $590,000). This was the first half of the two-part sale, consisting of the live auction as well as an online sale running concurrently through June 28.  

Known as the ‘queen of punk’, Westwood remained one of the most important British fashion designers until her death in December 2022. Always concerned about using her name and influence to make a positive impact, she once said, “I want you to help me save the world, I can’t do it all on my own”.

That ideal continues even posthumously, as the first sale of “Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection” raised funds for charities close to Westwood’s heart, including The Vivienne Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, Amnesty International and Green Peace. 

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The Big Picture – Vivienne’s Playing Cards. Collect the cards. Connect the Cards / ©Christie’s

Across both auctions, more than 200 lots have been listed as available for sale, with work spanning across four decades, with each piece being selected for auction by Westwood’s widower and creative director of the fashion house Andreas Kronthaler. 

Following Tuesday’s live auction, every piece listed was sold and most went for well above the expected – just nine of the 94 lots listing sold for within their estimates. 

Vivienne Westwood ‘Dressed to Scale’ Autumn-Winter 1998/99 collection / ©Christie’s

In addition to pieces from the designer’s wardrobe, a limited edition of 10 signed playing cards designed by Westwood were sold to support Greenpeace. The Big Picture – Vivienne’s Playing Cards. Collect the cards. Connect the Cards is formed as a portfolio of 10 large-scale playing cards that Westwood envisioned as her manifesto for change. Each suit represents a pressing issue which, according to Christie’s, Westwood described as, “Diamonds = Money, Clubs = War, Spades = Motherf***kers, Hearts = Culture”. At Tuesday’s auction, the prints reached £37,800 price realized (approx. $47,700). 

Other standouts from the auction include a gown from the ‘Dressed to Scale’ Autumn-Winter 1998/99 collection, an 18th-century inspired gown, complete with signature Vivienne Westwood corseting and ruched taffeta skirt. Initially estimated to sell for a maximum of £8,000 ($10,100), in the end it went for £32,760 ($40,400). 

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Vivienne Westwood ‘Gaia The Only One’ Spring-Summer 2011 Collection / ©Christie’s

An ice-blue satin scoop-necked Cinderella dress from the ‘Gaia The Only One’ Spring-Summer 2011 collection was another of the high-selling items on the auction block.

Westwood’s widower Kronthaler told Christie’s: “This dress, she wore so much that I begged her not to wear it at one point. I said to her ‘I can’t see it anymore!’. And then she replied, ‘But I don’t care!’.” Clearly she’s not the only one enamored with it, as the dress reached £25,200 ($31,800), far above the estimated maximum of £3,000 ($3,800)  

Vivienne Westwood ‘Always On Camera’ Autumn-Winter 1992/93 collection / ©Christie’s

Another popular piece was a Harris Tweed three-piece suit from the ‘Always On Camera’ Autumn-Winter 1992/93 collection. Using Marlene Dietrich as her muse, Westwood was inspired by the glamour of 1930s Hollywood and played with stereotypes of movie-star glamour. Estimated to reach £2,000–3,000 ($2,500–3,780), the suit reached £15,120 ($19,100). 

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Vivienne Westwood ‘Anglomania’ 1993/94 collection / ©Christie’s

Unsurprisingly for those familiar with Westwood’s iconic style, jewelry formed as the staple within the auction. A faux-pearl choker from the ‘Anglomania’ 1993/94 collection, was estimated to fetch up to £1,800 ($2,272) actually realized for £10,080 ($12,700). A three-strand, faux black pearl necklace from around 1990, estimated to fetch up to £1,200 ($1,500) was realized for £5,292 ($6,682).

As the online auction is not set to close until Friday, we will have to wait to hear the final reach figure of all the sales – and hold off from any temptation of making purchases ourselves.

[See also: The Most Expensive Watches Ever Sold at Auction]

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