14 Reasons to Check Out Leslie Hindman’s Ebony Fashion Fair Auction This Weekend

You can get some great couture from a sale preview at an auction house. Your next opportunity? Saturday morning.

If you want to develop your eye for good design—whether for Louis XVI furniture, Chinese porcelain, or haute couture—nothing’s better than hitting the sale preview at a good auction house. And unlike in a museum, if you fall in love with anything, you can buy it (provided you submit the winning bid, of course).

Which brings me to Leslie Hindman Auctioneers’s upcoming sale, “Property from the Ebony Fashion Fair Collection.” By property, these pros mean clothes. 1960s silk gowns dripping with hand-sewn paillettes. Groovy 1970s pantsuits in happy colors. 1980s plaid power jackets with linebacker-sized shoulder pads. These mini-time capsules are overflow examples from the exhibit that opens this Saturday at the Chicago History Museum, chronicling the traveling fashion show that from 1959 to 2009 brought the work of the world’s best designers to African American women around the country.  

Clearly most buyers won’t actually wear these garments; they’ll display them as pieces of African American history or as examples of important designers’ work. But in paging through the sale catalog, I was struck by how many of these items you could actually wear today. (One catalog flaw: The year of each garment’s design is not included.) Here are 14 standouts.

Lot No. 79:
Bill Blass satin dress
(estimate: $150 to $250)
The perfect timeless little cocktail dress in this year’s hottest color.

Lot No. 139:
Chloe silk and lace dress with jacket
(estimate: $200 to $400)
Transparency trend? Check. Lace trend? Check. Wearable by a woman of any age? Check again.

Lot No. 156:
Christian Dior wool and lace ensemble
(estimate: $200 to $400)
While the velvet bows are dated, the zingy contrast of the magenta wool and yellow lace—plus the asymmetrical hem—still feels fresh.

Lot No. 209:
Christian Lacroix silk dress with jacket
(estimate: $150 to $250)
Very Marni 2013.

Lot No. 316:
Halston silk pants ensemble
(estimate: $150 to $250)
Still chic, in a ‘70s sort of way.

Lot No. 332:
Herve Leger cocktail dress
(estimate: $200 to $400)
A prime specimen from the maker of the original bandage dress—with an of-the-moment cutout.

Lot No. 341:
Issey Miyake pants ensemble
(estimate: $200 to $400)
The work of this Japanese pleat master never goes out of style.

Lot No. 362:
Jean-Charles de Castelbajac wool coat
(estimate: $150 to $250)
There’s a little Roksanda Ilincic 2013 happening here—at the hem, at least.

Lot No. 433:
Madame Gres velvet evening gown
(estimate: $150 to $250)
Classic in the ‘60s; classic now.

Lot No. 500:
Oscar de la Renta velvet dress with fur-striped skirt
(estimate: $200 to $400)
Bands of transparency. Restrained use of fur. Simple cut. Love.

Lot No. 543:
Pauline Trigere silk chiffon evening dress
(estimate: $200 to $400)
Can’t you see yourself wearing this on a yacht as a summertime breeze blows off Lake Michigan?

Lot No. 591
Ralph Rucci chinchilla and satin jacket
(estimate: $200 to $400)
I don’t really know what this is, but it’s fabulous.

Lot No. 627:
Thierry Mugler wool skirt suit
(estimate: $100 to $200)
Oh, that short-sleeved peplum jacket….

Lot No. 679:
Valentino Garavani mink-trimmed ensemble
(estimate: $200 to $400)
This coat’s creamy color (not to mention its architectural details) was all over the runways for next fall.

Location: Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, 1338 W. Lake St., 312-280-1212
Preview: March 16, 10 am to 3 pm; March 17, noon to 4 pm; March 18, 10 am to 5 pm
Sale: March 19, 10 am
 

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