Sloans and Kenyon held its first vintage and couture clothing auction a year ago, as an experiment. That Saturday’s event was the auction house’s fourth in 12 months is testament to it having found an only-in-Washington kind of niche. Sloans and Kenyon is one of only a handful of houses around the country holding such sales.
“Washington is an ideal location for these auctions; people’s occupations here require that they dress elegantly,” says Lisa L. Jones of the auctioneer’s recently created costumes, textiles and fashion department.
So what are you likely to find? Lavish ball gowns and little black dresses from the closets of well-established Washingtonians including Washington Times Herald editor Eleanor Josephine Medill “Cissy” Patterson and Annelise Fitzgerald, wife of the one-time U.S. ambassador to Ireland, William Fitzgerald. Many of the sellers say they no longer have the social life that requires their former wardrobes.
The chance to own and wear such treasures brings an eclectic crowd to Bethesda on a rainy Saturday morning. They mill about, checking out mannequins decked out in a Pierre Cardin black crepe tiered evening dress, an Ungaro rust-colored gown and wrap and a flamenco evening gown. They browse glass display cases featuring Yves Saint Laurent necklaces, bracelets, alligator handbags and cloche hats. And at 11 a.m. as the auctioneer goes to the podium, they take their seats on folding chairs.
To be sure, there are the usual Washington suspects sporting Burberry jackets and Tory Burch. But the new guard has turned out too.
Mary Margaret, a high school senior at Oakcrest High School in McLean and confessed vintage lover who wants to work in fashion, says, “Clothes aren’t made this way anymore,” as she proudly shows off her own 1980s crested blazer.
Twenty-five-year-old law school graduate Amyia McCarthy, dressed in leather leggings, faux fur vest, multicolor sequin sandals/boots and a chartreuse bag, says, “I heard about the event last night from someone I met at a phone store in Friendship Heights.”
Antiques collector Courtney Rackley Schwartz, 36, speaks for most when she explains why she’s at the auction: “It’s better to have one quality fashion item than 10 disposable ones from H&M.”