It was at Didier Ludot’s vintage boutique in the arcades of Paris’s Palais Royal that Reese Witherspoon found the 1955 Christian Dior dress she wore to the 2006 Oscars. “It brought her luck,” says Ludot. “She won!”
Coming into the spotlight on October 3 will be 18 more of Ludot’s vintage Dior dresses, as Sotheby’s Paris stages an auction (previews from September 28; bids can also be placed online at Sotheby’s website) dedicated to that most Parisian of fashion items, the little black dress.
The sale will feature 160 lots in all, including designs by Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Balenciaga, Valentino and Givenchy that Ludot has been collecting since the 1970s. The dresses themselves span a period of over 90 years, from a 1921 Paul Poiret (€2,000-€3,000) to a 2006 Zac Posen (€600-€800), and the glitzy standouts include a 1953 Balenciaga Eisa casual dinner dress (€3,000-€5,000) made of gros de Naples silk and covered in embroidered carnations (a similar model is a permanent exhibit at the Cristóbal Balenciaga Fondation in Getaria, Spain) and a 1925 Nuit de Chine tunic (€2,500-€3,500) from Jean Patou that is covered in coloured beads depicting pagodas and various figures.
YSLs in the auction include a sleek suede dress (€2,000-€3,000) with a pleated hem and shimmering gold sequinned sleeves by Marescot, and a daring a/w 2005-06 wool dress (€500-€700) with a heart-shaped décolletage.
“Every designer includes a little black dress in his collection to showcase his talents,” says Ludot, and that is evident in a hand-pleated Chanel silk chiffon cocktail dress (€2,500-€3,000) with a taffeta bow. It comes from the house’s 1960 collection, and the same model was worn by Delphine Seyrig in the cult 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad.
Items from Dior, meanwhile, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, include a 1951-52 silk cocktail dress (€2,000-€3,000), a 1960-61 velvet design (€1,500-€2,500) with silk bubble edging, and a silk faille dress (€1,200-€1,500) with a puffed-out skirt that Dior designed for Yves Saint Laurent in 1960-61.
“The woman who buys vintage is buying a little piece of history,” says Ludot. “Each dress illustrates a precise socio-political moment, and each has its own unique identity.”