A “lucky charm” Christian Dior dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor on the night she won best actress at the 1961 Oscars is to be sold at auction next month after being stored in a suitcase in London for over 50 years. It had been assumed the floral print gown with a crimson silk bloom at the waist was already in the Christian Dior archive in Paris.
In fact, the gown – along with 11 other garments owned by the star – had been carefully stored in a large plastic suitcase in her former personal assistant’s spare room since 1971.
Taylor, accompanied by fourth husband Eddie Fisher, wore the dress designed by Marc Bohan for Dior to the 33rd Academy Awards.
Her relationship with Fisher, whom she was accused of stealing from actor Debbie Reynolds, was considered a scandal and had sparked a storm of negative publicity. The outcry had left Taylor convinced she would not win, said Kerry Taylor, whose specialist vintage fashion auction house is selling the dress.
“She had been the bridesmaid and never the bride at the Oscars and on this occasion she really didn’t expect to win having been passed over before and having had all the negative press over Eddie Fisher,” she told AFP.
After her Oscar triumph, the star came to regard the dress as “something of a lucky charm” and took it with her all over the world.
“Elizabeth Taylor was still taking this dress from place to place with her after 10 years. She didn’t wear it on other occasions, she just liked to have it with her,” Taylor said.
The garments in the suitcase were among a large number gifted to former employee Anne Sanz, whose husband Gaston worked as Taylor’s chauffeur and bodyguard. The couple traveled the world with the actor and her fellow Hollywood star husband Richard Burton at the height of their fame in the 1960s and ’70s.
But despite the Dior dress’s sentimental value, by 1971 Taylor’s travel wardrobe was sometimes running to 40 huge suitcases and she was happy to let it go. The actor opened up her wardrobe at London’s Dorchester Hotel one day in 1971, telling Sanz “take whatever you like!” Taylor had also given Sanz a white cocktail dress and matching bolero for her wedding.
Other items due to be sold include Tiziani haute couture by Karl Lagerfeld and a “black widow” robe Taylor wore in the 1967 film “Boom,” also by Lagerfeld.
Taylor and Burton were godparents to the Sanzes’ daughter Elizabeth but Anne and Gaston quit after their star employers’ second separation, torn over who to continue working for.
Over the years, Sanz wore a couple of the dresses and gave others away to friends and family, never regarding them as particularly significant or valuable.
“Anne obviously wore the white matelasse dress for her wedding and there was one other dress that she wore – a yellow and blue dress with matching coat,” Kerry Taylor said.
“But in a sense these were just second hand dresses that belonged to Liz Taylor. So what? This was before celebrity mentality became the thing,” she added.
The auction at which the Dior Oscar dress is expected to fetch between £40,000-60,000 ($48,000-$73,000) will take place in London on Dec. 6.