Having lain undiscovered in a suitcase for more than 50 years, the “lucky charm” dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor when she won her 1961 Oscar will be auctioned off next month. It is expected to sell for up to $73,000.
It was assumed that the dress was already in the Christian Dior archive in Paris, but in fact had been stored in a large plastic suitcase, along with 11 other garments owned by the star, and then lain forgotten in Taylor’s former personal assistant's spare room since 1971.
Taylor wore the Christian Dior gown that featured floral embroidery and a crimson silk bloom at the waist to the to the 33rd Academy Awards, which she attended with her fourth husband Eddie Fisher.
Due to the scandal surrounding her relationship with Fisher, who she was accused of stealing from fellow actor Debbie Reynolds, Taylor was convinced that she wouldn’t win that year’s best actress award for her role in Butterfield 8.
"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," explains Kerry Taylor, whose specialist vintage fashion auction house is selling the dress.
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," Kerry Taylor says.
The actress gifted a number of garments to former employee Anne Sanz, whose husband Gaston worked as the actress’s chauffeur and bodyguard. The couple travelled the world with Taylor and her husband Richard Burton at the height of their fame in the 1960s and 70s.
By 1971, Taylor's travel wardrobe sometimes included up to 40 suitcases so, despite the Dior dress’s sentimental value, she eventually let it go. The actor reportedly opened up her wardrobe at London's Dorchester Hotel one day in 1971, telling Sanz to take whetever she liked.
Other items due to be sold include a Tiziani haute couture dress by Karl Lagerfeld and a "black widow" robe Taylor wore in the 1967 film Boom, also by Lagerfeld.
Over the years, Sanz wore a couple of the dresses and gave others away to friends and family, never regarding them as particularly valuable. "In a sense these were just second hand dresses that belonged to Liz Taylor. So what? This was before celebrity mentality became the thing," Kerry Taylor notes.
The auction will take place in London on December 6.