Vivienne Westwood.
Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Vivienne Westwood’s Personal Collection of Clothing and Accessories Is Coming to Auction at Christie’s London

Included in the June 25 sale of the legendary designer's personal closet are iconic pieces from Westwood's myriad of imaginative collections

Dressed to Scale, Autumn-Winter 1998/1999, a corset in silver grey silk taffeta and a floor-length skirt in silver grey silk taffeta. Photo: © Richard Young/Shutterstock

In her life, the radical British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was often heard to exclaim: “Buy less, buy better,” and sometimes added, “and buy it from me.” Now, less than two years after her death in December 2022, you can quite literally do that. Christie’s in London is hosting a sale of Westwood’s very own wardrobe (which certainly enhances the meaning of that last phrase). Every one of the nearly 300 lots in the auction “Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection” is of clothing and accessories that the designer wore herself.

From June 14 , expect queues outside the auction house in London’s St James, where nearly every item will be on display to the public until the live sale on June 25. (An online auction takes place June 14 through 28.) “It is a free exhibition, made up of several hundred pieces,” says Adrian Hume-Sayer, the head of the sale. “I’ve worked in private collections since 2010 and this is a highlight.”

The idea for the sale started to take shape during Westwood’s life. “Towards the end, we talked about her clothes and whether they should be sold for a good cause,” says Andreas Kronthaler, whom she married in 1992 and with whom she went on to design many collections. A famously May to December affair, Kronthaler was 25 years younger, but the relationship never faltered. “Vivienne wanted to raise money for the charities and organizations she worked with.” The beneficiaries will be The Vivienne Foundation, Medecins sans frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), Amnesty International, and Greenpeace.

This navy blue ensemble from Vivienne Westwood's World's End "Witches" collection was inspired in part by the designer's meeting with Keith Haring. It cares a presale estimate of $5,200 to $7,700. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Included in Christie's "Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection- Part I" sale is this Spring-Summer 1994/1995 dress from the designer's On Liberty collection. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Westwood only ever dressed in her own designs, and naturally had them altered to fit. “This is her everyday wardrobe, and in better condition than you might expect,” says Hume-Sayer, adding that only a few items show signs of duress. “Andreas told me that occasionally he’d tell her to stop wearing something. And she was a great mender.” He points to an ice-blue Cinderella dress—one of her most iconic designs—that she particularly loved. “It would stretch at the seams just under the bosom and she would darn it. That’s become part of it now. That’s what makes this collection so special.”

The earliest pieces in the show date back to the Witches collection of 1983 and include a navy blue serge two-piece (Lot 2). The boxy jacket has lamb horn toggles, the pleated skirt an extraordinary extended tubular waistband in cream jersey. “It’s quite simply avant-garde,” says Hume-Sayer. “She didn’t follow anyone. She created the references.”

Vivienne Westwood. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Lot 25, however, demonstrates her deep fascination with historical clothing and cutting. The low-cut linen jacket, silk camisole, and stunning green and red taffeta skirt are from the 1998 collection called Tied to the Mast, which evoked shipwrecks and the sea. For it she pillaged inspiration from the 17th and 18th centuries and the array balanced subtle ratios between bodice and sleeve and the mitred edges that allow stripes to turn corners with her modern-day maverick take on what fashion should be. Sadly her most famous outfit, the apparently naked dress with only a fig leaf to cover her modesty that she wore to London’s first Fashion Awards in 1989, has not survived.

An ensemble from Vivienne Westwood's "Tied to the Mast" Spring-Summer 1998 collection included in the upcoming auction at Christie's London. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Propaganda, Autumn/Winter 2005/2006, by Vivienne Westwood. Photo: Courtesy of Christie's

Art  +  Culture

Loewe and Lynda Benglis Collaborate on a Collection of Wearable Art

Though Westwood eventually focussed rather more ferociously on activism than fashion, she did once say that “Fashion is life-enhancing, and I think it’s a lovely generous thing to do for other people.” Something worth bearing in mind if one is thinking of bidding.

Vivienne Westwood: The Personal Collection” goes on view at Christie’s London flagship June 14 ahead of the June 25 live sale, with a Part II online event taking place June 14 through 28.

Cover: Vivienne Westwood.
Photo: Courtesy of Christie's


Sign up to receive the best in art, design, and culture from Galerie

Thank You
Your first newsletter will arrive shortly.