New York—Elizabeth Taylor collected more than magnificent jewelry and husbands. She was also quite a collector of handbags.
Although most of the buzz around Christie’s upcoming auction has been on the rare and magnificent fine jewelry, Taylor was a notorious clothes horse and simply adored handbags, too.
At a recent preview of her extensive collection that is also up for sale, one of the rooms that many of Christie’s female staff and clients gravitated to is “the handbag room,” a rather large closet lined floor to ceiling with the best bags from Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Judith Leiber, Louis Vuitton, Lana of London, etc.
The idea was based upon Taylor’s own personal closet where she lined up her handbags by color—with virtually no shade in the spectrum left out.
Like much of her jewelry, many handbags were given as gifts to Taylor, who had let the MGM studio know early on in her career that she expected “thank you gifts” for her roles in films. For those who couldn’t afford a Richard Burton-sized bauble, handbags were perfectly acceptable to Taylor.
Handbags: ‘In Every Conceivable Material’
And what a selection: There are some 235 classic Chanel bags in “every conceivable size and in leather or—another of Miss Taylor’s perennial favorites—crocodile. And lizard. And snakeskin..and..ostrich,” says Margaret Etherington-Smith, fashion curator for the collection.
Hermès’ legendary Kelly (including a beige ostrich one) and Birkin bags are among the selections along with special editions from Valentino, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana and Ferré.
Another favorite: Fendi baguette styles: “Miss Taylor had them in every conceivable material from printed linen to patchwork brocade to particularly lovely example in sea green, squared pearlized sequins that went with a sea green silk floor length dress.”
When possible, handbags designed to coordinate or match her clothing are shown with the apparel at the exhibition which runs through Dec. 12. Christie’s estimated prices on what the handbags might fetch is almost a steal compared with the estimates on her jewelry. Prices start at a couple hundred and go up to $8,000.
Of course, if you want a suite of her well-traveled Louis Vuitton luggage, which Christie’s stacked up like Cleopatra’s pyramid, that might tally up into well past $10,000—still a relative bargain even when compared to one of her small “ping pong” diamond rings. It will be easy to distinguish a piece of Taylor’s LV luggage, too. Each piece is attached with a large purple tag with the word “Mine!” printed on them.
Curators say that Taylor took extremely meticulous care of her clothing and accessories, just like she did with her diamond and gemstone jewelry. At the worst, some appear to be “gently used.”
While the Dec. 13 auction of her important jewelry is already slated to be a major event—with interested buyers purportedly ponying up $100,000 just for a seat—the clothing and accessories sales are more accessible. Taylor’s haute couture, evening sale is on Dec. 14, and the fashion and accessories auction is on Dec. 15.
Christie’s is also holding an online auction of more than 950 items of fine and costume jewelry, designer fashion and accessories, and decorative arts and objects that will be offered in a special, two-week-long online-only sale that will run through Dec. 16.