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To all the Ceils I’ve loved before

March 21st, 2010 § 0 comments


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I recently listed a magnificent 1950’s black silk Ceil Chapman dress (click on the picture to go the auction) and have been thinking about all the Ceil Chapman pieces that I’ve been lucky enough to find.

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Ceil Chapman, as this this October 26, 1956 article in The Pittsburgh Press, puts so well, “[H]as been putting a magic touch into dresses for a number of years. She actually builds in flattery…Keynote to all her designs is femininity. The aim is to make a woman beautiful, even if nature has failed. There is no deviation from this intent, regardless of what the latest fashion trend may be.” (my emphasis added, because that phrase just kills me).

Granted, the flattering, sexy look of her dresses, is part of what makes her pieces so desirable, but Chapman was supposed to have been one of Marilyn Monroe’s favorite designers, and that  association has some serious cache. Monroe did wear at least one of her designs, which sold at auction in 1999 for $23,500. Yikes!

And loads of famous or famous-ish people wore her designs. In scanning the Google Reader for the 1950′s her name comes up all the time in the list of who was wearing what in the society pages.

I never thought I’d find a Ceil Chapman here in Maine. During the 1950’s, there was not a lot of money in the state, except for along the coast and in small exclusive lake resorts, so designer evening wear is rare.  Still, I have been lucky enough to have found five Ceil Chapman dresses.

The first two were together, and from the 1940’s.  One was a black crepe gown with a diagonal green inset across the bust and down the  length of the skirt. Sadly I lost that picture in the Great Computer Crash of 2007. I did find a picture of the other dress, which is a caramel silk chiffon, covered with sequins.

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In 2007 I found what I thought was to be my favorite Ceil Chapman dress ever, with lots of her iconic drape, in black jersey, with a panel over the back of the skirt.

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Earlier this year I found my fourth Ceil Chapman, and my saddest Ceil Chapman.  Not only had it been shortened, but someone had ironed the bejesus out of it.

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Still, the strength of her design came through and the dress is making someone very happy.

I love selling things that make people happy.

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