Friday, May 30, 2014

A Balenciaga Cocktail Dress. Provenance: Mrs. Rachel Bunny Mellon

One of my favorite pieces at RARE vintage is a very rare, mossy greens silk Balenciaga cocktail dress, scattered with pink and poppy red dahlias that had belonged to Mrs. Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon.  

1962 Bunny Mellon Provenance Balenciaga cocktail dress.  Available for purchase at RARE vintage. 

Clothing to me, is imbued with the spirit of the person who originally fell in love with it.  Sometimes, I think people believe that I want to hear "this was never worn", when it is actually quite the opposite.  I prefer to know that the dress I am buying, even if it was just for one night, had a grand time and created a memory.

But back to our Balenciaga cocktail dress.  It is symbolic not just because Bunny Mellon was a great client of Balenciaga, a couturier who, like Mrs. Mellon, desired privacy and avoided journalists, but the dress, with its painterly flowers, is also a reflection of Mrs. Mellon's passionate interest in gardening and her extraordinary Oak Springs Garden Library.

A Style Icon of a Different Sort: Mrs. Rachel Bunny Mellon

Bunny Mellon was not as beautiful as Babe Paley.  She was well known for being a client of Balenciaga but unlike another famous client of Balenciaga, there are no portraits of her in black and white posing for Cecil Beaton in a robe dĂ©shabillĂ© in a grand room at the Hotel Lambert in Paris.  Like Barbara Hutton she was born into great wealth but she did not squander her money nor waste her time with princes and playboys.

Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon was a woman in full.  Nothing was too small to escape her notice but it was not a dress to impress mentality, it was about collecting pieces she loved, whether in art, garden seeds or fashion.  And really, if you could have someone make, not only your cocktail dresses, but your entire wardrobe from your gardening hats to your staff's uniforms wouldn't you want it to be Balenciaga or Hubert de Givenchy too?

"This garden is made of love.  And details." Bunny Mellon told Vanity Fair in a rare interview in 2010.  And I think the feeling of love and details that extended from her wardrobe to her homes and to her gardens is what made her a true icon of Style.

There have been few but tantalizing peeks into the secret world of Bunny Mellon and what is so remarkable when you see the interiors and the gardens that she created is how timeless they are.  Everything is just so but nothing appears too precious, too showy.  So often I see a house in a magazine overly decorated, a Marilyn Minter or Murakami painting placed too prominently, or everything looks like it was purchased by the decorator and nothing by the home owner.  But Mrs. Mellon was a woman with passionate interests and ideas.  Mrs. Mellon described wandering into Mark Rothko's studio one day near her former home on 70th street in New York and quickly purchasing 13 of his paintings, including the serenely beautiful 'Yellow Expanse'.

"Nothing should be noticed.  Nothing should be noticed." said Mrs. Mellon to Sarah Booth Conroy in a rare interview to the New York Times in 1969.  "Nothing should stand out.  It all should give the feeling of calm, you should only remember the peace."  

The extraordinary gardening room at Oak Springs in Upperville Virgina:

A detail from the Fernand Renard trompe l'oeil painted room:

Notice the simple teak stools with the soft curve, the beehive shaped basket - the Bunny is in the details...

I love the Jane Canfield bunny who looks like he got caught with a bag of vegetables and herbs from the garden...

I don't mean to gush but gush I must.  Bunny Mellon had an incredible eye for color.  

Mark Rothko's Yellow Expanse in the library at Oak Springs:

 the pale seashell pink living room in the Mellon's former Manhattan townhouse with a John Singer Sargent painting above the mantel.  I love the lucite console behind the chintz covered sofa and the mocha upholstered chairs.

the Yves Klein blue crosshatched painted dining room in the Manhattan residence with thyme, rosemary topiaries which Mrs. Mellon became famous for:

in Antigua, a framed museum Mark Rothko museum poster (!) - and of course, this is from a woman who had an absolutely stunning and incredible art collection.

The Oak Spring Garden library which is so beautiful.  I can just imagine the "Mrs" as she was called having her coca cola and looking at the scrapbook Jacqueline Kennedy gave her of the White House Rose Gardens Mrs. Mellon created and in which Jackie Kennedy pressed flowers from the garden...

love, kisses and thoughts on a true style icon, Juliana

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