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STYLE : FASHION : Vintage Point

January 30, 1994

When Demi Moore appeared at the 1992 Academy Awards ceremony in a breathtaking lavender-gray silk georgette gown, speculation about the gown's designer included Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani. But Moore, a devoted collector of vintage clothes, was wearing a crystal-pleated dress made in the late '40s and purchased at Lily et Cie, a fine vintage clothing rental and resale shop on West 3rd Street. Shopping the same store for last year's Oscar gala, Whoopi Goldberg chose a Juel Park hostess jumpsuit from the '50s, adding an overskirt and bolero to personalize the look.

Like cars and furniture, fine clothes from earlier times are fast becoming collectibles. Rita Watnick, co-owner of Lily et Cie, links the trend to today's designers (Karl Lagerfeld shops her store), who often borrow styles from the past. "We see vintage styles in contemporary clothing," Watnick says, "so when someone buys an original, what they're really doing is going to the source. And wearing a vintage gown assures that no one else has the identical outfit--or knows what it cost."

At antique auctions, clothing by the likes of Galanos, Poiret, Dior, Balenciaga and Chanel has begun showing up amid the credenzas and diamonds. But prices are far higher than what the clothes originally cost--dealers predict a '30s Chanel evening gown will bring $70,000 in London this year. So a splurge on today's designer fashions could actually pay off big in a few decades. Call it fashion appreciation.

Hair and makeup: Collier Strong/Cloutier; models: this page: Tracee Stanley/West Models, opposite: Nikki Uberti/West Models

Model: Christy Zales/Elite L.A.

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