Auction gavel drops for Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood costumes

Audrey Hepburn's Ascot dress in My Fair Lady
sold for $3.7 million

Felt a little bit sad today when thinking of these iconic costumes being sold. I still am befuddled that there weren't any supporters of the film industry interested in maintaining this collection of four decades' worth gathered by Debbie Reynolds. I ended up staying awake until 3 a.m. just to watch the live auction, curious to see the sale of Hepburn's dress from My Fair Lady!

According to Indiewire, in the end, many items went to Saudi Arabia or Japan. "With an hour to go before the auction was scheduled to begin, the theater of the Paley Center in Beverly Hills was already full and the downstairs gallery was filling up. When Debbie Reynolds walked in, looking perky in a white pants suit, the crowd rose and applauded as she took the podium to say a few last words before hundreds of her costumes and props went under the gavel. “I’ve been collecting for 45 years and I’m only forty,” brought appreciative laughs and her eyes welled up as she thanked everyone for coming—and bidding. While she has passionately and lovingly tried to save this slice of Hollywood history, the years of accumulated bills necessitated this sale. But the anticipation hung heavy in the room. The people filling the theater looked more like observers and fans than capable of coming up with major bucks, but one truth of auctions is that all it takes is two people who want the same thing to drive prices sky high."

Here are some of the items that sold:

Worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch
Sold for $4.6 million

Worn by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
$1.2 million

Worn by Judy Garland during first 2 weeks of filming The Wizard of Oz
Sold for $910,000 - more than ten times the estimate

Original shoes worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz

Worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief

Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
Dresses (L-R) sold for $550,000 / $45,000 / $42,500

Outfits for Marta and Gretl (The Sound of Music) sold for $35,000
Autographed guitar - $140,000, movie poster - $6000

Worn by Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc
Sold for $50,000

Worn by Bette Davis and Joan Collins (middle dress) in The Virgin Queen
$7500, $3000 and $22,500
Worn by Charlie Chaplin in Little Tramp

Marlon Brando and Merle Oberon
as Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine in Desirée
$60,000 and $22,500

1952 red MG TD used by Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant in Monkey Business

Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur
(sandals sold for $14,000, poster sold for $5500)

Worn by Katharine Hepburn as Jo in Little Women

Worn by Greta Garbo in Anna Karenina

Deborah Kerr as Catherine Parr in Young Bess

Angela Lansbury as Queen Anne in Three Musketeers

Elizabeth Taylor in Little Women

Katharine Hepburn in Mary of Scotland

Laurence Olivier in Pride and Prejudice

Other items sold:
Orson Welles' outfit as Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre - $20,000
Elizabeth Taylor's riding outfit from National Velvet - $60,000
Yul Brynner's outfit in The King and I - $9500
Elizabeth Taylor's headdress from Cleopatra - $100,000
Richard Burton's tunic and cape from Cleopatra - $85,000
Grace Kelly's Princess Alexandra dress from The Swan - $110,000
Lydia Bennett's dress from Pride and Prejudice (1940) - $5000
Marilyn Monroe's outfit from There's No Business Like Show Business - $500,000
(and poster from same movie sold for $7500)
Marlon Brandon's Mutiny on the Bounty naval outfit - $90,000
Barbara Streisand's Hello Dolly gold dress - $100,000
Leslie Caron's plaid dress & cape from Gigi - $65,000
Joan Crawford's waitress outfit from Mildred Pierce - $22,500
Vivien Leigh's robe from A Streetcar Named Desire - $18,000

Profiles in History: "The Debbie Reynolds Collection is deemed to be the most significant collection of Hollywood costumes and props since the liquidation of the MGM and FOX studios in the 1970’s. Profiles in History plans to sell this massive collection through a series of auctions starting with part one in June 2011 and part two in December 2011. This entire collection contains over 3,500 costumes, 20,000 original photographs, several thousand original movie posters, original costume sketches and hundreds of key props from film history."

View: Auction Results
Highlighted items on auction block


  1. I agree its so sad that the collection has been broken up. It would be fabulous if they had been given to a museum or if a museum was built for costumes.

  2. I'm amazed Debbie Reynolds had such a collection of mythical dresses! I had no idea. By the way, I think it was Bette Davies and not Katharine Hepburn on The Virgin Queen, but I might be wrong.

  3. @Issy
    I understand that the money collected from the auction will be used to pay back Reynolds' creditors from a planned museum that failed. I do hope that she still has money left over to pocket after all her years of maintaining this collection!

    Thanks for that correction! My computer crashed at 3 a.m. and I had to re-enter some information. I hope Bette Davis forgives my oversight!

  4. Saudi Arabia and Japan? This is heartbreaking!

  5. I agree with you that sad no one in Hollywood stepped up to even buy some of the collection. What about the Spielberg's of the movie industry! The film studios! I feel sad for Debbie Reynolds that she didn't get support to keep the collection together. Hopefully some will find their way to museums as donations or loans and not just private collections.

  6. @Teresa
    I'm glad that Reynolds has found buyers willing to fork out the money but yes, sad that they'll be taken so far away.

    I trust that Reynolds is now receiving the acknowledgement for all her years of trying to maintain all these items and yet dumbfounded as to why no one has stepped up!

  7. The fact that the buyers were from Saudi and Japan indicates to all of us how ungrateful and ignorant the baby boomer generation of Americans is. Their contempt for their parents' generations & beyond is very much palpable when seen in the light that none of the major American super-rich folks (within & outside Hollywood) stepped up to save American treasures & let them be in America. While I am happy for Ms Reynolds, as a Gen-Xer myself, the non-participation of boomer elites in this auction is another affirmation to the hubris & self-centered nature of boomers. Their generation wants to save the world and control climate and what not but where are they when pieces of Americana need to be kept in America itself?!

  8. I understand you but there's people of the distant cultures who can admire these clothes as much as we do. It's not always a loss. I'm a traveller and I've met one man in South Russia who makes sometimes an exhibition of period clothes that bought somewhere on auctions.

  9. What amazing costumes. I just loved seeing them. I had no idea someone had collected them. What an adventure Reynold's must've had gathering them together. As we're still in an economic decline in a used to be middle class family I still can't imagine even having any money to spend on an item of this calibre but very grateful that someone did.

  10. Speaking for the baby boomer generation, many are still reeling from the recession. The fact that the sales were made outside the United States means these movies and items from same, are cherished by the world not just the USA. Start looking for the good in people and you may find it. Thank goodness Debbie Reynolds had the foresight to collect and then share these items with the world.

  11. Just FYI Jean Simmons played Elizabeth I in Young Bess, Not Deborah Kerr.

    1. Deborah Kerr played Catherine Parr in Young Bess; didn't see where anyone posted that Kerr played Elizabeth I.



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