This past spring, longtime couture collector Mary Wangsness of North Oaks passed away, leaving behind thousands of designer pieces. In collaboration with Patric Richardson, the owner of Minneapolis designer resale boutique Mona Williams, her family has donated the collection. While a good chunk of it will be sent to costume collections at Indianapolis Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and University of Kentucky, more than 3,000 pieces will be available for sale this weekend to benefit fashion programming at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Minnesota History Center. It’s a collection of a size and scope rarely seen in Minnesota, let alone the U.S.
The collection is dominated by Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, and Chanel, with other pieces by names such as Halston, Ungaro and Yves Saint Laurent. Richardson tells me the majority of the items came from Dayton’s Oval Room and Neiman Marcus. Items are in pristine, museum-quality condition, and some even still have tags on them. He says she had built a basement closet to house her vintage collection, with every piece individually wrapped in plastic and stuffed with tissue.
Months before her unexpected death, Wangsness had been in talks with Richardson over what to do with her collection, so he is in a unique position to do well by her legacy.
“I was lucky enough to have worked with her when she was alive and I knew her goals, so I tried my best to do what she would have wanted (with the collection),” Richardson says. “She would do things like take things out of the plastic and lint-brush them every so often. It was really a labor of love; she saw it as a collection, as a living thing.”
Wangsness was a family medicine doctor with the eye of a curator. “She saw this as an art collection,” Richardson says, adding that she went out of her way to obtain pieces from Oscar de la Renta’s final collection. Of a Bill Blass suit on display at the sale, he says, “I think we’re going to send it to a museum if somebody doesn’t buy it, but Leona Helmsley had it on in a commercial for Helmsley Hotels. [Wangsness] wanted it, so she called and they contacted Bill Blass, and they basically had it made for her.”
Themes present throughout the collection: Wangsness always bought complete matching sets—say, a jacket with a coordinating skirt and top—and kept all the components together. She also bought pieces as the designer originally showed them on the runway or lookbook, as with an Oscar de la Renta ballgown that had been paired with an embroidered cardigan.
Oscar de the Renta gown and cardigan at FGI’s Fall: Into Luxury event last Thursday
As for her personal style, Richardson surmises, “I think she was very elegant and very tailored, but I also think that she was someone of interest. Any rack you look at, there are pieces that are a little adventurous.” There’s also a theme of ornamentation throughout the collection, with beading, embroidery, and ornate details.
Clothing ranges from size 2 to 10, shoes size 8 to 9. Prices range from as little as $30 for some smaller accessories to a Halston Ultrasuede fur-trimmed coat and matching pants for $5,000 and a Chanel cashmere twin set goes for $850, though most dresses and suits fall within the $200 to $500 range. The event kicks off with a preview party and private shopping day Wednesday, September 30, followed by a weekend shopping event that is free and open to the public during the ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) MN Sample Sale, also at International Market Square. Following the sale, all items will go to be sold at auction.
6–9 p.m. Wed., Sept. 30., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 1–Oct. 3; International Market Square, 275 Market St., Minneapolis; Sept. 30 preview tickets, $20; free Oct. 1-3; monawilliams.com
A look from Mary Wangsness’ scollection at FGI’s Fall: Into Luxury event last Thursday
A look from Mary Wangsness’s collection at FGI’s Fall: Into Luxury event last Thursday
A Chanel coat for sale at the Mona Williams Private Collection Sale this weekend
Bill Blass pieces for sale at the Mona Williams Private Collection Sale this weekend
Fur coats for sale at the Mona Williams Private Collection Sale this weekend
Designer handbags for sale at the Mona Williams Private Collection Sale this weekend