Julie Couillards eye-catching dress auctioned for $1,000 at charity event

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MONTREAL - The now infamous low-cut dress worn by Julie Couillard when she appeared at a Rideau Hall swearing-in ceremony in 2007 with her ex-boyfriend Maxime Bernier almost didn't garner any serious bids at a Montreal charity auction for epilepsy research.
Couillard, a photogenic brunette, was prominently displayed on the front pages of numerous newspapers wearing the revealing frock, which ended up fetching $1,000 on Tuesday night.
The paisley, flouncy dress with a plunging neckline now belongs to a Montreal gynecologist whose husband is heavily involved in epilepsy research.
But the amount fell far below the $5,000 Couillard had hoped the dress would get - because of the controversy her wearing it had created, particularly after her relationship with ex-cabinet minister Bernier ended.
"I would have hoped to at least collect $5,000, but hey, at the end of the day it's a thousand and I'm so happy that it was a woman that bought it," said Couillard, who was in charge of the charity event that raised more than $31,000.
"What happened with this dress is just the living proof that sexism is still out there and very healthy and it's only politically correct to just say that we have equality among the sexes - but we don't."
"It's still a man's world," she added.
Bernier resigned his cabinet post as foreign affairs minister after it was revealed that he had left sensitive government documents at Couillard's Montreal-area home.
The war-of-words between the two led to a public airing of Couillard's biker-filled past.
Couillard herself was plagued by epilepsy throughout her childhood but hasn't had seizures since she was 18 thanks to medication. However, she said that research funding was lacking in the field.
The much-ballyhooed dress was purchased by Dr. Lucie Morin, a Montreal doctor whose husband, Dr. Lionel Carmant, is a neurologist involved in epilepsy research and head of the Charles Guidon Foundation that benefited from the auction.
"I bought it for the cause," Morin said, adding she was prompted in part by uninspired bidding on the dress by the end of the night.
"(Epileptic research) is a very important cause because it doesn't get a lot of attention."
Morin said she had no real interest in the dress and had no plans to do anything special with it.
"It's not the kind of dress I'd wear myself, but I'll see if my daughter likes it," Morin said.
"But I really don't have anything in particular I plan to do with it."
Couillard said the auctioning of the dress closes a chapter in her life.
But she never imagined the dress, plucked quickly from a rack at a BCBG store in downtown Montreal, would create the stir that it did.
"It makes me laugh," Couillard said.
"I find it funny that in the end something they tried to destroy me with, I was capable of turning it around and using it for something as positive as helping sick children."
Couillard said her future will include working the conference circuit, with the theme of her talks being perception.
"I can talk quite a bit about that with the year I've just had," a confident Couillard said with a broad smile.
"Basically to tell people never let the perception people have of you define who you are and understand very clearly how you perceive yourself limits you in life".
Couillard has written a book about her life and describes Bernier as an inveterate skirt-chaser who was more interested in his clothes than his political responsibilities.
Bernier, elected in 2006, had been considered a star in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government and a star among the Tories' Quebec base until the so-called Bernier-Couillard affair.
Bernier was easily re-elected in 2008.

Organizations: Charles Guidon Foundation

Geographic location: MONTREAL, Quebec

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