Harriet Jackson checks out the first vintage fashion sale at Dreweatts
If Dreweatts sales are typically characterised by excited dealers sniffing out the competition and stuffy gents dressed in their shooting finest, today couldn't be more different. I am at the first Vintage Clothing and Textiles Sale that the firm has held in its 250 year history and there is a definite buzz in the air.
Everyone is eyeing each other suspiciously: ‘Are they here for my Versace dress?’ ‘Will it be her I have to beat for that Moschino suit?’
Though of all ages, the crowd’s stylish apparel unites them. I spy an Anna Wintour character in the front row, all neatly bobbed hair and dark glasses. Twenty-something young professionals dressed head-to-toe in black crane their necks at the back of the room, fighting with their oversized designer handbags for space.
With my eye on a Jean Paul Gaultier broiderie-anglaise dress, perfect for the beach, I am delighted as the lot opens at £40, far under its £80 estimate, however my faith dwindles and my budget is blown as it flies over the £100 mark, finishing at £140.
The bidding on a Gucci vanity case, which I had hoped would carry my sunscreens and after-sun to warmer climates in the coming months, likewise flies past its estimate of £60-£80, eventually selling for an eye-watering £220. My ‘brilliant’ idea of picking up summer trends ‘cheaply’ is certainly not original - someone else will be living my sartorial fantasy this summer.
Raised on a platform in the centre of the room is the piece everyone has their eye on, the Queen Mother’s sample wedding dress, one of three bridal gowns produced by Madame Handley Seymour for Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon's 1923 wedding to King George VI.
The room is silent as the lot opens at £850, £150 above its estimate. As the bids battle higher and higher we all swivel in our chairs to see the rival bidders. Audible gasps are heard when the frantic bids finally subside, ‘Sold to phone-bidder 8624 for £3,200.’
Despite dwindling spirits and thinning crowds, the real surprise of the day comes at the end as the bids for early 20th century magazines shoot through the roof. An assortment of six Vogue, Vanity Fair and The Woman’s Supplement magazines ranging from 1917 to 1924 make £480, while four yearly bound volumes of Vogue from 1938 to 1947 gain a winning bid of £550. Note to self; take piles of dusty magazines out of the downstairs loo, wrap in tissue and store carefully.
The enormous success of this auction and the inclination to invest in classic pieces and to avoid throwaway fashion trends must surely be a reflection of the economic climate. Start planning your winter must-haves now, there’s another sale in the pipeline for autumn.