The fashion detective: vintage sale

Once a year, the National Trust Historic Costume Collection holds a big sale of donated vintage and designer fashions at Como House

The funds raised go towards maintaining the collection, which is based at Labassa in Caulfield.

It’s my very pleasant task to price the clothing for sale on the basis of era, condition, style, fabric and designer label. It’s a highlight of my year, and while I want to take a lot of it home with me, they won’t let me. The best pieces must go to those who queue up early on the day.

Arriving the morning of the sale, Saturday 16 March, it all looked very impressive: the Como House ballroom is a glamourous venue and it makes everything look sumptuous. In one room was a grand collection of haberdashery from the ‘20s and earlier but it’s to the frocks that I go first.

This year there were some exceptional ’20s and ’30s gowns, plus some Victorian and Edwardian pieces – rumour has it that the ABC Phrynne Fisher costumers bought some pieces for the next series.

Currently I’m on the hunt for cotton print ’50s dresses, especially with full skirts – I can’t get enough of them. There were four, and I quickly snapped them up along with an adorable cotton Hawaiian and tiger print swimsuit by Cole of California. I’ve been looking online hoping to find a vintage ad for the style, but no luck so far.

I also fell in love with a late ‘40s small overnight case, like the one that Grace Kelly used to great effect in Rear Window (1954), it’s a small black box lined in red with compartments for my nightie and toiletries: perfect for a modern vintage shop owner with a sense of romance. After wishing everyone a good sale, I rushed off to my own shop, opening late and hoping no one minded – and returned the following day for the end, when everything was half price.

I found a few more items for my collection including some brand new early ‘50s shoes, a ‘60s wedding dress by South Yarra label ‘Bazaar’ and a cute early ‘70s Prue Acton set with a quirky apple and worm print.

Nicole Jenkins