Antique fashion sale dresses to impress

Three fine collections of antique costume, noteworthy for their detailed curation, familial stories, and position as time capsules of textiles history, are to be sold at North Yorkshire auction house Tennants in their Auctioneers’ Costume, Accessories & Textiles Sale on November 18. The collections are: The Butler Collection, The Private Collection of a Shropshire Lady, and The Catherine Lyons Collection.

The Butler Collection is an important collection of fashion, textiles, and accessories originally from the Abbey House at Kirkstall Abbey. The collection comes to Tennants from the Butler family of industrialists who managed Kirkstall Forge for six generations. The Butler’s extended family consisted of Beecrofts, Butlers, and Hardings. They all resided at different times in the Abbey House at Kirkstall Abbey, which is now the Abbey House Museum. The Butler’s six generational stewardship of Kirkstall Forge was widely felt in Leeds since the Butler’s gave back generously to the city, supporting local churches and schools, being instrumental in founding the Leeds City Art Gallery, supporting the Theatre, and giving the Black Prince Statue in the City Square which has the inscription: ‘upholder of the rights of the people in the good Parliament’. The history of the Butlers and their management of Kirkstall Forge, and the Forge’s history can be explored in Leeds Industrial Museum’s current exhibition Hammer Heart: Seven Centuries of Kirkstall Forge.

An 1850s lady's teal silk costume from the Butler Collection

The Butler collection includes an 1885 Kashmir dolman cape made by Lewis & Allenby cloak makers to the Queen, estimated at £300-500; an 1850s Lady’s teal silk costume, with an estimate of £200-300; a late 19th-century green wool, velvet and silk mounted day dress in arts and crafts style, estimated at £200-300; a late 19th-century grey silk and dark blue velvet flocked jacket labelled ‘Mrs A Bennett Dress & Mantle Maker, 4 Camden Terrace, Leeds’, with a £100-£200 estimate; and an early 20th-century patchwork bed cover with an estimate of £120-180.

The Private Collection of a Shropshire Lady was accumulated through the years, and the collection hosts a well curated and fascinating array of Victorian garments, Victorian children’s wear, Edwardian ladies’ possessions, and bridal wear from 1880 through every decade until the 21st century. The sale features a 19th-century Bevern Robes & Modes pale lilac silk two-piece outfit, estimate of £250-350; three wedding dresses circa 1930-40s, with an estimate of £150-250; and an Edwardian cream silk chiffon and brocade wedding dress with a pair of cream silk wedding shoes, carrying an estimate of £150-200.

A 19th-century pale lilac dress

There is no greater kudos for a collector than for their private collection to be exhibited and shared with the public, rewarding a collector’s cohesive, scrupulous, and knowledgeable curation. The Private Collection of a Shropshire Lady was well-known in and around Shropshire, Wiltshire, and Wrexham. The collection was exhibited at historical events and most notably, at the National Trust’s Erddig Hall and Lacock Abbey where the collection supported exhibitions detailing Victorian and Edwardian lifestyles and the history of fashion.

It was enjoyed by numerous people, all of whom learnt fascinating tales of the evolution of fashion in Britain throughout the years. The exhibitions received high praise and strong attendance with more than 27,000 visitors attending the six exhibitions from 2013 to 2016.

The Catherine Lyons Collection is an example of one family’s efforts to preserve evolving French fashion through the years. Highlights include an assortment of French monogrammed linens, estimated at £120-180; an early 20th-century French costume comprising a black silk long sleeve day dress with black net mounts to the cuffs, collar and modesty panel woven with coloured threads, with a £100-£200 estimate; and an assortment of French scent bottles circa 1930s, estimated at £100-200.

The collection of French costume, accessories and textiles narrates the story of a rural tight-knit French family over four generations. The family’s residence was in a small village in Burgundy, on the Route des Grands Crus, and not far from Dijon. It was a lively, joyous, and artistically conscious home with several generations living under the same roof, whom despite experiencing a period of hardship during German Occupation in the Second World War, lived overall a happy idyllic rural lifestyle tending to vegetable plots and vineyards and enjoying picnics in the countryside. Through passage of time and keen custodianship of memorabilia, the family residence became a cabinet of curiosities storing an accumulation of textiles, accessories, and costume. Representing, a daughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, this collection is woven together by heirlooms and proudly remains a small family collection. Through the lens of one family, we can view a precise snapshot of the evolution of French fashion throughout the years.

Assorted French Monogrammed Linen Hand Towels

The collection brings to life Catherine Lyons’ great-grandmother (1872-1936) and grandmother (1896-1988) with its array of vintage pieces including embroidered linen, hats, bags, and furs typical of a lady’s fashion during the wintertime. A nod to more recent times exists in Catherine’s great-grandmother and grandmothers’ button collection which Catherine fondly remembers using as a child to learn basic arithmetic. The collection features handmade robes, corsages, perfume or “eau de toilette”, colourful well-cut dresses, silk scarves and gloves.