Antique millinery collection in North Yorkshire sale

An extraordinary treasure trove of antique and vintage millinery is to be auctioned in the Costume, Accessories and Textiles Sale at Tennants Auctioneers in North Yorkshire on November 17. The Milliner’s Workroom was put together over 35 years by a lady in North Yorkshire and comprises hats from the early 20th century, antique and vintage millinery tools, accessories, and supplies including a dazzling array of feathers, ribbons, trims and more.

The collector’s love of hats began as a small child, with a grandmother who was an accessory-loving seamstress and milliner. She remembers that: “As a little girl, I sat by Grandma’s sewing machine, sorting gloves into pairs and colours, rowed up hat boxes and polished handbags. On Saturdays, off we went to the milliners to try on hats, and to the haberdashers for this week’s supplies. I could wear a hat correctly at the age of four.” In her 20s the hat bug bit properly and “the happiness of hats” inspired her to begin collecting seriously, starting with a 1920s feather driving cap that she found in a bric-a-brac shop.

However, two strokes of luck expanded her collection, and steered her towards a successful career restoring antique hats which have since graced numerous film, television and theatre productions as well as becoming part of prestigious museum collections. A friend had stumbled upon the contents of a Parisian milliner’s workshop, which had lain untouched for years, filled with feathers, veils, linings, silk, velvet ribbon and threads dating back decades. The Collector was fortunately enough gifted the collection, which was expanded when a retired Belgian milliner heard of this discovery and got in touch with her. He kindly offered her the contents of his old workshop, too, for the price of the shipping. She comments “They were incredibly happy days when these contents arrived – I called my studio ‘The Room of a Thousand Trims’”.

The collections included everything needed for making hats and making repairs, as to restore hats original materials are needed. The Collector explains that “You can’t make repairs using modern thread – because it breaks the antique fabrics”. Now retired, and only working on small private projects for herself and special clients, her extraordinary collection is up for sale.

Lovers of antique textiles, millinery and haberdashery will be able to browse and buy vintage display cabinets, boxes of feathers with their original French labels, spools of jewel-coloured threads, reels of silk ribbons and fine examples of her beautifully restored hats and antique tools of the trade. Much of the collection will be sold in carefully curated group lots, which bring together a range of nettings, trims and flowers in similar colours, groups of early 20th century hat pins, and boxes of early 20th century millinery feathers. Estimates will start from £100.