Dressing to Impress

By Polly Heffer, Committee Member

Deciding what to wear on one of the hottest days of the year is tricky business. Luckily for the Belles this month, we had the whole of fashion history to draw our inspiration from.

Our July meeting was themed around Vintage Fashion as we welcomed a special guest speaker from the world’s leading auction house specialising in vintage fashion, Kerry Taylor. Kerry Taylor Auctions are based in Bermondsey – right on the Borough Belles’ doorstop! They hold several auctions each year selling vintage fashion, antique costume and textiles.


What is great about vintage fashion is that its different. It’s the quirky design details that make pieces one of a kind.’

Kerry began by giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the process of fashion auctions – who are the people who sell these items, and who is it who buys them? Although she deals with royalty and the very rich, Kerry says some of the most amazing finds have come to her from people who have no idea what they have. ‘I found one Chanel dress rolled up in a plastic bag’ Kerry explained.


The main reasons for getting rid of clothes are the three Ds: death, divorce and diet. Because of this, they can be emotionally wrapped up with stages of peoples’ lives. They can be things that people have strong memories of, or objects people want rid of. ‘Clothes are emotive things and letting go of them can be a cathartic process.’

But some fashion is pure art. The iconic YSL ‘Mondrian dress’, the Schiaparelli Zodiac jacket from the Astrology collection, Alexander McQueen’s enameled metal ‘buttercup dress’. These are all part of the history and heritage of fashion, inspired by and inspiring artists and designers. They are like sculptures or paintings – people remember them. They are even more memorable if they once belonged to the rich and famous, and Kerry has seen sold some of the most beautiful dresses once worn by people such as Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn.

PicMonkey Collage

These types of fashion items are often sold to museums and private collections around the world. However, Kerry also sells wedding dresses and daywear as well as luxury haute couture.

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A lot of vintage fashion is affordable and wearable today – which the Belles can testify to! As our meeting’s theme was vintage fashion, many of the Belles dressed to impress, in their finest vintage and vintage-inspired pieces. Each gave a little explanation of where their attire came from, and prizes were given out including a copy of Kerry’s new book Vintage Fashion & Couture: From Poiret to McQueen (you can get yours here). Special kudos to Frances who looked fabulous in green and Lisa-Anne whose fifties-inspired dress was handmade.


Having seen some of the most exquisite fabrics and textiles in the world, one Belle asked Kerry whose wardrobe should would most like to get at. Her answer – Kate Moss. Who would yours be?