Vintage fashion in the Dordogne

Gite owners Vanessa & William are passionate about vintage fashion and the additional space in France has now enabled them to take their love to the next level with the introduction of their onsite fashion museum.

Let us go back a few decades to see what inspired this fascination for women's dress from the past?

Collecting vintage fashion and where to find it

Vanessa bought her first item (a pink Edwardian lace drenched blouse) in an antique shop in Chelmsford back in the mid-1980s, which was the start of an unending love of vintage. 

Over the years she bought the odd piece from fairs, events and car boot sales then came the advent of specialist fairs and of course eBay. Living near London, of course, was perfect for popping into the famous Portabello Road and many a bargain was to be had before vintage became extremely popular and the prices shot up fourfold and more! 

The start of a nightwear collection

For her, it was the style, cut and finish that was enthralling, especially those from highly acclaimed brands. Then she discovered the antique fairs held in the Alexander Palace, from where she bought her first pair of 1930s pyjamas.

This then started a sideline interest in collecting ladies nightwear and everything to do with the subject including patterns, nightwear cases etc. Always looking to learn more about the subject she found there was no one book written about it and so after a lot of research from the Victora and Albert Museum in London and the Palais Galliera in Paris, she is slowly bringing all her knowledge together and hopes one day to write her own book. Meanwhile, as her collection grew she spent time lecturing on its history to a variety of ladies interest groups.

Designing vintage style!  

By the age of 40, she was working on producing her own nightwear collection and got as far as introducing it to top London store Fortnum and Mason, when the reality it wasn't going to pay the mortgage kicked in and she stayed with her day job. One day though she hopes the 18 pieces will still have their day! 

The Eye of Time Vintage Boutique    

So when she was 50, she and her partner, William McDonald, moved to Suffolk, where they had the opportunity to set up a vintage boutique in the village of Clare.  The emporium was run by William, known as “The Eye of Time,” was loaded with all kinds of purchases that enticed customers from near and far to visit and buy, including the BBC. 

Vanessa said, “I always had an eye for quality, and there is nothing better than the euphoric feeling of finding a designer label from yesterday.”

What to wear at the Goodwood revival?

William was a quick learner and was soon togging out all and sundry from top to bottom for events like the Goodwood revival or vintage car rallies. For both of them, the love of serving the public and creating delight was to be put to good use in their next venture.

Vintage Museum in the Dordogne    

A move to France brought closure to the boutique and the stock was carefully wrapped and stored for whatever the future had in store.

They initially opened a gite, which offered luxury accommodation to predominantly UK-based professionals. Vanessa knew, however, for them to be really successful in this business, they would need to add something that was a real point of difference. Utilising the vintage collection was the perfect answer. Therefore, they earmarked an outbuilding as “the place,” and William developed a home for their stock that eventually morphed from an original idea of a vintage studio into a museum instead.

It has now an extremely attractive private space for both vintage lovers and holidaymakers to take in the wonders of and admire beautiful clothing and accessories of the past.

What does the future hold for them and their vintage now? There’s no telling; at present, they are just focusing on showcasing their treasures for their guests, friends and those who also have a passion and want to book a visit to come and see.

But just maybe Vanessa will have time to write more background for the book, or will their journey go in another direction? 

If you would like to learn more about the fashion museum or any related aspect,

please contact us on info@yourfrenchstay.com.