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Planning Retirement Online

Family Treasures - Edition 7
                                       July 2004


Purchase Miller's Price Guide 2004/2005

Family Treasures

Jill Churchill, who writes on antiques and collectables for YOURS magazine, continues her series 


Heirloom underwear

Your Victorian great-great grandmother probably called them her drawers.  Nowadays we might label them heirloom knickers, calf-length cotton jobs to protect a girl’s modesty. And with vintage clothing now regarded as a collectable, they might fetch a pretty penny.


But the accent is on  ‘pretty’. In the world of corsetry, for instance, there’s no money in tired old elastic roll-ons (remember roll-ons?) but a glamourous whaleboned corset of the lace-up-to-die kind is well worth retrieving from the dressing-up box.

If it seems to be handmade, it could be pre-1850 (when the sewing machine revolutionised fashion). A boned linen corset c1770 has fetched 2,400 before now, and an embroidered waist-cincher from 1820 can go for 330. In good condition, a lace-trimmed later model, say mid-19th century, attracts 80 at auction. 

Frills and padding

Victorian petticoats are also sought after: layer upon layer were worn, but it’s the over-petticoat, often with frills or lace made to peep out at the ankle, that can be worth 20-80.

First introduced in the 1600s, bustles made a big come-back in the 1880s, when you flattened the front to accentuate the rear. (Some became so large it was said you could balance a tea tray on your behind!). A Victorian  tie-on bustle made of cotton-covered padded horsehair could be 200 today. 

Back to drawers.

Why drawers? They began as effectively two separate trouser-legs that had to be ‘drawn on’ to tie around the waist with tape.

Re-named knickers after 1882, the Edwardian ones (c1905) could be worth something. Made of cotton lawn, and by now one-piece, a pristine example might reach 18-20.

And did gt-gt-grandma keep her stockings up with a garter? Let’s hope it was a saucy  French one.  A couple of years ago, a particular example fetched 140.  It was dated around 1850, embroidered with a guard-dog and its kennel, bearing the words On ne passe pas.

As with any collectable, a link with fame will cause prices to rocket. A single silk stocking belonging to Queen Victoria has sold for 200 - but that’s not a patch on Madonna’s black satin bustier which recently sold at Christie’s  for 4,200!

Previous editions:

Family Treasures - 1

Family Treasures - 2

Family Treasures - 3

Family Treasures - 4

Family Treasures - 5

Family Treasures - 6

Family Treasures - 7

For subsequent editions - see the laterlife interest index



laterlife interest

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