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The Lisa Ho Collection Vintage Auction

Every now and then a remarkable thing happens and you have a piece of astonishing good fortune. Thanks to the kindness of my friend Nicole of Circa Vintage, I had just such a piece of good fortune a few weeks ago.

Nicole sent me a message on Friday evening, August 19, to ask if I was going to the auction of Australian designer Lisa Ho’s collection of vintage clothing that Sunday. Many 1920s gowns were in evidence, she intimated, and it might be worth looking in at. She sent me links to the catalogue and the price estimates, and I quickly re-arranged my weekend schedule and roped in fellow 1920s vintage enthusiasts my mother, Sandra, and chief crony Jill.
A few hurried phone calls and we decided what we were going to focus our bids on – I wrote off the more elaborate single beaded gown lots, as these tend to go for more than I know I can find them elsewhere, and we agreed to focus our efforts on the lots, more particularly some of the floral chiffons.

Sunday morning and I get a message from Nicole – en route to the airport. She hadn’t planned on attending, but the temptation proved too much. Generally speaking, the auction hadn’t been too widely publicised in the vintage community, and it seems word was slow to get around.
We arrived out at Moore Park and went through the viewing – and a long time it took, too. Imagine rack after rack of gowns, predominately 20s and 30s. Nicole’s blog has a great series of photos here that give you some idea of the diversity on offer. Fortunately some of the beaded gowns were laid flat on tables, but not all. I always get the shudders when I see people whipping through racks of vintage as if they were fossicking through the sales rack at Sportsgirl – had to turn away when I saw two people pawing at one of the beaded gowns on a mannequin.

I did see a couple of excellent dealers I’m familiar with and exchanged a few quick words, and then off to lunch. Jill had been unable to make it at the last moment, so there had to be some phone consultation – she confessed that, once she’d had a better look at the catalogue, she had a very good feeling about it.

Catching up with Nicole, who was documenting some of the fabulous range of textiles on offer, we took out seats and spent a couple of hours sitting through the auction of furniture items. Then the room thinned out considerably, and the clothing items came up for auction.
First lot, an ecru and black beaded Art Deco coat that photographed spectacularly but which had issues on inspection, went quite high to a phone bidder. I thought that might set the pattern for what followed, but then something odd began to unfold.

People weren’t bidding. Gowns were being passed in, or were having to be referred because the bids were too low. When matters came to the yellow (almost chartreuse in person) French beaded gown, displayed on a mannequin near the podium, the starting bid being asked for dropped so low that it was about to be passed in. I’d had no intention of bidding on it, but with Sandra elbowing me hard I recovered from my own stunned disbelief and put my paddle up. The bid won, but was so low it was put on referral.

And that was how it went – a coat I’d had no intention of bidding on but had been admiring for its workmanship and interesting design went so low I had to bid on it because I was almost offended that no one was showing interest.

With the floral chiffons, interest picked up – these groups of 4 – 5 gowns sparked interest. In amusement, Nicole said to me she was going to start going for 1920s beaded gowns, as they were at the cheaper end of the range and going for less than the florals. We focused on the lot we were most interested in – five beaded dresses, four 1920s and one early 30s – and Sandra sat there with her paddle raised until it was knocked down to us.

I hardly remembered to bid on the final dress I wanted – another French beaded gown on a cotton base – but put my hand up just in time. Nichole, meanwhile, was scoring all sorts of fabulous pieces…some of them were referred due to the low bid amounts, but the following day all the referred bids were accepted.

And so ended a day of glorious buying and vintage buzz!


I worked as a temp for Lisa Ho for about a week in the 1990's. One day a huge shipment of vintage dresses arrived from some country auction Lisa had bought them at. My eyes nearly fell out of my head. There were racks and racks of them. Wish I could have got my hands on them!!

I love your blog!

What absolutely stunning finds. I missed you updating this journal even though I've been quite absent myself.
phone flapper

September 2012




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