The Collectors – a visit with Lizzie Bramlett

1960s/70s decorative clothes hangers – another one of Lizzie’s weaknesses…

Image of LIzzie Bramlett from her about page (the pics I took were all blurry…)

About 16 years ago I met Sharon Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bramlett online through the Vintage Fashion Guild, and I have been an avid follower of her posts and blog, The Vintage Traveller, ever since. Kenn and I were especially delighted to meet up with her in person for the first time last week on our quick trip down south to Asheville, North Carolina, and Tennessee, where we installed our Lucile dress at the Titanic Museum.

Looking at a Bonnie Cashin sketch that matches her Cashin suit – part of her collection’s catalogueing

After meeting at a restaurant for lunch we followed her to where she stores her collection — a ‘darling’ duplex cottage built in 1903 (darling is not a word I generally use, but there is no other word for the quaint southern charm of this little white wooden house.)

Upstairs, the racks are filled to capacity with riding habits, bicycling skirts, snappy suits and coats and sporty dresses; boxes are packed with woollen bathing suits and accessories.  She has assembled a tight collection of garments and accessories ranging from couture pieces to a selection of sportswear, both active and spectator, dating mostly from the 1870s to the 1970s. She is not apologetic for collecting what she likes – decorative hat boxes and hangers, 1920s/30s ensembles, disposition-printed 1950s skirts, and at least one example from couturiers and designers whose work she admires: Claire McCardell, Bonnie Cashin, Chanel…

Lizzie is a curator without a museum – her collection is meticulously tagged, bagged, photographed and recorded, with everything identified chronologically in a series of catalogues. Her memory snaps to attention when asked where something was found — a flea market in Savannah, eBay, the local thrift store… She remembers each piece like she acquired it yesterday.

Here, hanging on her racks and tucked away in boxes is a carefully curated exhibition that needs to be seen, and what better way than through a museum exhibition… hmm, sounds like an idea for the FHM!

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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13 Responses to The Collectors – a visit with Lizzie Bramlett

  1. Really enjoyed this sneak peek at Lizzie’s fabulous collection! It’s difficult to pick a favorite item, I am rather partial to that Art Deco felt appliqué coat with it’s original hang tag, how amazing it is still with the coat!

    • Jonathan says:

      It was a fantastic coat… how does something languish away for nearly a century with its original hanging tag!?!?!

  2. Hollis says:

    Lizzie has a wonderful collection and it is indeed curated beautifully. And darling is the only word for her cottage! I am envious you two got to visit.

  3. What a wonderful collection! I’m so appreciative that you shared a peek into her beautiful selections.

  4. jacq staubs says:

    What a wonderful afternoon and way to meet. I have learned a lot from Lizzie and her posts. The art – fashion illustrations – catalogs – posters all have really been fascinating . My 30 year career was in fashion merchandising and as an editor. I wish i had known her then.

  5. jzzy55 says:

    Huge fan of Vintage Traveler, and enjoyed your kind blog post about her collection!

  6. I loved meeting you and showing off my stuff! Thanks for coming by, and for sharing my collection with all your readers!

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