First World War fashion memorabilia raises thousands in sell-off

Stylish First World War memorabilia found in a vintage-hoarder’s home more than a year after her death has sold for thousands at a special sale

First World War memorabilia and fashion found in Vervia Todd's attic in County Durham
First World War memorabilia and fashion found in Vervia Todd's attic in County Durham

Vervia Todd made national headlines when her extraordinary collection of clothes that spanned more than a century of fashion was discovered last November.

That discovery by her best friend, Sheila Ellis, led to a house sale which attracted hundreds of eager collectors.

But Vervia’s hoard was so extensive a second sale was held on Saturday. More than 200 people attended and raised more than £3,000.

As well as the eccentric fashionista’s treasure trove of garments, her father’s relics gathered during the First World War were also up for grabs.

Vervia’s father, a dental surgeon, fought on the frontline in 1914 and kept sleeping bags, shaving kits and even a box of 1920s magic tricks that entertained his soldiers.

Ms Todd, from Houghton-le-Spring, died in November 2012 aged 92 and left an Aladdin’s cave of secretly collected wardrobe behind.

Sheila Ellis, 66, of Church Street, Houghton-le-Spring, prepared Ms Todd’s incredible clothes hoard for a second vintage fair.

She said: “It’s taken us all this time to sort through Vervia’s things.”

Sheila added: “From 10am the sale was full of people just enjoying the atmosphere – they wouldn’t leave.

“This house is a living museum so people were overwhelmed. People from the vintage world always say they’ve never seen anything like it.

“A lot of Vervia’s clothes had never been worn before so I like the idea that they’ll get an outing now, even if it’s just to a fancy dress party.

“But not everything sold, we’ve still got racks of 30s dresses left.

“When I was clearing up the guests’s empty teacups yesterday morning I noticed that the top hat which was the most expensive item in the sale had sold.”

When Vervia died, Mrs Ellis found suitcases full of clothes and souvenirs from the countries Ms Todd had visited: toy gondolas from Venice, bottles of Limoncello from Italy, Dutch clocks.

The suitcases had never been unpacked.

Mrs Ellis asked Paula Donaldson, owner of vintage emporium Dregs of Society in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, to value the hoard.

Ms Donaldson, 41, of Park View, Whitley Bay, said: “When we saw what Vervia had collected over the years we were gobsmacked.

“We wanted to sell it all but there was so much we decided to put on an event. Everything in the house is either Vervia’s, her mother’s or her grandmother’s.”

There were over 1,500 dresses that dated back to the 1920s.

There were also jackets, shoes, scarves, lingerie and a collection of 1950s cosmetics – powder puffs, lipsticks and perfumes.

The exhibition of Vervia father’s First World War relics proved very popular and will be displayed until the end of the week.

There is talk of the collection, which has been named Postcards Home and appeared on BBC One’s Look North on Friday, becoming a travelling exhibition.

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