From a floor-sweeping velvet robe worn at the Queen’s coronation in 1953, to pieces that epitomise the swinging 60s from Mary Quant and Biba to 70s Ossie Clark, Patricia Fox's eclectic collection of vintage fashion provides a fascinating snapshot of the seismic changes in British life between the early and mid 20th century.

Patricia bought her first piece in 1965 and has been a well-known collector, buyer and seller of vintage clothing in Norfolk and Suffolk for decades.

Now a collection of more than 160 pieces which she has collected over the last 57 years is being auctioned by TW Gaze in Diss on March 10.

The sale features garments dating back from Victorian times to the 1970s, including afternoon frocks, cocktail dresses, menswear, ballgowns, blouses, kimonos, underclothes and nightgowns and accessories.

Speaking to Elizabeth Talbot, auction rooms director of TW Gaze, Patricia recalled her first vintage purchase: “In 1965 I was a young married mother with a three-month old son. We rented a basement flat; both my husband, Keith, and I were working, just about managing to make ends meet. Then one day in September, whilst walking into St Stephen’s Street, I came across a charity shop next door to Marks and Spencer and hanging on the door was a pale blue beaded 1920’s dress.

“That’s the moment my passion for vintage clothes was ignited. It was priced at 10/- which was a lot of money for us working class and more than I could really afford; but I had to buy it! Keith was extremely annoyed on that occasion. However, as my interest and knowledge grew, so did my collection and I began to build a client base of sellers and buyers.”

Patricia traded out of shops in Wright’s Court, Elm Hill and in Bagley’s Court in Norwich, lectured students on the history of fashion and shared her collection in fashion shows at St Andrew’s Hall to raise money for charity.

As she told Elizabeth, her passion for fashion has been life-long: “As a young child I loved watching my mother dress up for special occasions. Today my love and passion for vintage fashion, especially from the 1920s and 1930s remains the same as the day I saw the pale blue dress. I think the early 20th century was the last elegant era. The colours are stunning, the colours beautiful and there is so much imagination in the design.”

Patricia would visit Norwich’s charity shops on an almost daily basis and would also travel further afield on the lookout for vintage treasures.

She says that the real pleasure in collecting the clothes wasn’t about their financial value, but an appreciation of the artistry that went into them.

“I have a great admiration for the designers and dressmakers of beautiful fashion in all periods,” she said.

“Plus, I like the way an item has been treasured and maintained by ongoing repairs, which add to the charm and the historical narrative of a particular dress. The best part for me was the buzz of discovering, buying, and rejuvenating a garment, giving it a new relevance.”

TW Gaze valuer Debra Brown has been working on the sale of 163 lots.

She also has a long-held love for fashion. She worked at the BBC’s costume department, where she looked after clothing dating from the 1920s to the 1960s and helped costume designers select pieces for period dramas.

“It’s quite an eclectic mix of clothing. It’s really what a vintage sale should be about,” says Debra.

“There’s a good collection of beaded evening gowns from the 1920s, we’ve got silk kimonos, feather boas, beautiful hats, wedding gowns...a couple of 1940s garments with wartime labels, we’ve got Mary Quant boots.”

Her personal favourite pieces in the sale include a 1970s cotton smock top designed by Jeff Banks.

“It’s got fantastic leg of mutton sleeves and it’s got a really sweet little pattern all over it which is a repeated pattern of a cottage. That’s a mix of styles, because the actual pattern itself is almost like an art nouveau pattern although it’s a 1970s piece,” she says.

Another piece from the 1970s, which is likely to generate a lot of interest, is a day dress by Ossie Clark, whose designs are highly prized by collectors, and is estimated to fetch between £200 and £300.

“It’s in really good condition – it's a red crepe day dress,” says Debra. “You could wear it today, but it’s iconic of the 70s.”

She also loves a 30s silk evening dress which has a Harrods label.

“It’s an absolute beauty,” says Debra. “It’s got a corsage with it and it’s full-length with all over floral detail with lots of lovely ruching at the front. What’s lovely about it is that the colours are still really strong and quite bright.”

And there are even pieces connected with royalty and historic occasions, including a velvet robe which was worn by a peeress to the Queen’s coronation in 1953, which is estimated to fetch £200 to £300.

And a 1950s cream organza cocktail dress, handmade in Italy and embellished with daisies, which belonged to Lady Lyle the third Duchess of Bedford and is believed to have been worn to a party at Buckingham Palace has an estimate of between £250 to £375.

There are also pieces by some very well-known names from the 1960s in the sale, including Mary Quant, Biba, Bus Stop and Hardy Amies.

“We’ve got a Hardy Amies two piece from the 60s, which is beautiful,” says Debra. "There’s a black wool herringbone coat, with a matching dress that’s sleeveless and quite smart, so maybe it would have been worn to a cocktail evening or as just really chic daywear worn by someone in Chelsea in the 1960s.”

And there are pieces which intrigue.

“We’ve got a wedding dress, it’s an Edwardian piece and it’s got Liberty in the waistband, but I don’t know if that's like a sentiment as in liberty of a woman of that period or whether that’s actually Liberty label. It’s not like a proper label it’s printed inside,” says Debra.

Details of the sale, including the catalogue, are available at