My late mum's vintage clothes collection is worth thousands

My stylish late mum’s vintage clothes collection is worth thousands – three generations of our family still wear them

  • Before her death, fashion fan Audrey Watson amassed huge clothes collection
  • Read more:  How a middle-class mother became Britain’s most prolific shoplifter and raked in £500,000

A woman has revealed how her fashion-loving late mother’s remarkable clothing collection is now worth thousands – and says she still loves to wear the stylish ensembles.  

Helen Smith, 65, from North Yorkshire, inherited her mum Audrey Watson’s outfits after she sadly passed away in May 2020, aged 90.

She collected a huge haul of fashionable clothes through the decades – which have now been handed down through the family.

From Audrey, to her daughter and granddaughters, three generations of the family have had the chance to wear the items.

And Helen says the clothes help her feel connected to her mum as they were such a strong part of her identity.

Like mother, like daughter: Before her death, fashion fan Audrey Watson amassed a huge clothes collection – which her daughter, right, Helen Smith, inherited when she died in 2020

She said: ‘Thank goodness for Audrey and all her amazing clothes for having such wonderful taste.

‘The clothes defined a lot of things about my mum and her identity, I think they’re a big part of my identity as well. During the late 60s early 70s, you would have described her as a fashionista.

‘She loved the designer Ossie Clark, and anything a little bit quirky or out of the ordinary. If she saw something she liked available in more than one colour she would buy it in every colour.

Audrey and Helen pictured at The Fashion Revolution Auction in 2015, where the fashionista sold off some of the clothes she’d spent most of her life collecting

Audrey in 1978 with husband Ronald wearing silver boots, hotpants and maxi dress

‘When I wear the clothes, I just thank my mum for having fab taste and thank my dad as well for being a very patient man and having the space to have kept all those clothes.’

Audrey, born in 1929, started amassing the vast collection after marrying businessman Ronald Watson in 1955.

Thanks to his ability to support the family through his work, Audrey was able to spend her time investing in statement pieces and travelling to exotic destinations.

Helen says her upbringing was comfortable, and she remembers her mum beginning to experiment with fashion during the 60s and collecting fashion magazines like Honey, 19 and Vogue.

The vast collection included items from cult London clothing boutique Mr Freedom which influenced the fashion of icons like David Bowie and Elton John.

In 2015, Audrey made the decision to part ways with over 1000 items from the vast collection – which went for over £4000 at a specialist auction.

Audrey in 1970 wearing a turquoise harem suit, and, right, winning Butlin’s Glamorous Grandmother in 1970 wearing a white trouser suit

Audrey’s great granddaughter Carlie wearing an outfit bought by Audrey in 1967, and, right, Helen wearing a suit Audrey bought in 1970

Audrey’s granddaughter Gemma wearing a gold evening dress and cape bought by Audrey in the early 1970s

Still chic: Helen wearing a dress Audrey bought in 1972

The remaining clothes were handed down to Helen after Audrey passed away after suffering with dementia.

And now Helen has organised a fashion show featuring the incredible designer items to raise money to help support dementia and blood cancer charities.

She said: ‘My mother developed dementia in her eighties and spent the last five years in a care home.

‘The carers who looked after her wonderfully always used to say how much they loved helping her get dressed because she had such beautiful clothes and liked to look nice.

‘Even with dementia that sense of wanting to look nice and wear something a bit unusual stayed with her.

Audrey in her first ever trouser suit on a family holiday in Spain in 1967

Audrey loved colour, says daughter Helen, pictured in 2022 wearing Audrey’s jacket and jeans. Right: Helen in 2022 wearing a trouser suit Audrey bought in 1970, but was never worn

‘If it was quirky and unusual Audrey loved it, she loved trouser suits and all-in-one suits.

‘Mum and I were very very close until the minute mum died, when I wear the clothes that she bought I feel connected to her.

‘It’s a sense of style rather than fashion – I’ve inherited that love of quirky unusual standout items. I would say the collection probably had to be 1500 items including the fashion magazines. I’ve got around 60 outfits, I did sell some on eBay because I just couldn’t store all the clothes.

‘A friend and I are putting on a fashion show of my mother’s collection because it’ll be the third anniversary of when my mum died.

‘We’re putting on charity fashion show and evening of sixties and seventies music called the ‘Social Butterflies Event’ – it will be three generations of mum’s family modelling clothes on May 20.’

The event is being held in Selby, North Yorkshire and is joint effort between Helen and her friend Heather Megson, another vintage fashion fan.

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