A unique archive celebrating Derbyshire’s role in the evolution of foundation wear has sold at auction for £4600.
The Jim and Sue French collection of corsets and associated memorabilia – believed to be the largest of its kind in the country – was offered as a single lot at Richard Winterton in Lichfield on June 26.
Jim French (1937-2020) was the founder in 1971 of corsetry maker Chil-Tex. His wife Sue, a machinist who spent many of her 52 working years making girdles and corsets, later became a director of the company.
Some of the more historic elements in the large collection had been acquired in 1999 when French’s company bought out Richard Cooper & Co, a once well-known firm established in 1855 that at the turn of the 20th century employed more than 500 people in Ashbourne and Uttoxeter.
Rare Cooper’s garments included 19th century corsets for women and children plus underwear made for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in the Second World War. A dozen boxes of garments were accompanied by ephemera such as advertisements and trade catalogues.
The collection was held in storage for 18 years since 2004 before placed on exhibition in Ashbourne last year. Entered for sale with a guide of £400-600, it generated interest from vintage fashion buyers before finally selling to an online bidder (plus 22% buyer’s premium).