Save the Date for Victoria and Albert Collection

Vintage garments from the Victoria and Albert Collection go under the hammer

Sydney Magazine, Published 30 August 2013

"What we were doing was so unusual here in Sydney" …
Patricia Burkitt starting designing clothes in the '60s for Double Bay couture boutique Victoria and Albert. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

The Event

Victoria and Albert Collection auction at Shapiro Auctioneers.

The Person

Patricia Burkitt, co-founder.

What's the Story?

In 1964, western NSW-born Patricia Burkitt and her English-born art director husband, Terry Burkitt, opened their first boutique and manufacturing room, Victoria and Albert, in Double Bay's Bay Lodge Arcade, producing pop-style clothes by an array of designers. The pair had met in London, where Patricia had designed dresses for and helped launch Sindy, the refined British response to the Barbie doll, in 1963, and Terry had been an ad agency graphic designer working on fashion accounts. Victoria and Albert soon became synonymous with Terry's bespoke designs. The boutique moved twice but remained within Double Bay, lasting more than 35 years until 2000, when Terry fell ill. His death three years ago precipitated Patricia's decision to de-clutter her Redfern terrace home and auction every last vintage garment, roll of fabric and design drawing. "I'm not attached to things," she says.

Why were you and Terry so successful?

"What we were doing was so unusual here in Sydney," she says. "It became a little bit like a club. We were designing total wardrobes for people." Demand grew, so Terry gravitated to designing clothes, and the couple moved the shop and manufacturing room to their best-known location, in Bay Street, producing stylish dresses, blouses, eveningwear and hats for actors, models and business and society clients, using fabrics from Italy, France and Spain.

Who were your more famous clients?

"We did a lot of work for the model Maggi Eckardt. She'd been in Europe, where she'd been a big-deal supermodel. We became friends. We dressed her for the Melbourne Cup and she won the fashion award in the suit we'd made for her: it was like a tuxedo dinner jacket, in charcoal grey, pale grey, lavender and violet; it was a rather Marlene Dietrich look. We were commissioned to make a summer wardrobe for the dancer Margot Fonteyn. She did a tour of Australia one summer but she hadn't brought any summer clothes, so we made her streetwear for the heat of North Queensland. She was a really lovely person. Cindy Robbins, the wife of the singer Tommy Leonetti, was a friend of Sammy Davis Jr, who was also out here on tour. We made her this full-length black leather coat, but Sammy saw it. He was about the same size as her, and he put it on and said, 'I must have this coat.' So Cindy gave him the coat and we had to make her another one."

The auction starts at 1pm, Sunday, September 15, at the Woollahra Hotel function room, 116 Queen Street, Woollahra. See


• There will be more than 200 lots of dresses, blouses, evening wear, hats, jewellery, beaded collars, rolls of French silk, boxes of buttons and accessories going under the hammer.

• Terry Burkitt designed the Bauhaus-inspired magazine advertisements for Victoria and Albert, which appeared in Vogue. He also worked on the boutique's fit-out, in consultation with interior designer Marion Hall Best. for their shop fit-out, but Terry was behind its design, along with the boutique's Bauhaus-inspired magazine advertisements.

• Sharing responsibilities helped ensure the couple's success: Terry designed the clothes, Patricia organised the workroom (which employed about 20 people), and together, they chose the fabrics.

• Notable Victoria and Albert clients included Lady Mary Fairfax, actor Bobo Faulkner and market research supremo Elizabeth Dangar.

• Designers who worked for Victoria and Albert include German-born Hanni Wilson. Her colourful skirts, with layers of chiffon, were designed to look fabulous when diving into a swimming pool.

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