Nance Houen is one of the creators of the National Trust’s wildly popular annual Vintage Clothing Sale that attracts thousands of people. She met Betty Spangaro at Athelstan Retirement Apartments, where they both live. These friends are part of a foursome that has made the fashion sale a must-attend event for vintage fashion enthusiasts.
I invited Betty to come along to the National Trust and have a look at what we do, never thinking she’d want to join us. But she only came once and she was very happy to join us. She’s invaluable. It’s wonderful.
There are four of us who work together now. Two of us started it. We all have a very good friendship through the trust and the vintage clothing sale has grown enormously. We made $55,000 last year on that weekend. The last two years we have put the money towards restoring Como House.
Betty and I trot off to the National Trust every Wednesday morning and work, have lunch together and have a coffee and travel home on the tram together. It’s delightful.
The vintage clothing sale started as a garage sale about eight years ago. Now it is at Como and we have thousands of pieces of vintage clothing donated and thousands of people come to the sale over two days. They queue down Williams Road (South Yarra) from 9am until we open at 10.
I moved to Athelstan after my husband died. I looked at a couple of retirement places and saw a sign up (for Athelstan) and I thought I’d go and have a look.
I came and had a look and as soon as I went to the third floor I could see the You Yangs, Mt Dandenong and Mt Martha and the lemon gums. I thought I could put my house on the market and move here. And no regrets. Then meeting Betty was wonderful too.
I retired from my business five years ago and I’d had 50 years’ experience in the clothing industry. My husband, Albert, and I wanted to move somewhere that if something happened to either of us we would be in a secure space.
We had three lovely years here together and then I lost my husband and it was a great shock and I basically felt now I have to go it alone. I wasn’t alone though, because this was a community where I got tremendous support and then Nance heard about my background and she asked me to join the National Trust.
That was a big step for me joining Nance and a couple of other ladies on the National Trust. It’s been wonderful for me and I thank Nance for that very much.
We get to see some gorgeous clothes and things that you just don’t see in the shops anymore. The way things were made, the beautiful fabrics. The way women dressed in the ‘50s: gloves, hats, jewellery, everything looking immaculate. We rarely see that today.
Now we do other things together too. We go to the opera together. She has a love of that as well and we both love music. That’s another part of our friendship. From here on in we don’t know where we’re going to end up. It’s been a very happy time for me.
Love vintage fashion? Head to nationaltrust.org.au to learn more about the Vintage Clothing Sale.