The Darnell Collection

We’ve been in the Blue Mountains this week to photograph some select couture pieces from Charlotte Smith’s Darnell Collection. Here you can see Charlotte sharing a fabulous beaded 1920s silk gown with us.


Charlotte is featured on this evening’s ABC programme The Collectors
Charlotte Smith’s collection has been described as “two centuries of elegance”. Three years ago Charlotte became the custodian of her godmother Doris Darnell’s world-renowned collection of vintage clothing and accessories, the largest of it’s kind in Australia. Dior, Versace, this collection has it all and it’s a treat indeed for the couture loving prof when he joins Charlotte for some high-end fashion ‘time travelling’.

You can see some more snaps I took during the session here.

1930s silk devore velvet

1950s strapless nylon prom dress

1960s silk and lame

1950s Dior ballgown

Edwardian wedding gown

Late 1940s silk cocktail frock: I suspect this is Dior too, although it’s lost it’s label

Label from 1930s silk Vionnet gown


  1. Lovely photos! I nearly fell off my chair when the first dress they showed was a Lucile gown. Is that the Edwardian wedding gown pictured above? I don’t remember seeing the hem, just the bodice, and was so taken aback I didn’t really absorb anything beyond how typical of Lady Duff Gordon’s designs it was.

  2. I saw the segment on Collectors and it was incredibly frustrating to watch – we only got about 1.5 mins of footage!! aaggghhh!! Wonder if Charlotte will exhibit her stunning collection so everyone can learn more about vintage? I have a 10y.o. in what I call “vintage history training” who I know would be fascinated by the collection!

  3. Inger: the Edwardian gown is indeed the Lucile – apologies for not labelling it as such. It was outside the scope of visit (concentrating on 1920s-80s) and so we didn’t take any “proper” photos of it, but couldn’t resist taking a few of it residing in it’s box. It’s amazing.

    Vintagevamp: we’re working on adapting the Collector’s segment to put on Youtube (along with the earlier segment featuring local collector Lynn Savery). Stay tuned.

    Regarding Charlotte’s amazing collection, there are plans afoot for a permanent display in Sydney as well other exhibitions. We’ll let you know more as news comes in. Very glad to hear about your daughter – it is my experience that vintage lovers often start young!

  4. Thanks for that, Nicole – Edwardian is a bit out of my collecting period (although I have a few pieces), but I’ll always fall in love with a Poiret or a Lucile from that period! I’ll have to send a link to the blog to Lucile’s biographer – he’ll be intrigued.

    Very much looking forward to the Youtube adaptation of the “Collectors” footage. They’re all gorgeous, but I’ll admit to a particular weakness for 20s beaded dresses so am enthralled by the first one pictured.

  5. Can anybody please tell me if The Darnell Collection will ever come back to Melbourne? I am simply longing to see it!

  6. Janine,
    the Darnell Collection is looking for a permanent exhibition space, but it is likely to be in Sydney. I believe that some pieces will be displayed soon at a regional Victoria museum. I’ll post about it here when I hear more.

  7. Dear Charlotte,
    Can we view the collection or part thereof in the Blue Mountains?
    If so can you please give the contact details and opening times please.
    We would love to see it.

  8. Hi Brenda,
    I believe that the Collection will be set up in a permanent home in Sydney, where it will be on display. I’ll post details here when I hear more.

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