Nfld. & Labrador

This St. John's antique clothing collector has items from the 1800s and isn't afraid to wear them

Mackenzie Patrick of St. John's has a collection of antique clothing that holds hundreds of pieces from as early as 1830.

'I was obsessed with Titanic,' says collector Mackenzie Patrick

Mackenzie Patrick of St. John's collects antique clothing, a hobby she shares on Instagram with about 1,500 followers. (Submitted by Mackenzie Patrick)

What is the oldest piece of clothing you wear on a regular basis, or has a special place in your life where you just can't seem to discard it?

For collector Mackenzie Patrick, a geologist who lives in St. John's, it's a jacket from 1870. 

Patrick's collection of vintage clothing holds hundreds of pieces that range from the 1830s to the 1960s. But, it took years before she began to invest in the antique clothing which she says she first fell in love with as a child.

It was during the height of the release of the movie Titanic in 1997, the Hollywood imagining of the sinking of the unsinkable cruise liner, that sparked her interest, at first, in Edwardian-era clothing. 

"I was obsessed with Titanic and the styles. It was just so elegant and feminine," said Patrick. 

"As a child I wasn't aware you could actually get antiques, like in this day and age, but I used to actually reproduce the dresses that Rose wore on my Barbie dolls — which is ridiculous, I know."  

This 1920s ensemble was inspired by Patrick's career as a geologist. (Submitted by Mackenzie Patrick)

A small club

Patrick said she believes she's on her own in Newfoundland and Labrador in terms of her collection and hobby, which she shares on Instagram with her 1,500 followers through @lady.elizabeth.vintage. She also takes her own photos, with a tripod and timer.

She said there are small pockets of like-minded people in the world who focus on different eras, but none of them, that she knows of, are in this province and have a collection that can compete with local museums. 

"It's a pretty small group of people," Patrick said.

"I think I'm the only antique clothes collector here locally that I know of. Unless they haven't found me yet, or I haven't found them." 

Patrick even has some antique children's clothes like this dress, as worn by her daughter, from the early 1900s. (Submitted by Mackenzie Patrick)

Patrick said the community may not even exist in Newfoundland and Labrador at all, something she believes is due to the province's harsh climate. 

"The climate here is just not conducive for the preservation of clothing. At all. The moist air is not good for clothes. You need to have a special environment in order to preserve that," she said.

Most of her items come from antique dealers around the world, a large percentage from the United States and England.

One private collector in Idaho has been Patrick's go-to source since the beginning. 

"She has the hugest collection, and she will only sell to me," said Patrick.

"There's a lot of high-priced items out there, and if you know who to go to, and you wait until the time is right, then you can usually get some good deals."

This is clothing from the 1940s, reimagined in Avondale as 'waiting for a train.' (Submitted by Mackenzie Patrick)

Thinning the collection

While the initial intent was never to sell her items, Patrick said she's beginning to move some pieces to create some space. 

"I have too many things," she said. "I'm starting to sell some of them, my style has evolved.… A lot of things I can only take it out and look at it."

One such dress dated from 1912 recently came up for sale on Facebook Marketplace.

Patrick said she didn't expect her post to receive so much attention online.

"I was shocked. I thought, 'You think this should be in a museum?'" she said. 

But the dress didn't go to a museum; instead, it went to the owner of a heritage home, where it will be framed and put on display.

Patrick hopes her pieces will end up in museums one day, where more people can view them, instead of just her online following and the four walls of her home. 

"It would be cool for it to end up somewhere like that, on display.… People here really do have an appreciation for it."

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