HEAVEN for Daphne Corbin was the discovery of a treasure trove of millinery materials which had lain untouched for ages in a Parisian house loft.
A friend of Daphne's friend stumbled across the hoard of feathers veils, linings, silks, satins, velvet ribbon and threads all dating back decades. They had been stuffed away , along with all his tools, when the elderly hatter retired.
To Daphne, a lover of hats since aged four, and the owner of a fascinating collection of hats dating between 1890 and 1947, it was "paradise".
"There was everything there I needed for making hats and especially for making repairs. To restore hats you need the original materials. You can't make repairs using modern thread because it breaks," said Daphne, who lives in Halton Gill, in Littondale.
Her collection , which started in her 20s with a 1920s feather driving cap from a bric-brac-shop and includes rare specimens by mad-cap designer Elsa Schiaparelli, a contemporary of Coco Chanel, now numbers more than 250.
"The feather driving cap was so exquisitely made, I felt I had to seek out another. I found another and this time the milliner was interesting, so I thought I would look for more made by that milliner and so it went on.
"Now I have hats many made by the most famous and greatest milliners of their time, valuable and coveted collectors pieces.
"Hats made by Greta Garbo’s and Marlene Dietrich’s personal milliner, hats made by Wallace Simpson's milliner, hats made by the great Parisian milliners, hats with whole birds, hats like a Christmas tree, big Titanic hats, Hollywood hats, fabulous Jazz Age cloches, WWI and WWII hats, almost every wonderful hat you can imagine."
Since retiring from her job which took her round the world, she has turned her passion into a business, restoring hats for museums and collectors and recently sold 60 hats to the LVR-Industriemuseum in Oberhausen, Germany, for its First World War millinery exhibition later this year.
"My hats will appear in the latest book from the renowned vintage author Nicky Albrechtsen “Vintage Fashion Complete”, the ultimate vintage fashion bible, it will be published on October 13 this year," she said.
With a group of friends - the Elegant Ladies of Littondale - Daphne presents vintage fashion shows focussing on the hats and featuring period costume and accessories and raising money for local organisations
She said: "The ladies who attend are invited to try on original 1920s cloche hats and we switch on the music and then they dance to The Charleston."
"We charge a small fee and include a glass of bubbly, a cream tea or buffet, a vintage raffle and a brochure for each guest showing the hats. At the end of the event the ladies visit the Exhibition Room."
As the owner of a 1932 Morris Minor, in future she is hoping to entice vintage car clubs and to invite the women involved to talk hats with The Elegant Ladies of Littondale.
For more information and to contact Daphne lock-on to firstname.lastname@example.org