Berger points out that the more rarified forms of fashion—like truly antique gowns—are not good entry points for beginners. "When you collect, you have to have abundance—otherwise it’s no fun," she says. When it comes to very old pieces of couture, there’s not a lot left in any case. "Most of the 19th century has been yielded up," says Koda. But dedicated collectors like Hassan Abdullah, a London-based restaurateur, shop owner, and interior designer, don’t let rarity stop them. In his home, Abdullah has a tightly edited selection of 60 dresses—representing different eras and styles, one of which goes back to the Georgian era (1714–1830)—plus 160 handbags.
"I don’t have a favorite. I bought them because they are different," Abdullah says of the dresses, though he can’t help praising the softness of a 1940s Hardy Amis dress in yellow embroidered silk. "It’s narrow-minded to go for just one style."
Berger’s first purchase was a pair of vintage Chanel earrings almost 60 years ago. She owns 4,000 pieces, some of which are on display at NYC’s Museum of Arts and Design. Pictured above is Freirich’s multistrand necklace, circa 1960s.