55 Thousand Dresses is the estimated amount of fabulous frocks that this retired contractor has collected – and is selling – to all of the vintage clothing lovers out there. As a devoted fan, I watch for and “like” the glowing faces of gorgeous ladies in vintage gowns sharing their photos each month on Paul and Margot Brockman’s growing Facebook community.
How did this man break the Guinness Book Of World Records for the Largest Collection of Clothing Labels? Here is what he had to say (and cause me to swoon) in an interview just after the announcement.
Brockman first explained how he obtained enough dresses to fill a warehouse, two storage containers, and his garage. “I was a contractor before I retired. I was driving around California every day. I would drive by garage sales and store windows. I would stop if I saw a dress I loved. I would look at every dress and visualize my wife in it.”
“I never cared about size. I had people that knew me at Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. They would call me at the end of the season and I would buy 25-30 dresses at a discount. My wife could have a beautiful dress whether she lost weight or gained weight. She is a seamstress. I have even designed dresses for her that she has made.”
“People have said things about me as a man collecting dresses, but aren’t many famous fashion designers men? Men want to see their wife looking beautiful. Men have a different view than women. We know what we like.”
“I have been very fortunate to collect the dresses. We love ballroom dancing. I wanted my wife to have a new dress for every dance. Margot could never say, ‘I don’t have anything to wear.’ She was the only one that knew about the collection. It was a big surprise to my family when we showed it to the children.”
“It happened one day. I was driving by a garage sale and a dress was hanging. I asked the woman to buy it. Instead, she gave me three more dresses because the person that owned them had passed away and she felt that no one was ever going to wear them again. I thought about my collection, ‘these dresses are never going to be on a dance floor.'”
Being a contractor and seamstress, Margot and Paul rely heavily on other vintage lovers to spread the word. Brockman explains that Elodia Corona “does a wonderful and amazing job” promoting 55 Thousand Dresses while a small army of volunteers assist in the sales. “Most women seem to find us Googling for where to buy vintage dresses.” Elodia shared, “We have a website and are on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.”
“Two wonderful ladies came to me and are doing a documentary about the collection. They have done so much hard work for us. They are the ones that suggested (The Guinness Book of World Records). The previous record holder from Holland had more than 1,000 labels.”
“We did a count of labels in the dresses and then estimated how many we had in the whole collection. Then we knew we had many more than that.” Aside from the dresses from famous fashion designers, many of the dresses have had the labels cut out or were hand-made. “We did an official second count of just the dresses with labels in the warehouse, not the ones in storage, and we counted 4,120 labels.”
“We just got the announcement from Guinness (March 11, 2014) and it has been amazing. It has been overwhelming and we are so delighted. The documentary should be coming out in about two months. We are holding off on the television interview requests because we think the ladies should have the story first. They have worked so hard for us.”
Buying Your Guinness Gown:
55 Thousand Dresses holds one showcase per month in a warehouse in Gardena, California. Invitations and any additional locations are announced regularly on their Facebook page. Private appointments can also be arranged by calling Elodia at 310.525.4515
I first met Paul Brockman when my fiancé bought me an Orange and Cream lace dress from his collection for my birthday. I can attest first-hand that the warehouse is a veritable wonderland of vintage dresses. From simple to elegant, demure to extravagant: there are rows upon rows – even overhead – of gowns and skirts in a rainbow of colors to choose from.
“Prices range from $5 to $500. I have been told by others in the industry that some of my dresses are very valuable, but I want women to enjoy them so I keep the (price low). I never cared about labels but I have learned a lot. We have Gunne Sax, Scott and Jessica McClintock, Emma Domb, Oscar de la Renta and Victor Costa among many others.”
“Of course, I would love someone to buy me out like a large retailer or a collector. It hurts to say good-bye to them one by one so that would be nice for them to all go at once.” Until that dream happens, Brockman considers the joy he also experiences, “When I sell a dress, I know the woman will wear it and the dress… will come back to life.”