The SANDERSON Collection

  • by Vickie Bennett, Art Library, Central Library


Kenneth Sanderson (1896 -1977) was an avid costume collector and fashion enthusiast throughout his life. Born in Rothwell, Sanderson spent his life in Leeds, and was well-known locally for his outlandish dress-sense – his trademark being a long curly wig and assortment of gowns.

In the 1940’s he was a regular presenter on BBC radio – he spoke about fashion history for the popular programme Children’s Hour, which charmed the nation with tales about the objects in his costume collections, and their weird & wonderful histories.

Highlights include a stocking purse used by Dick Turpin during his exploits as a highwayman, and a ‘cursed’ head-dress owned by Madame Du Barry, who on her way to the guillotine, supposedly uttered that the next wearer of it would die an untimely death!

Described as a ‘sartorial feast’, his collection of fashion ephemera spans textiles, small dolls (historically used as an early form of mannequin/catalogue), photographs, books, prints and early magazines, and his pieces were frequently displayed in museums. Sanderson’s collection was purchased by Leeds City Council in 1949, and was consequently split between Leeds Museums and Leeds Central Library—Lotherton Hall now houses the textiles and costume pieces, and the Art Library houses the printed materials.

The earliest of our collection dates back to 1770, and the latest to the 1950’s. It is a great wealth of material not only for those interested in period and vintage fashions, but also the social etiquette and expectations of the fashionable classes of the time.

Contact the Art Library on 0113 37 87017  for more information. A research guide listing the main highlights from the Sanderson Collection is also available, or you can view more of our Treasures and Collections elsewhere on the Secret Libary.