Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl

If you were to search through NICHOLAS INGLIS’s Twitter page, you might happen across an image of the Australian lawyer-cum-Hollywood costume enthusiast presenting a gaudyjacket to surprised but pleased star Jennifer Saunders ofAbsolutely Fabulous. It’s all par for the course for Inglis, who has adored screen idols since he was a child, sending letters and joyfully receiving autographs from favourites such as Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn and Frank Sinatra. But in spite of his Twitter-confirmed affinity for modern star close encounters, Inglis is a self-professed collector of only the most vintage-y ofvintage Hollywood costumes.

His collection is composed of300 costumes from the20s through the late-’60s. His favourite among them? A red velvet gown with fox fur trim worn by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. The over-the-top historical gowns really look amazing when they are on display, he says, when asked about his collection. His Streisand piece is not the most expensive, though; that honour goes to Gloria Swanson’s nightgown from Sunset Boulevard, which Inglis says is worth about $50,000 at auction.

In his early days of collecting, when he was just an idealistic 20-something, Inglis had to cope with more than a few unsympathetic friends and family members. It was like, What’dya buy those old clothes for? he says, mimicking their incredulous tones. But Inglis’s unwavering devotion has helped him acquire many treasured pieces. (He spends a few hours each day researching buys; eBay has been a boon, as have auction houses.) This past fall, the Museum of Brisbane put up its Costumes from the GoldenAge of Hollywood exhibit, comprised entirely of pieces from Inglis’s collection (on through May 24). It was a dream come true for the Aussie, who sums it up in Hollywood speak: It’s a happy ending.

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