Category Archives: Exhbiits

50 Years of Fashion

If you were not able to attend our exhibition of 50 Years of Fashion (I know a week is not nearly enough time for everyone to make it to our Newnham campus!) I hope you will enjoy some of the exhibit’s highlights in this month’s blog.

As our country gets ready to celebrate 150 years of confederation our college is celebrating 50 years of providing post-secondary education.  From our initial location at the original Sheppard campus (a converted shirt factory) to the current expansions of our King and Newnham campuses the college has grown throughout the past five decades in terms of courses, programs, students, faculty and staff.

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The exhibit I designed this year allowed us to explore, through some of the photo archives of the college and garments from our Fashion Resource Centre, how fashion has contributed to the story of our growth. Fashion also has a long history of being used as a language to communicate the signs of the times. From the youth-quake of the 1960s which embraced the mini-skirt, op art and bright colours to the minimalism in style, pattern and colour palette of the 2000s we trace five decades of fashion.

Photos from exhibit:

(All photography of the exhibit courtesy of Ken Peers)

1960s:

Photos from exhibit

Photos from exhibit

Left: Photo of first Seneca President, Dr. William T. Newnham, with students. Right: Photo from exhibit

Left: Photo of first Seneca President, Dr. William T. Newnham, with students; Right: Photo from exhibit

Left: Photo of students at Seneca in the 1960s. Right: Photo from exhbit

Left: Photo of students at Seneca in the 1960s; Right: Photo from exhbit

1970s

Both men and women graced our halls and so a selection of menswear reflecting those serious business marketing students as well as the creative minds of new computer technologies in the 1970s were included.

Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Photos of Seneca students in the 1970s

Photos of Seneca students in the 1970s

Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Seneca Fashion Shows:

The first graduating class at the college came from the Fashion Certificate program and early in the college history the production of a “Fashion Show” presenting the original designs of our students became an annual event.

Left: Photo of student; Right: Photo from exhibit

Left: Photo of student; Right: Photo from exhibit

Left: Photo of student; Right: Photo from exhibit

Left: Photo of student; Right: Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Photos from exhibit

Photos from exhibit

1990s and 2000s:

Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Photo from exhibit

Support for the opening ceremony was supplied by our department of Alumni and Advancement and we thank Barry Naymark for this and his attendance at the event. We were also happy to welcome Ana White, Seneca VP External to assist one of our soon-to-graduate Fashion Business Management students and part-time employee of the Fashion Resource Centre, Emma MacArthur in cutting the ribbon to welcome all visitors to the exhibit.

Photo from opening ceremony

Photo from opening ceremony

Photo from opening ceremony

Photo from opening ceremony

And now, on to our next project – More information about that to come in the next few months!

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Dior: Anniversary of an Iconic Fashion House

Drop Dior into the conversation and regardless of those assembled, everyone knows the topic has shifted to fashion.  And, most know that the founder, Christian Dior, launched an empire of fashion that reaches around the globe and into our personal space scented with aftershave or perfumed soaps.  What fewer know is that despite the longevity of the House of Dior, the creative genius of Monsieur Dior was at the head of the house for just ten short years.

This fact may be better known as the 70th anniversary of the house will be celebrating not only the establishment of the house but those individuals who continued his fashion philosophy while moving the brand forward through seven decades.

Christian Dior Garment Label

Christian Dior Garment Label

In December 2015, the Fashion Resource Centre had a visit from Séverine Breton, Cultural Project Coordinator at Christian Dior couture, who was assisting on the work of the books that would celebrate this historic anniversary.  Severine Breton came to Canada to research the Canadian link to the French house of couture.  Her journey included visiting several museums to find, photograph and confirm garments that were originally from Dior.  In a lovely reciprocal fashion Severine brought with her information regarding a couple of the Dior garments housed in our Centre.  Her visit was very timely as we were working on our first Fashion Resource Centre book.

Book by House of Dior

                    Book by House of Dior

One of the garments, the beautiful “Dior red” silk suit, comprised of a dress with asymmetrically placed bow and matching cocoon jacket originally belonged to Dr. Mona Campbell, great Canadian business icon and philanthropist.  Now we have a copy of the original sketches showing the fabric swatch to add to our files on the garment. (See my Dec. 2016 blog post).

The book that the House of Dior was working on is an anthology written by noted fashion curator Olivier Saillard.  The first section was published by Assouline just this past December – the remaining books will be published in December 2017 and 2018.  The books will chart the influence of Yves St. Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons and finally, Maria Grazia Chiuri who in 2016 became the first female director and second Italian to lead the house.

The first book is 504 pages and will show 84 examples of the most iconic designs from Christian Dior including the “Bar Suit” which truly launched Dior couture in 1947.  The book describes Dior’s inspiration (flowers, travel, art, music, theatre, architecture), each silhouette and key outfits he created.

Couture Commerce

Couture Commerce

The first book is now available on Amazon for approximately $170.00.  (Dior is clearly a popular topic as there were 1,917 results for my “Dior books” search!)

There are several wonderful books on the influence of this designer and some to be found on campus.  One title that I recommend is by the Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator and Chair of the Veronika Gervers Research Fellowship in Textiles & Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum, Dr. Alexandra Palmer entitled, Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s.  Dr. Palmer explains the impact that Dior had on not just the fashion world but of the economy of France directly after the end of the Second World War.   Her perspective is unique in that she discusses couture in Canada and the women and the retailers who established a connection with French fashion.

For anyone traveling south (really south and west) the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne will feature a Dior exhibition and is listed as “one of three major events worldwide”.  Why Melbourne?  This was the location for the first showing of Dior couture outside of Paris in 1948.

John Galliano, Spring/Summer 2011

John Galliano, Spring/Summer 2011

The exhibit will include 140 garments, some original and some replicas of those from the “New Look” collection.  The show has been curated to not only show the beauty of Dior but to explain the concept of couture.  A replica of an atelier (a couture workroom) will give a close-up look at what went into the creation of these garments.  Looking at the beauty of a garment in terms of colour, embellishment and silhouette is similar to looking at any other piece of art.  To truly comprehend couture you must look at the internal structure, the tiny stitching and the feat of engineering that is to be found on the inside.  How wonderful it is for visitors to this exhibit to be able to experience something that only previous owners of such garments could.

The exhibition will run from August 27th to November 7th, 2017.  http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/the-house-of-dior/

A little closer to home the Fashion History Museum will also be celebrating the anniversary of Dior with garments from our Fashion Resource Collection.  More details on this to follow in a future blog post.

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Fall Fashion Field Trips

Thanksgiving weekend is almost upon us and the lovely fall weather might be double the encouragement for a little fashion field trip.

There are some wonderful exhibitions in full swing that you will want to catch before they, like the fall leaves, disappear. The Fashion History Museum in Hespler makes for a lovely and not too distant drive to the west of the city.  Their exhibit: “Wild and Rare: Fashion and Endangered Species” which opened October 6th in Gallery 1 includes a few pieces from our Fashion Resource Centre.  We’ve provided a purse with Kangaroo fur as well as an ocelot coat.

The “200 years of Wedding Attire Exhibition” is awash in all shades of white and some beautiful bridal pieces.  This exhibition runs until December 18, 2016.

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If you are already west of the city, the Guelph Museum is just a few minutes away from the Fashion History Museum and is celebrating the fashion career of Lady Lucille Duff Gordon. Originally from the Guelph area, Lady Duff survived the Titanic and is remembered for “inventing” the fashion show as well as the Merry Widow, wide brimmed hats so popular at the turn of the twentieth century.

The garments on display are truly amazing because they are so incredibly delicate. And, perfectly feminine and appropriate for the “Lady” of the times.

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Many of the garments are fragile and one beautiful piece is carefully presented lying flat so no further damage can occur.

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Lucille also did designed costumes for many theatre companies including the Ziegfeld Follies.

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Some of Lady Duff’s original design sketches are on display and show the silhouette of the period.

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Also on display is a depiction of the sinking of the Titanic by fabric artist John Willard. It contains the names of all the passengers and officers including Lucile, and her husband Cosmo.

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The exhibition is there until November 13th. For more details:

http://guelphmuseums.ca/event/lucile-fashion-titanic-scandal/

Although not technically “fashion” the Dale Chihuily glass exhibition at the ROM is a masterful use of colour, texture and pattern that needs to be experienced! There is a wonderful “room” in the midst of the exhibition with a literal glass ceiling, and comfy “pillows” on the floor that allows visitors to take in the display in comfort.

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On until January 2, 2017.

Our favourite shoe museum, The Bata has “The Curious History of Men in Heels” exhibition until May of next year. It shows a range of outstanding men’s shoes from the 1800’s beautiful shoes worn by members of the aristocracy to the rhinestone encrusted platforms of Elton John. The exhibit certainly tells a tall tale.

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I think we are so fortunate to live in a city and province that provides such “feasts” for the soul in the museum exhibitions available to us. Enjoy your fall fashion field trips!

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A Canadian Fashion Story: Pat McDonagh

March 12 – April 24 – Fashion History Museum, Hespler
May 2nd to 6th – Seneca College, Newnham Campus at The Boutique, B2024.

This year’s annual Fashion Resource Centre spring exhibition is another first for Seneca College! Last year our friends at the Fashion History Museum (FHM), Jonathan Walford and Kenn Norman, contacted me about the possibility of a joint project. The family of the late Pat McDonagh had approached the FHM about a donation of Ms. McDonagh’s fashions and archives and the concept of showcasing a retrospective of this Canadian designer’s work began.

The exhibition would include garments already in the Fashion History Museum’s collection, a selection of the new donations as well as some from our Seneca Fashion Resource Centre and the Ryerson Fashion collection.

fhmuseum

Image courtesy of the Fashion History Museum

Although born in England, Pat McDonagh immigrated to Canada with her husband as he had taken a position with the CBC in 1966. Having experienced the London Fashion scene as a model, designer and retailer she became part of the “British Invasion” along with the Beatles, Twiggy and the mini-skirt when she settled in Toronto.

Her biographical information states that, while in London, she was involved (possibly through her husband’s work in broadcasting) in providing fashion styling details and designs for The Beatles as well as prominent ‘60s actress Diana Riggs who played the character Emma Peel of The Avengers.

avengers

Image from Fanpop.com

One of the garments she is said to have designed for Ms. Riggs’ character is a plasticized python coat with large silver buckle. This is one of the earliest pieces from our Pat McDonagh collection and was donated by former Toronto model, Donna DiMarco.

From Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

From Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

When she moved to Toronto she was not especially impressed with the fashions or fabrics being worn on our streets. She soon opened a retail store called The Establishment and began providing more current options for the 60’s fashionistas of Canada. She produced all product categories including day wear, evening gowns and fashion garments for businesses such as those worn by the staff at the CN Tower in Toronto.

A strong supporter of fashion designers, McDonagh was co-founder of the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC) with Robin Kay. Her fashion career of 40+ years was recognized many times with awards including the New York Times award for Design Excellence, 1982, the Judy Award for Contribution to the Canadian Fashion Industry (1992) a Matinee International Award (2002) and FDCC Lifetime Achievement Award (2003).

The retrospective of her design work will encompass garments from 1967 to 2014. Ms. McDonagh passed away in Toronto on May 31, 2014.

The exhibition will move from the Fashion History Museum to Seneca College and be open to the public from Monday May 2nd until Friday May 6th.

Image from Fashion Resource Centre

Image from Fashion History Museum

Fashion Exhibitions – Summer 2015

If you are planning any trips this summer and are looking for Fashion Exhibitions here is a list of just a few to consider.

The Fashion History Museum, Hespler, Ontario

Fashion History Museum

Johnathan Walford, left, and Kenn Norman of the Fashion History Museum posing in front of the old Hespeler Post Office. Image from www.therecord.com

About 45 minutes from Toronto and housed in the town’s original Post office the Fashion History Museum will open the end of June.  Jonathan Walford and Kenn Norman have been working on this labour of love of all things fashion history for at least 10 years, and have been welcomed by the town of Hespler.

One of the opening exhibitions will feature the 1980s, and our Fashion Resource Centre has been happy to loan a few of our very glam 1980s pieces to the FHM for this exhibit.

1980s jumpsuit from the Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

1980s jumpsuit from the Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Ontario:

Bata Shoe Museum, Standing Tall exhibit, Image from www.batashoemuseum.ca

Bata Shoe Museum, Standing Tall exhibit, Image from www.batashoemuseum.ca

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.  The latest exhibition moves on from Fashion Victims to Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels.  And it looks at who has worn high heels: ” From privileged rulers to hyper-sexualized rock stars this provocative exhibition will explore the history of men in heels from the early 1600s to today, delving into the use and meanings of heeled footwear in men’s dress over the last four hundred years.”  This exhibit will run until June of 2016.

The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario:

¡Viva México! Clothing and Culture exhibit, Image from www.rom.on.ca

¡Viva México! Clothing and Culture exhibit, Image from www.rom.on.ca

¡Viva México! Clothing and Culture in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume examines the rich textile history of Mexico.  “Over 150 stunning historic and contemporary pieces are on display, including complete costume ensembles, sarapesrebozos, textiles, embroidery, beadwork and more.”This exhibit runs until May 23, 2016

Museum of Vancouver, Vancouver, British Columbia:

From Rationing to Ravishing exhibit at Museum of Vancouver, Image from www.museumofvancouver.ca

From Rationing to Ravishing exhibit at Museum of Vancouver, Image from www.museumofvancouver.ca

EMP Museum, Seattle, Washington:

Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit, EMP Museum, Image from www.empmuseum.org

Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit, EMP Museum, Image from www.empmuseum.org

If you are a lover of all things Star Wars and on the west coast the EMP Museum in Seattle is the first city of 12 to host: Star Wars and the Power of Costume.  The exhibit includes 60 hand-crafted costumes from the first six blockbuster Star Wars films and runs until October 4, 2015.

The McCord Museum, Montreal, Quebec:

Horst: Photographer of Style exhibit, McCord Museum, Image from www.musee-mccord.gc.ca

Horst: Photographer of Style exhibit, McCord Museum, Image from www.musee-mccord.gc.ca

Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York:

Karl Lagerfield dress from Ebony Fashion Fair, Inspiring Beauty exhibition. Image from mag.rochester.edu

Karl Lagerfield dress from Ebony Fashion Fair, Inspiring Beauty exhibition. Image from mag.rochester.edu

Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair runs until April 24, 2016 and explores the tremendous influence of Eunice Johnson, publisher of Ebony magazine who was determined to “gain access to the upper echelons of fashion design, which at that time excluded African Americans, resulted in a traveling road show that presented the work of black designers side by side with that of the world’s leading fashion houses.”

Designers represented in the exhibit include: Stephen Burrows, Christian Dior, Christian LaCroix, Bob Mackie, Jean Patou, Nina Ricci, Emanuel Ungaro and Vivienne Westwood.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York:

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China: Through the Looking Glass is a collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art at the Met and examines the western world’s fascination with the East.  From Paul Poiret to Yves St Laurent fashion designers have been inspired by the silhouettes, fabrics, colours and patterns of China and its ancient culture.  “The exhibition features more than 140 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear alongside Chinese art.”

The exhibit runs just between May and August 16, 2015.

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England:

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit, Image from www.vam.ac.uk

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit, Image from www.vam.ac.uk

If you did not see the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum you have another opportunity to see it if you will be in London, England this summer.  The exhibition at the Victorian and Albert Museum runs until August.

Whether you stay in the GTA, visit another province or plan a grand European getaway this is the season not only for glorious weather but amazing fashion exhibitions.

Wishing you a fashionable summer!

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Silver is the New Black

Event poster

Event poster

Another opportunity to invite everyone into the Fashion Resource Centre has come and gone.  And judging by the responses we received in our guest book and from emails, one week just isn’t long enough.  An enthusiastic group of supporters enjoyed their first visit to this exhibit celebrating our 25 years.

I would like to thank all of the Friends of the Seneca Fashion Resource Centre, former faculty of the School of Fashion (Bev Newburg, Rosemary Webber), our Alumni and donors like fashion icon Marilyn Brooks, and Carolyne Pascoe for attending our reception the evening of May 4th.

The exhibit was “officially” opened with the cutting of a silver ribbon by former and current student employees of the Fashion Resource Centre including Bev Newburg who was there in 1989/1990 when she, Claire Becker and I began the task of organizing the collection.  Of course, there have been many more Senecans involved in this labour of fashion love. Caroline Routh, Nancy Bursey, Gitte Hansen, Francoise Rioux, Wayne Norrison are just a few of the Senecans who believed that examples of fashion items would make learning come alive. They began to bring these items to their courses and what feels like overnight, the collection has grown to more than 15,000 examples of what Canadians have worn.

(l to r: Shauna Wittenberg, Malvika Rana, Emma MacArthur, Kelsey Mills, Bev Newburg, Alex Burke and Dale Peers.)

(l to r: Shauna Wittenberg, Malvika Rana, Emma MacArthur, Kelsey Mills, Bev Newburg, Alex
Burke and Dale Peers.)

For those of you who were unable to attend, I hope the images in this Blog will give you a sense of the exhibit.

Exhibit

Visitors enjoying exhibit

Exhibit

Exhibit

Exhibit

Visitors enjoying exhibit

A 25th anniversary is a silver anniversary and that became our theme this year. The students and I chose garments that had obvious connections to that through the use of silver in the fabric and embellishments. The exhibit featured silver garments from the 1920s through the 2000s, making it a colour apparently as popular for special occasions as black is.

Black and silver dresses

Silver garments from the 1920s to 2000s

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Silver garments from the 1920s to 2000s

Pink dress

Pink dress with Accession # 00001

 

The exhibit was also an opportunity to reflect on our past, our present and our future. On display and representing our past included the pink beaded and sequin embellished flapper dress from the 1920s which was the very first garment we accessioned into the collection. I should clarify that it is virtually impossible to determine the first garment in the collection as dedicated faculty
in the School of Fashion had been bringing garments into their classrooms for years before we officially established the Fashion Resource Centre. However, the pink dress is accessioned as #00001.

Long time champions and supporters of the Fashion Industry in Ontario and Canada, Claire Haddad and Marilyn Brooks were represented with three of the garments that each of these talented women have designed and donated to our collection. They have been wonderful supporters of our collection and our students through donations of their archives, the establishment of the Albert and Claire Haddad Bursary Award and their service on Advisory Committees.

Dale with Marilyn Brooks

Dale with Marilyn Brooks

Two Claire Haddad designs with beautiful beading and lace; Fuschia and Black by Marilyn Brooks

Two Claire Haddad designs with beautiful beading and lace; Fuschia and Black by Marilyn Brooks

Next, are examples of some of the early additions to the collection. An aqua and white Courrégès, an extraordinary yellow beaded and black ribbon embellished mini dress and white and mint gown worn by former model and Style Coordinator of Yorkdale Mall, Norma Wildgoose.

Dresses

Dresses from collection

The next vignettes represented just a few of the very interesting donations made to the Fashion Resource Centre this year. Two elegant and black gowns from the 1930s, a dramatic strapless blue and turquoise Italian made gown from the 1970s, and a delicate white cotton day dress from 1915.

Dresses

Dresses from collection

The first wedding scene represents a donation made by Carolyne Pascoe on behalf of her mother Doris Pascoe Penrose and her sister Beverlee Pascoe Mintern. The soft blue dress with delicate floral embroidery is Doris’s wedding dress from 1937. The crocheted wedding dress with hood was worn by Beverlee Pascoe Mintern at her wedding in 1972. To the right, is Carolyne’s wedding dress, also from 1972 as well as the leopard print and black “going away” outfit that Carolyne wore.

Carolyne Pascoe and her donations

Carolyne Pascoe and her donations

In addition to these garments, Carolyne provided us with images of all three ladies in their wedding finery.

Photos in frames

Pascoe family photos

Deirdre Macdonald visited us in late December and brought with her the beautiful pink wedding gown with beaded bolero she wore in 1971. This dress came with the original sales receipt from Toronto designer Sybil Casey and photographs of Deirdre, her husband Robert and her mother. After visiting the Fashion Resource Centre Deirdre returned home to Dingwall, Nova Scotia and was able to send us not only her mother’s dress but the suit that her groom wore!

Dierdre MacDonald donations

Wedding dress and groom’s outfit donated by Deirdre Macdonald

In keeping with our Silver theme a selection of shoes, handbags, compacts, and buckles were also on display.

Silver items

Silver items on display

Thanks to our friend Ingrid Mida of Ryerson University, we were contacted by The National
Ballet of Canada this year and acquired some very special additions to the collection.

Costumes for both male and female dancers of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Elite Syncopation have been added to our collection. These have quite different structural details that will be of interest to our students, especially those who wish to design and execute costumes.

Ballet costumes

Donations from The National Ballet of Canada

Donations from The National Ballet of Canada

Donations from The National Ballet of Canada

And, we presented our future as a question mark. What will be our next donations? We do continue to collect and now is the time to acquire fashion items from 2000 to 2015.

We are very fortunate to have a space at the college to do such an event. And for that there are always many people who contribute to this event and who have my thanks.

Firstly, Sue Roadburg and Anna Cappucitti of the Fashion Business/Fashion Business Management program for the use of The Boutique space; to David McDermid, Ginny Kim and the Visual Merchandising students and my own Fashion Resource Centre students (Emma MacArthur and Kelsey Mills who also staffed the exhibit all week long) for all of the help in setting up and taking down the display; to all of the folks in our School of Fashion office – Gitte Hansen, Stephanie Valadao, Debbie Cadoo, Patricia Hines, and Marsha Wineman for their help in our opening evening. A big thank you to Barry Naymark and Alison Gibson in the Alumni Office who helped us secure a Pillar Sponsorship that helped to make this Exhibit possible.

Happy Silver Anniversary – now let’s work on a Golden Anniversary!

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Waist Management

If you can’t wait until spring arrives to throw off your heavy clothes you might like to examine what lurked under some of the layers worn by our predecessors. During the month of February, in our Fashion History classroom we are progressing through the 19th century and studying the “etiquette” of dressing.

Victorian Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Although the last item you might have put on this morning would be your footwear, shoes and stockings were often donned first by fashionable Victorian ladies.  What was the reason for this order?  It was their dedication to the beauty culture of the time, and the quest for a fashionable body.  This fashionable body was one that clearly defined their feminine attributes and revealed the female and fashionable body.  It was tightly corseted, curvaceous and to us, curious.  Why, we might ask would anyone want to so manipulate their bodies to emphasize their femininity when doing so would actually have a negative impact on one of the defining characteristics of what it is to be female?  And that was to namely, bear children.

There have been many reasons given for this including, but not limited to, the approved career path of the Victorian woman.  To be a wife and then mother was the goal and to achieve this one needed to be as attractive as was possible.  And to be considered attractive meant the adherence to the socially defined beauty of the moment.  This beauty was fair of face, her hair was her crowning glory and her figure made it clear for all to see that she was feminine.  A tightly corseted waist that might be spanned by a man’s hands was the goal.

And this corseted waist is the reason why her stockings and shoes would need to go on first.  Once she was tightly corseted after stepping into her drawers and putting on her chemise, the strait lacing of her corset would make reaching her feet virtually impossible.  Of course, dressing in the Victorian style with the corset would have required the assistance of someone, be it a maid if you were wealthy or your husband– who might do this even if you were wealthy.  The corset might be perceived to be a “modern” chastity belt as it would require someone’s assistance to get into and out of it.

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The next layer would be a corset cover that would help to smooth down any ridges that might develop as the stays of the corset would push into the breasts.  The corset is not a brassiere and does not have “cups” so an unsightly ridge might develop.  The corset cover would add an additional layer which, under the dress bodice, would create a lovely, rounded, monobosom effect.

Next, would be the substructure to add important fullness to the back of a Victorian lady’s gown – the bustle.  Pictured here is our modern, collapsible bustle that would allow a lady to sit with some degree of comfort.  When she sits, the hoops fold up and when she stands they drop back into place, adding just the right amount of support to her dress.  A wondrously convenient style!

Image from Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700 – 1915, Sharon Sadako Takeda and Kay Durland Spilker, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Page 99

Image from Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700 – 1915, Sharon Sadako Takeda and Kay Durland Spilker, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Page 99

Topping this substructure would be at least one petticoat.  And, if it happened to be February the choice might be a red one, as this was believed to add extra warmth!

Although this may seem like extreme lengths to go to achieve the fashionable body, consider what we do today to achieve the desirable shape: diets, body cleanses, abdominal crunches, personal trainers, liposuction and Spanx!   Maybe we aren’t quite so different in terms of our quest for the fashionable body.

If you happen to be in the Peel Region you might want to drop into the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) and visit their temporary gallery where our friends from the Fashion History Museum have an exhibit entitled Waist Management on until February 16th.  In this exhibit are further examples of the types of undergarments women have worn to manage the fashionable body.

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Fashion Exhibitionism

If you define exhibitionism as exposing those things often hidden or kept to oneself then this summer might just be the time to take advantage of unlocked treasures and see three fashion exhibitions. They are the perfect reason for a summer car trip.

The first is brought to us by our friends at the Fashion History Museum and in partnership with the Waterloo Region Museum. The exhibition blends the two institutions perfectly as Street Style “explores the connections between the design of women’s fashion and architecture.”  The exhibit presents fashion and the architecture of Waterloo county from 1853 to 1973.

There are forty garments from the Fashion History Museum situated in streetscapes of some of the best examples of urban architecture from Waterloo County.

The exhibit opened on June 14th and will close January 4, 2015.  Open daily 9:30 to 5:00 the Waterloo Region Museum is located at 10 Huron Road, Kitchener.

Farther afield is the Charles James: Beyond Fashion which opened May 8th at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  A little longer trip if by car but just an hour away by plane, this is a must see for all lovers of haute couture.  James was considered the American couturier and created gowns worn by some of the most influential women of the 1950s.  The study of a James’ gowns reveals his obsession with the mathematical and structural science of fashion.  He created clothing that seemed capable of not only supporting the wearer figuratively but literally.

This exhibit also marks the opening of the newly renovated Costume Institute.  The display not only provides access to sixty-five of the designer’s most famous gowns including “Clover Leaf,” “Butterfly,” “Tree,” and “Swan” but also an exploration of his design process.

The exhibition will close August 10th.

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Image from MET Museum

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Images by Karin L. Willis, the photographer for the Charles James: Beyond Fashion Catalogue

And in Toronto, The Bata Shoe Museum’s latest exhibition Fashion Victims opened June 18th.  The exhibit looks at Victorian Fashion from the perspective of not only the wearer of fashion but of those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes creating the items the fashionably dressed men and women of the 19th century wore.

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Image from Bata Shoe Museum

While the constriction of the corset is one of the first garments that critics of 19th century fashion will target as making victims of the women who wore this status symbol little attention is paid to the materials used in the production of fashion.  This exhibit explores how highly dangerous materials were used in the production of fashion and were then reflected in the literature of the day with such iconoclastic characters as the Mad Hatter.

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The Mad Hatter as depicted by Sir John Tenniel. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Peter Cook portraying The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (1966). Image from herbertzohl.blogspot.ca 

If you head downtown or out of town please drop us a line and let us know which of the exhibitions are your favourite!

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Downton and Us

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We have just closed the doors on our Fourth Annual Fashion Resource Centre Exhibition.  Real estate is always an expensive proposition so we are fortunate to have access to 1000 square feet of prime space through our Boutique @ Seneca.  During the lull in-between winter and spring semesters we are able to transform the space into a gallery and this year (as mentioned in our previous blog) our topic was the au currant – Downton Abbey.  On display were approximately 40 garments from the era in which the series is set.  Although not worn on the show the items chosen were selected because they were comparable to what we might have seen worn by the characters. The parallel between the television show reproduction costumes and the beautiful pieces in our collection couldn’t have been more perfect!

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The Exhibition covered everything from dowager Countess Violet’s predilection for styles worn in the past during her heyday to those that the new vanguard of Mary, Edith, Sybil and cousin Rose wore. We, in turn, have lovely garments from the 1900s to the late 1920s.  Underwear, hats, shoes, coats, gloves and jewellry were also on view.  Images of the actors wearing similar garments gave a point of comparison for those visitors who are not yet fans.

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And, as the series chronicles the lives of males as well as females, upstairs as well as down, we had suitable attire for the Earl of Grantham, his son-in-law Matthew, and servants Mrs. Hughes, O’Brien and Anna.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words (and because I’m sure you would rather see than read about it) here are more photos from the exhibit:

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Our visitors signed our guest book and wrote comments like: Wonderful!, Gorgeous!, Just beautiful!, Exquisite Collection!  Great Exhibition!  Enjoyed my trip back in time! I think we can safely say it was a success.

One comment suggested “you should publish some kind of book to show the public your collection.”  How appropriate as we continue to work on our Digital Fashion Photography project.  This is exactly what we hope to accomplish – a site that will allow virtual visits at any time of the year rather than having to wait for that one week between semesters to mount an exhibit.  That isn’t to say that we wouldn’t still do exhibitions because I believe we would still want to be able to create a context for the garments to be shown within.  There is nothing like being able to see how much people appreciate our artifacts.

In good Downton style we celebrated the opening of the exhibit with a lady-like tea complete with china cups, scones and cream and delicious party sandwiches.

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Many thanks go to the wonderful staff of the School of Fashion for their support.  Gitte Hansen, Chair of the School of Fashion, support staff: Debbie Cadoo and Stephanie Valadao, student staff of the Fashion Resource Centre, Amaryn Boyd and Alex Burke.

So, what’s next?  After the garments are safely stored, back in their boxes or on padded hangers I will be back in the classroom with our summer semester and introducing another class to the Evolution of Fashion using our special archives.

In terms of projects, I am already thinking about next year.  Any thoughts?  What might you like to see in our 5th annual exhibition.  I would love to know what you would like to see.  Send us a comment!

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