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.


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.


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

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