By Dale Peers
While today is unseasonally warm we know that cooler weather is inevitable. The summer is just about over, colours are changing (and not just in the forest) and wrapping up for cooler weather is upon us. The new fall trends in outerwear are harkening back to “70’s heritage styles” and adding pastel, sorbet-like colours to the popular down-filled jackets.
In Canada a wardrobe to deal with weather – cool fall temperatures will transition to sub-zero winter – is a necessity and I thought visiting some of the beautiful coats in our Fashion Resource collection might be inspiration for the Fashion Arts students designing coats or anyone thinking about purchasing new outerwear.
The Seneca collection spans all weather concerns and includes full fur coats, jackets and stoles once popular status symbols. If there are a handful of items that donors frequently have in abundance, fur is most definitely one. So many women in the 1950s to 1970s had fur and these now languish in closets and cedar chests. If we have a good collection I can only imagine how many of these have been relegated to Value Village. While we might want to abolish the use of fur from an animal rights perspective we need to recognize that fur has played an important part in Canadian fashion history. If a designer is looking to re-cycle and create a sustainable statement in their coat design one might consider re-working a fur coat into a lining or use it as the trim for a collar or hood.
An examination of coats from the centre will also reveal a difference in the construction formerly used. Simply picking up one of these garments from a rack will reveal a difference in weight. The garments we are used to wearing today are light but in earlier garment construction there were multiple layers that not only added warmth but a degree of stability to the coat itself.
Embellishments and style details can certainly add panache to a garment. This tweed coat from Hermes has always been one of my favourites. Look closely at the top button and the unique detail created with these two tabs which are held in place by that gorgeous button. A wonderful detail and one that would keep cold winds from penetrating one’s chest.
This wonderful wool, “swing” coat from the 1940s was by Canadian Ada Mackenzie who certainly appreciated how cold our winters could be. While it may only be three-quarter length its cheery check would certainly keep the wearer happy on a chilly December day.
This pastel blue coat from the 1960s evokes a classic “Jackie Kennedy” feeling with its three quarter length sleeves. It just crests the wearer’s knees and the rounded neckline matched with large round buttons provide a simple and elegant look. It is a cozy mohair but looks light and airy. Certainly a “mint blue” comparable to the new for 2019 “ice cream” colours.
While there are classic and timeless styles to outerwear there are also classic patterns that we can’t help but associate with fall. Plaids, tartans, and checks come immediately to mind. And, what more classic pattern than a black and white hounds-tooth check (below) which was one of Christian Dior’s favourite ways of borrowing from men’s wear and creating ultra feminine styles. The belted waistline, and detachable neck-piece make this coat one that is pretty and practical
Hopefully Fall 2019 will transition gently between summer and winter this year. But if it doesn’t perhaps this becomes an excuse for the purchase of a new coat.