A Dior Masterpiece

I have previously written about this year being the 70th anniversary of the House of Dior and on November 25th the Royal Ontario Museum opened a special Dior exhibit that runs until March 2018.  Earlier this year my colleague, Jennifer Dares wrote a research paper on one of the exceptional Dior ensembles in our Fashion Resource Centre collection.

Jennifer has given us permission to publish her research here.  Happy reading about this Dior Masterpiece.

Research Report: Dior, “Rubis”

This women’s ensemble, named “Rubis” consists of two garments, a sheath dress and a co-ordinate coat, from the Spring / Summer 1957 collection. The theme was “Freedom”, and was translated through the idea of freedom of movement. Christian Dior passed on October 23, 1957, making this his last collection. The textile is a solid red silk surah shantung in Mr. Dior’s favourite colour, hence the namesake “Dior Red”.

The below hip, double-breasted box-fit coat has sloped shoulders with three- quarter length kimono sleeves that are slightly flared at the hem. The side panel becomes a gusset as it extends from under the arm to more than halfway down the undersleeve. The built up neckline crosses in the front to create a wide V-shape, framing the face. There is a centre back seam and tuck darts to provide shaping for the collar. The buttonholes are bound with 1” four-hole plastic buttons. There are inseam front pockets. Side back vents allow for ease of movement. This garment is fully lined with silk, therefore the seams are not visible, but it is most likely that there is not selvedge.


The sleeveless sheath dress has wide straps that create a square neckline. At first glance, the structured and tailored bow with self-fringed edges draws you in, as it gives the illusion that the it has twisted the left front of the dress, from there the tucks radiate to shape the left side of the garment. The entire garment is underlined in organdy, providing the structure that appears from the outside. Upon further inspection, other details indicate the special attention that has been given to the design of this garment. The right front princess seam diverts and separates below the waist like a fork in the road or a broken wishbone. The interior of the garment continues to impress, with a boned foundation made of silk lining. The foundation is hip length and has metal boning inserted into exposed casings, which have been stitched over the seam allowance. The closure consists of silver coloured metal hooks and eyes. The exterior of the dress has a gold coloured metal zipper, centred on the back seam, with a single hook and eye at the top to secure. The back vent has a self panel hanging from behind, to give the effect of a second layer. The disc shaped weights in the hem allow these garments to hang perfectly. There is no visible selvedge on any of the seams in the sheath.

A size label is not found inside the garments, but the dress measurements indicate the garments were a size 4 or 6 by today’s standards. The bust is 34 inches (86.36 cm), the waist is 25 inches (63.5 cm) and the hip is 37 inches (93.98 cm). The built in foundation may have allowed the wearer to be slightly larger, as it would act as a girdle or a spanks of modern day. The silhouette and bow detail focus, give the waist a flattering cinched effect. The foundation would have provided bust support and held the waist in, depending on the wearer’s size.

The garments are machine stitched with with some hand finishing. The labels are all sewn in by hand. The majority of the coat is machine stitched, with the snap and buttons being sewn by hand in matching thread. The sheath from the exterior looks to be mostly machine stitched. The trim to finish the interior neckline of the dress has been applied by hand, all of the tucks and shaping to create the twist effect from the outside have been stitched by hand, as well the inside panel for the back vent and the hem.

The coat and dress are made of a solid red silk surah shantung. This textile has a diagonal weave and slubbed yarns. The textile has been manipulated at the edges of the bow using a fraying technique to create a self fringe. The coat and the sheath’s foundation are constructed with silk lining. The sheath is underlined with organdy to give it structure.

The coat has one label, just below the back neckline. The information woven into this label is “MADE IN FRANCE, Printemps-Ete 1957, Christian Dior, PARIS”. The sheath dress has two labels. The “Holt Renfrew & COMPANY LIMITED” label is on the inside of the back left foundation and the “MADE IN FRANCE, Printemps-Ete 1957,

Christian Dior, PARIS” label is on the inside of the back right foundation. There are no content or care labels.

This ensemble is mostly in good condition. The coat has some fraying at the back neckline, the buttons may have faded, and the thread holding the snap for the inside closure is only remaining in one of the four holes. The sheath is fraying along the neckline and straps in the area of the arm. There is tearing at the top edge of the foundation. Some of the metal boning is poking through the ends of the casings. There are four tiny stains on the right sleeve elbow of the coat. The sheath has a subtle stain on the left front hip. These stains are only visible when held at specific angle as the textile has an iridescent quality.

The styling and silhouette of the coat and sheath are in line with those of this period. This ensemble belonged to Mrs. Mona Campbell, a Toronto socialite, who had an affinity for Christian Dior. The garments were considered too elegant for daytime, so she wore them to late afternoon teas, bridal showers or special occasions (Palmer, 2001). Mona Campbell owned another sheath and coat ensemble, both with a similar silhouette, from the same period, by Guggenheim of Rome, 1955. She referred to this as her caviar dress because of its tiny jet bead embellishment. This dress was worn to the Royal Alexandra Theatre for the opening night in 1958.

Dior’s 1955 collection had similar garments. A sheath dress with a bodice that self-tied at centre front with the same self-fringe as the “Rubis” sheath. This dress has a co-ordinate jacket with ¾ length sleeves and was sold on the auction site, 1stdibs.com. The “Escarlate cocktail dress” features a skirt overlay that extends into the same self- fringe tie detail. This dress is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. The wool dinner ensemble with a sheath that features a black bodice is in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection.

Tied-front sheath (co-ordinate coat not shown), the “Escarlate” cocktail dress, the wool dinner ensemble, all Christian Dior, 1955.

Yves Saint Laurent took over when Dior passed in 1957 and he used the bow tied self-fringe detail as part of his “Trapeze” collection in 1958.

In 1947, following the “Corolle” collection, Dior said “I created flower women with gentle shoulders and generous bosoms, with tiny waists like stems and skirts belling out like petals”. The “Rubis” ensemble of 1957, follows this ethos with exception of the skirt, although as the years passed, perhaps it signifies a narrow petal. The coat has sloped shoulders, the sheath has a boned foundation to lift and hold the bust, the waist is nipped in and accentuated with the self bow detail. The luxurious silk surah shantung is lightweight on its own, but underlined with organdy, it has structure. When wearing and moving in this garment, one would expect to hear a rustling sound, in addition to the

bright red colour, bringing more attention to the wearer. This garment does not have an odour, indicating it was well taken care of. This ensemble is timeless and could still be worn today.

I was drawn to the ensemble for a number of reasons. Initially, the iridescent finish and red colour, although I don’t normally wear red. I found the silhouette of the sheath appealing and was thrilled upon doing the object research, to find a corset foundation inside. I have many corsets in my wardrobe. This garment would fit me, at my regular weight. It would be tight right now. Once the boning is secured, I believe this dress would be comfortable.

The sheath’s hourglass fit is created with original design details utilizing draping techniques on the dress form. The coat has pockets, whether used for “attitude” or function. It seems that Dior’s intent was to create a feminine, sexy and sophisticated garment. One would think the wearer must have felt all of these.

Seneca College Fashion Resource Centre has a Black Dior cocktail dress dated 1959. This sheath has a similar silhouette, a straight cut neckline with straps, made of chiffon and velvet. The Royal Ontario Museum has a number of Christian Dior garments archived.

Christian Dior has been about in countless books and articles. In Couture and Commerce, Mona Campbell is mentioned for wearing Dior. The brand is recognized globally through its use of advertising and now social media. Dior is everywhere, in books, magazines, museums and online. The autobiography, Dior by Dior was written by him. The house of Dior curates travelling exhibitions.


Christian Dior stayed true to his design philosophy through to his last collection, creating feminine and flattering garments. February 12, 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of the first collection, shown in 1947. In celebration, on November 25th, Christian Dior, an exhibit presented by The Royal Ontario Museum will open. “Diormania” is sure to ensue!


Works Cited

Seneca: Fashion Resource Centre. Toronto: Seneca College Press, 2016. Print

Steele, Valerie. The Collection of the Museum of FIT, Fashion Designers. Koln: Taschen, 2012. Print.

Palmer, Alexandra. Couture and COMMERCE, The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950’s. Toronto: UBC Press, 2001. Print

“Christian Dior Dinner Suit., 1955.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed June 7, 2016.


“Christian Dior tie-scarf dress, 1955.” 1stdibs.com. Accessed June 7, 2016. https://www.1stdibs.com/fashion/clothing/daydresses/1955christian-dior-original-pink-


“Christian Dior Escarlate cocktail dress, 1955”. Victoria and Albert Museum. Accessed June 7, 2016.


Buttolph, Angela. The Fashion Book. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1998. Print

Paper Dolls

By Dale Peers

If you ever played with paper dolls as a child imagine the thrill of dressing a living model in your own paper creation.  That was the opportunity provided by the folks at the White Cashmere Collection 2017 National Student Competition. 

This was the 14th annual fashion fund and awareness-raising campaign for breast cancer research.  One hundred and fifty students of Fashion Design from 11 different schools took part in the competition.  Sixteen finalists were given the ultimate design challenge to use bathroom tissue to make their couture design leap from their sketchbooks to the fashion runway.

Congratulations to our Seneca Fashion Arts student, Charlotte Li who won third prize with her beautiful garment inspired by the 63-year-old widow, Annie Edson Taylor, who successfully barreled over Niagara Falls in 1901.

Charlotte Li

Photo by George Pimental https://photos-3.dropbox.com



First place winner, Chelsea Cox from Kwantlen Polytechnic University created not only a dress of paper but 9,689 hand rolled pink and white paper beads to embellish her creation.  Her inspiration was the iconic Hudson’s Bay coat.

Chelsea CoxPhoto by George Pimental https://photos-5.dropbox.com

For those with any sewing experience, you know the effects of choosing fabrics like chiffon, taffeta and silk.  The feel and slip of these makes sewing them a challenge.  Now imagine using this extraordinarily delicate medium to create such garments!

You might be surprised that this is the 14th annual competition sponsored by White Cashmere but the history of using paper in the production of fashion is actually quite a long one.  Paper parasols and fans have been used since the 17th century in Europe.  Fast forward to the 1960s and the age of disposability increased consumer demand for paper towels, napkins and plates. Shortly thereafter the paper fashion craze gained in popularity.

If you would like to learn more about the history of paper fashion’s Jonathan Walford’s book, Ready to Tear: Paper Fashions of the 60s is an excellent source!Ready to Tear

The psychedelic and pop art of the 1960s became a perfect partner to this new fashion phenomenon and swirling patterns of bright colour were used.   Andy Warhol’s painting immortalizing Campbell Soup was printed onto the “Souper Dress.”  It came complete with additional yellow lines to allow the fashionista to “hem” the dress to her desired length with a pair of scissors – no sewing required!

We have a few examples in our Fashion Resource Centre collection and one with an iconic Canadian link.

This image of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau was used during one of his election campaigns in the 1960s!Trudeau Paper Dress

Congratulations to all those brave fashion designers who used their creative ability to conceive of such amazing designs, their engineering skills to bring them to fruition and to the living paper dolls who modeled them.

Back to the Books

By Dale Peers

One full week of school down and 10 months until school’s out for the summer.  We are back to the books, whether they be hard copy or digital and I thought I might include in this blog some of my favourite fashion titles.

I am a lover of hard copies and have many “friends” on my shelf that have not only served me well in my courses but feed my love of fashion history.  And, like friends, each has a different personality even though the topics might be comparable.

Some have stunningly beautiful photographs of garments with close-up detail revealing the incredible workmanship of days gone by.  Others are chock full of information and organized alphabetically.

And my first favorite is a fashion history title formatted chronologically, written with a wonderful sense of humour and filled with quick bites of fashion detail that could be used to create an amazing edition of Fashion Trivial Pursuit (hmm not a bad idea for those folks!).  Let There Be Clothes by Lynn Schnurnberger is full – 40,000 years of fashion full – of information about the origins of most every fashion item in anyone’s wardrobe.


Let there be clothes

Let there be clothes inside


Dictiofashion and fashion designersnary-like in its organization as well as content Fashion and Fashion Designers provides information about particular fashion items as well as those who influenced our wardrobes.

From A-line shapes to zippers and in a succinct writing style this is a great resource for any student   of fashion.

As the cover describes, the Smithsonian’s publication, Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style is just that.  In a format that my father used to call a “chest crusher” (no one should try to read this in bed!) or perhaps better known now as a “coffee table” book, this 480-page book lives up to its title.  Filled with more than 3,000 years of fashion styles and trends, it is so beautifully illustrated that it appeals to all those who appreciate good photography.  Time-lines are filled with examples and close-up detail on some extraordinary garments are a delight.


smithsmith 2

smith 1



smith 3










fashion game



If you consider yourself an expert in 20th century fashion Florence Muller’s book, Fashion Game Book is great fun.  It is also filled with nuggets of fashion history that you can amuse yourself and others with.

game 2






While the new school year often brings books to mind another season is rapidly approaching – the Christmas and Holiday gift giving season.  I say, “Let’s start our book lists now!”

Fashion Rules

When these two words are used together, I hear two different meanings. On the one, Fashion Rules seems to need the punctuation of exclamation points and to perhaps be preceded by “Dude!” It is a call to those obsessed with the newest, the latest, the trendiest to confirm just how important fashion is in their lives. And, I do have to agree with them.

Fashion Rules! – because it is so important to the communication of our beliefs, our opinions, our social status, our definition of self that it can be the visual representation of “us”. As William Blake wrote: “….the human person is composed of three parts: body, soul and clothes.”
And so for some (many?) the choice of our fashion is rarely random. We take the time to consider how we are representing ourselves, even if all we are concerned with is being appropriately clothed for the weather.

But “Fashion Rules” can also be taken to mean defining what exactly “appropriately” clothed means.

I had a discussion about this topic with a recent donor and visitor to the Fashion Resource Centre. She and I were talking about the change in expectations regarding appearance. She told me about a recent event that two of her adult children had attended. The event was held outside at a very well-to-do couple’s home and before attending they were wondering what the other guests would be wearing and what they should wear. If it was a garden party should she wear a dress? And if so, what kind of dress? How “dressed” up should they be? How “casual” was too casual? As it happened when they arrived most guests had opted for jeans!


Not that long ago (ok maybe not that long ago if you are my age) there were Fashion Rules about what to wear to what occasion. We both decried the loss of those opportunities where “dressing up” was a requirement, not just from the perspective of acceptance by others but as a sign of respect to those you were with. The chance to wear a more formal dress or suit seems to be acceptable at very few occasions – prom, as parents of the bride/groom and if you happen to be a celebrity. (Maybe that is why there are so many of those dresses and gowns on racks in many department stores?)

I thought it might be interesting to look back at some of these no longer observed Fashion Rules.

When Prince Albert passed away his heartbroken wife Queen Victoria sunk into mourning in a way that we certainly no longer do. This became another way to show respect for family members who had passed but it was also a way to demonstrate to others your social status and wealth. The etiquette books dictated not only what you could wear but how long you should do so in order to show the proper respect.

The stages of mourning included: deep mourning which was to last a minimum of one year plus one day. All colour in your wardrobe was replaced with black and not just any black. It was necessary that all things with shine be put away too. Your lovely gold jewelry would be replaced with jet beads and mourning jewelry made of bog oak as well as hair (from the deceased of course). Your clothing had a matte rather than shiny finish to the fabric and you were draped in unrelenting black.

The next stage was Second Mourning and this lasted for an additional year. Black was still your colour but it could now be made of a fabric like silk which has a bit of shine to it.
After this came Ordinary mourning in which a bit of white might be added to your collars and the cuffs of your long sleeved dresses. This stage lasted a further six months.

And finally your last six months of mourning called Half Mourning would allow you to slowly (ever so slowly) to add colour to your wardrobe. But, this was also restricted to specific colours: white, grey (black mixed with white) and finally a mauve colour (grey mixed with purple).
This applied to women’s fashions and men were only required to wear a black arm band, and for considerably less time than the three years plus one day that women adhered to. This type of mourning ritual was thankfully reserved for those relations closest to you: your mother, father, siblings, and husbands.

However, if in the midst of this process, another close relation passed away you were expected to begin the process once again.

Hats were an essential part of a fashionable woman’s wardrobe until the Catholic Church decreed in the 1970s that women no longer needed to wear head coverings to church. Prior to this, women wouldn’t think about going to the grocery store, never mind church without a proper hat.
As well, beehive hair styles popular in the preceding decade had also made wearing hats something of a challenge and the young women of the 1960s also wanted to be less, rather than more like their mothers who had grown up with a wardrobe of headgear.


During World War II hats were one of the few items not subject to rationing and became a creative outlet for women to achieve a smart new look. There were different types and styles of hats appropriate seasonally as well as by occasion.


Dior’s New Look of 1947 influenced the silhouette through the 1950s and suggesting women who were fashionably attired did so by wearing accessories which matched and complemented their entire look and this became a very successful marketing strategy for the fashion house.

Looking at the silhouette created by the incredibly full, often pleated skirts of the 1950s, the large picture hat that is often shown with the New Look was the perfect complement from a design perspective. The female form is “bracketed” with a large circle created with the long and full skirt at her hem and with an almost equally large circle on the top of her head.


Speaking of sparkle, rhinestone jewelry that was so popular in the 1950s was also something that was generally worn “after 5.” While Marilyn Monroe sang “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” women wore rhinestones as an acceptable alternative. They could be found adorning not only bracelets, brooches and earrings but handbags, shoes and, of course, dresses. But, any of these worn before 5:00 looked decidedly out of place.



These are just a few examples of Fashion Rules that have disappeared, whether for good or bad is up to the individual to decide. And, while there are those who still live a life with the opportunity to dress for the red carpet I think it is sad that these folks are in the minority. Wouldn’t you love to have more occasions to wear a beautiful gown, with a wonderful hat, spectacular shoes and amazing bling?

Fashion does rule the day and in a very different way now than in the past.

Dale's signature

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.

Seneca 50 banner image

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)


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


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!


Red Carpet looks for 2017

True fashionistas love the award season because the most elegant, over-the-top (some might say bizarre) looks are absolutely appropriate.  We get to see, for a few short weeks the artistry that is haute couture worn by our silver screen royalty.  Let’s look at how the eclecticism of fashion is reflected in the past influences filtered through modern style.

Janelle Monae, singer, songwriter, actress and model channeled the Madame du Pompadour and Marie Antoinette set in this Elie Saab masterpiece.  In the incredible split skirt with paniered hips as well as embroidery and touches of gold, Monae could have waltzed down the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles as confidently as she did the red carpet in La La Land.

Janelle Monae (left), Marie Antoinette (right)

Janelle Monae (left), image from ShoppersShop.com; Marie Antoinette (right), image from franziandste.wordpress.com

Both Emma Stone (in Givenchy) and Olivia Culpo (in Marchesa) incorporated “flapper fringe” in their elegant attire while Octavia Spencer evoked the glamour goddesses of Jean Harlowe, Ginger Rogers and Carol Lombard with feathers and satin.

Emma Stone,

Emma Stone (left), image from http://www.1013theriver.com/rick-kelly/; Woman from 1920s (centre), image from Wikipedia; Olivia Culpo (right), image from http://www.flare.com/celebrity/red-carpet-fashion/2017-oscars-best-dressed-worst-dressed/

Octavia Spencer (left), image from http://people.com/awards/celebs-oscars-red-carpet-arrivals/

Octavia Spencer (left), image from http://people.com/awards/celebs-oscars-red-carpet-arrivals/; Ginger Rogers (right), image from IMDB.com

While not one of my personal favourites, Dakota Johnson’s gold gown by Gucci seemed to reference the work of Elsa Schiaparelli who often had a padded shoulder and jewelry that complemented her work. Her famous trompe l’oeil sweater also made use of the feminine bow.

Dakota Johnson (left), image from http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/oscars-2017-fashion-gold-white-9924400; Elsa Schiaparelli (center), image from http://manifesto-21.com/schiaparelli-ou-la-renaissance-du-phenix/; Sweater by Elsa Schiaparelli (right), image from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2009.300.1354/

Dakota Johnson (left), image from http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/oscars-2017-fashion-gold-white-9924400; Elsa Schiaparelli (centre), image from http://manifesto-21.com/schiaparelli-ou-la-renaissance-du-phenix/; Sweater by Elsa Schiaparelli (right), image from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2009.300.1354/

Dior couture seems to be the definition of elegance and the gown worn by Kirsten Dunst is no exception to the rule. Complete with the high-low hemline, model Dovima wears Dior as beautifully as Dunst.

Kirsten Dunst (left, image from http://www.flare.com/celebrity/red-carpet-fashion/2017-oscars-best-dressed-worst-dressed/); Dovima (right), image from http://azzurrodue.com/tag/richard-avedon/

Kirsten Dunst (left, image from http://www.flare.com/celebrity/red-carpet-fashion/2017-oscars-best-dressed-worst-dressed/); Dovima (right), image from http://azzurrodue.com/tag/richard-avedon/

While the hem length of Priyanka Chopra’s gown is by no means “mini”, the geometric pattern and colour palette that Ralph & Russo have used is similar to the work by 1960s designers like Courreges, Cardin and Rabanne.

Priyanka Chopra (right), image from http://www.manoramaonline.com/photogallery.oscar-2017.html; Fabric (right), image from https://www.1stdibs.com/

Priyanka Chopra (right), image from http://www.manoramaonline.com/photogallery.oscar-2017.html; Fabric (right), image from https://www.1stdibs.com/

The renewed Halston label pays tribute to his use of bias cut fabrics as worn here by Rachel McAdams and in the vintage halter neck gown by Halston.

Rachel McAdams (left), image from https://www.popsugar.com/fashion/Rachel-McAdams-August-Getty-Dress-Oscars-2016-40394949; Halston Dress (right), image from https://www.1stdibs.com/

Rachel McAdams (left), image from https://www.popsugar.com/fashion/Rachel-McAdams-August-Getty-Dress-Oscars-2016-40394949; Halston Dress (right), image from https://www.1stdibs.com/

Ryan Gosling’s tuxedo shirt with the ruffles is perhaps a nod to his role, not in La La Land but in The Nice Guys (2016) in which he plays a 1970s era private detective. The shirt is certainly reminiscent of those found in that era.

Ryan Gosling (left), image from http://www.yorkdale.com/oscars-2017-best-dressed/; Ruffle Shirt (right), image from dressthatman.com

Ryan Gosling (left), image from http://www.yorkdale.com/oscars-2017-best-dressed/; Ruffle Shirt (right), image from dressthatman.com

I can’t decide whether Terrence Howard’s Smoking Jacket style tuxedo is better or worse – especially since smoking is not as fashionable or at least as possible within three metres of most buildings as it formerly was. (Should anyone, even Hugh Hefner, be sporting a smoking jacket?)

Terrence Howard (left), image from http://wwd.com/eye/parties/gallery/red-carpet-oscar-dresses-outfits-10822326/; Smoking Jacket (right), image from https://www.etsy.com/listing/93028557/reserved-for-donna-vintage-rockabilly (right)

Terrence Howard (left), image from http://wwd.com/eye/parties/gallery/red-carpet-oscar-dresses-outfits-10822326/; Smoking Jacket (right), image from https://www.etsy.com/listing/93028557/reserved-for-donna-vintage-rockabilly (right)

And finally, Naomi Harris in Calvin Klein brings us to the minimalism of the 21st century via Calvin Klein during the 1990s.

Naomi Harris (left), image from http://www.vogue.com/article/oscars-2017-red-carpet-dresses-fashion-trends; Kate Moss, image from http://www.supermodelstars.com/advertisings/calvinklein/

Naomi Harris (left), image from http://www.vogue.com/article/oscars-2017-red-carpet-dresses-fashion-trends; Kate Moss (right), image from http://www.supermodelstars.com/advertisings/calvinklein/

Fashion, whether on the runway or the red carpet is so interesting to observe because it is modern and new but the photos in this blog post remind us that the past can often be seen in the present.


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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The Colour Purple (and pink, red, yellow, orange, blue, green……)

A few blogs ago I wrote about the colour white, the use of it in fashion and society.  I love colour and our Resource Centre allows me to indulge in a visual feast every time I do a display.  A few weeks ago our display focus wasn’t on a particular period in fashion history, instead we chose to do a rainbow theme in the garment and accessories displays we arranged.

Photo of Colourful Garments

Colourful garments from Seneca’s Fashion Resource Centre

Photo of Purple Hat and Accessories

1960s Purple Breton and assorted accessories in all the tints and tones of purple.

I think the topic of colour fascinates me almost as much as does the history of fashion and its social implications. Colour is such an integral element of fashion and our choice of colour is always personal (whether we recognize it or not).

For this blog I am going to focus on purple. The colour has been one that has been associated in western culture with royalty and nobility. The scarcity of the raw material found in nature to create purple caused its cost to be high. As a result garments which would be dyed this colour would be available only to those with the wealth to afford it. And as a result came to be a signifier of status.

Photo of hat and dress

Hat from 1960s (Left), Victorian Dress from 1885 (Right)

During the 19th century and the industrial revolution the creation of aniline or chemical dyes changed all that. Now any colour could be created and the most desirable shade for members of the rising middle class was the colour that had previously represented those of higher social status.

Purple is a colour that swings on the pendulum of fashion trends. When it is fashionable it is very popular and when we have had enough of it the colour becomes gauche.

During the 1960s the colour palette we saw in fashion was comprised of more secondary colour – green, orange and purple – than primary colours (with the exception of yellow). These bright colours were the representation of the psychedelic ‘60s. Juxtaposing purple with yellow or with other colours like green and orange which are made with yellow made this an incredible bright colour story and one that was quite at odds with the elegant black, white, navy blue and “Dior” red of the previous decade.

 Purple Givenchy Cocktail dress (Left), Purple Hot Pants (Right)

Purple Givenchy Cocktail dress (Left), Purple Hot Pants (Right)

As the fashion pendulum swung to the natural fibres and earthy tones of the 1970s, purple fell out of favour. We saw some purple return in the 1980s’ jewel tones in power dressing. And, in the minimalism fashion styles of the 90s and 00s any appearance of purple was used in deep tones or greyed tones.

Purple also seems to be a colour that individuals will be passionately in love with or they will be in the group who would “never be caught dead wearing it”. We have seen it come in the faintest of tints and the deepest of shades.

Photo of Prom Dress & Power Suit

“1980s Purple Strapless “Prom” dress (Left), 1980s “Power Dressing” Suit (Right)

From a psychology of colour perspective, purple can be seen as representing royalty (which may be why Cadbury chocolate continues to use purple in its branding) and elegance – the majesty of a king’s royal robes.

Photo of Purple Garment

Photo of sandals

Strappy Sandals

As a secondary colour it is created with red and blue and so is a blending of a warm and a cool colour. It is also created using the passionate nature of red and the calming influence of blue. No wonder it is interpreted as a colour of mystery, spirituality and enjoyed by very creative individuals.

Within our collection we have some examples of purple which are particularly representative of these different interpretations. From the iconic Victorian dress to strappy sandals when purple is on display attention is certainly generated.


A Year of Anniversaries

Mini Dress by Marilyn Brooks (Unicorn Label)

Mini Dress by Marilyn Brooks (Unicorn Label)

Before November, the month of Remembrance Day, slips away I am looking forward to creating events to remember in 2017. There are several anniversaries that we will be celebrating which will allow us to once again showcase items in our Fashion Resource Centre.

As a Canadian the celebration of the founding of our country in 1867 will be highlighted not only on Canada Day but throughout the year. Our first centennial celebrated in 1967 occurred in the midst of the “Youthquake” of the 1960s. (right, pink Mini Dress by Marilyn Brooks’ Unicorn label).

Canadian Designers who are well represented in our collection, Claire Haddad, Marilyn Brooks and Elen Henderson gained recognition with consumers and established some of the foundation and organizations that have continued to provide ongoing support for new fashion designers.

The late Claire Haddad showed her Canadian patriotism by featuring the (then) newly created Maple Leaf tartan which included all of the colours of the maple leaf transitioning from summer to fall. This green, gold, red and brown tartan was created by David Weiser of the Highland Queen company.

Tartan by David Weiser of the Highland Queen Company

Tartan by David Weiser of the Highland Queen Company

I look forward to seeing what our contemporary Canadian designers may produce to celebrate and highlight their patriotism as we celebrate 150 years of our wonderful country.

One of the initiatives sparked by the centennial of the country was the establishment of our community college system. 2017, then is also the 50th anniversary of Seneca College. Its original mandate was to provide an alternate path to university, providing post secondary education in fields that were often quite specialized but not serviced by any university. One of the first graduating classes at Seneca College was in Fashion and over the 50 years we have seen the programs within our School of Fashion expand to prepare graduates for the fields of Cosmetics, Esthetics, Visual Merchandising, Floral Design and Event Design. I am pleased to have been a product of this education system, graduating from my first program in 1976 and as a member of the School of Fashion for many years.


Thanks to the foresight of my colleagues Claire Becker, Bev Newburg, Caroline Routh and many more, we established our Resource Centre more than 25 years ago. We will be able to support the celebrations of this anniversary with displays of the fads and fashions that graced the halls during that first decade and for those of the following four.

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Fashion Group International’s Toronto chapter. This organization has been a volunteer operated association that has worked tirelessly to support its members and the Fashion industry in Toronto. They mentor new members, provide networking opportunities and highlight the contributions the fashion industry provides to society in general.


We have had wonderful links with Fashion Group International and its members over the decades as we share many of the same supporters. Many of those early supporters of Fashion Group (Marilyn Brooks, Claire Haddad, Shirley Cheatley of Elen Henderson designs) were on the early committees that helped establish our Resource Centre. Many of these members have also contributed through donations made to the Centre. We will be working with FGI to help highlight their anniversary too.

In 1947 Christian Dior’s “New Look” brought haute couture to the world but also made the house a name synonymous with fashion. The 70th anniversary of the house will certainly be a cause for celebration.


Last December we welcomed Severine Breton from Christian Dior Paris to research and photograph the “Diors” of our collection. The house was searching to find the Dior items which have been preserved at various museums throughout the world and is working on a book to celebrate this auspicious anniversary. We happily provided the items within our collection for examination and were very grateful to receive from Dior information that we have added to our research files about the designs. Included in the information were copies of some original files showing sketches, design names and fabric swatches. While each of the garments in our Centre has had information catalogued from the donor about the items having additional information directly from the designer and/or the house increases the information we can provide researchers in the future.


Each succeeding year seems to bring with it an array of diverse tasks and opportunities for our collection, but clearly, 2017 will be a year beyond the norm.

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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.



If you are already west of the city, the Guelp