Fashion Resource Centre Book Launch

By Dale Peers

What a wonderful crowd came to out to celebrate at The Spoke Club in Toronto the launching of two new cross disciplinary projects.  The one that I am most proud of is our Fashion Resource Centre book!

Book Cover

Book Cover

The project was completed in an incredibly short period of time and would not have been possible without the vision of our Dean of the Faculty of Communication, Art and Design, Michael Maynard and the students who were (almost) as excited as I was to embark on this project. The students from the Corporate Communications post-graduate certificate (Laura Kelly, Kate Knight, Chantelle Ormond and Hillory Renkema) were mentored by Professor Tom Bartsiokas who I also had the great good fortune of working with on this project. Tom managed not one but two projects – this and the Art Collection Seneca @ York book. We spent many hours choosing photos, editing my descriptions and deciding where to place the most pithy comments from donors, alumni, students, designers and industry experts.

Sample pages from book

Sample pages from book

Also on our committee/support team was Chair of the School of Fashion Gitte Hansen who lent her excellent eye and assisted the students in contacting many of the industry experts who made such lovely quotes an extra special element of the book.

Snapshot of garment

Snapshot of garment

Working with photography student Roberto Vazquez and graphic designer Lily Nguyen was delightful and has resulted in a “look book” that far surpassed anything I could have imagined.

Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

I am thrilled to have been given the time by Michael and Gitte to work on this project which allows us to show the incredible and unique Resource Centre we have at SenecaCollege. I know the books are disappearing quickly, and can only hope that this means we will have an opportunity to begin Volume II.

Next year is the 50th anniversary of Seneca College and the 150th anniversary of our country. I already have a list in mind of garments that would be a wonderful celebration and tribute to these two special milestones.

Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

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

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

New Year, New You?

One of the many advantages of working in an academic institution is a minimum of at least two New Years! We have the academic year which traditionally begins in September as well as the calendar year. This gives us the opportunity to have fresh experiences and new beginnings in general and more specifically with the start of the study of new courses.

For our Fashion Resource Centre, this means opening the doors and the drawers for a new group of students. Decisions must be made from an educational perspective about which items need to be brought into the different classrooms to best illustrate the concepts of the course.
And, we know that the fashion world is all about “new.” And yet, as they say, “Everything old is new again.” As our design students look for inspiration, the garments we have on display rotation may initiate the spark of a new idea.

Inspiration can certainly be found in our zeitgeist. Our students look to the world around them for ideas. Will, for example, the current slate of movies rouse interest in revivals of not just vintage fashion but new fashion?

Carol, Image from

Carol, Image from


Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, Image from


Gods of Egypt, Image from Daily Mail

Will seeing Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella or the Turner exhibition at the AGO provide a colour story or thematic inspiration?

Toronto Theatre, Image from

Toronto Theatre, Image from

Image from

Image from

And, as we embark on a new year the making of resolutions may be an opportunity for new ideas. Often these resolutions have to do with improving our bodies through diet and exercise or becoming more concerned with our health. It is interesting to note that as human beings we often incorporate our appearance into the resolution, whether it is a revision of that appearance or an announcement of having met a particular goal. We often want to communicate through our appearance an important life change. The adoption of a new wardrobe, style, even a new haircut is a subtle (or not so subtle) message that we send to the world.

For women in the past their wardrobe and fashion style would help to communicate a change in status – from girl to young woman; from bride to wife and mother.

From Childhood to Young Woman:

Left: Girl's dress from SFRC; Right: Women's dress from SFRC

Left: Girl’s dress from SFRC; Right: Women’s dress from SFRC

The seasons could be marked with the purchase of a new hat.

Left: Spring Hat, Right: Winter Hat

Left: Spring Hat, Right: Winter Hat

Even the time of day could be identified by the type of dress worn.

Left: Tea Dress, Middle: Day Dress, Right: Evening Dress

Left: Tea Dress, Middle: Day Dress, Right: Evening Dress

What have you planned for this New Year? Are you part of the group embarking on a new area of study? Has something in our zeitgeist inspired the desire for a new career or lifestyle change? Have you a resolution that you are working on and does it involve your appearance? What has inspired this change? Would love to hear from you…simply write in the comments.
Whatever awaits I wish you a Happy, Inspired New Year!

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Through the Looking Glass: Servants’ Appearance – a Reflection of the Upper Classes

by Rhonda Roth, Collections Librarian, Seneca College 

Mr. Carson, Mr. Barrow and Mrs. Patmore to name a few of our favourite characters/servants in the television show Downton Abbey (now, sadly in its last season) tell us a great deal about their position in society, without uttering a single word.  One simply has to observe what they are wearing.

All servants of the time wore some kind of distinguishing “uniform” which served as a useful reminder of status boundaries between employer and servant. It was imperative to the class conscious late- nineteenth and early- twentieth century employer that a servant be immediately recognizable as just that, but, it was carried even further to distinguish servant from servant within the stratified hierarchy “below stairs” as well.



The premier show of Downton Abbey was set in 1912 with the tragic sinking of the Titanic dominating the events of the plot. This was the Edwardian era which stands out as a time of peace and plenty until the onset of World War 1 in 1914. But for many people, it was a time of shocking levels of poverty. A report written by Benjamin Rowntree on the slums of the town of York that came out in 1901 (Maloney 4) noted that 28% of the population was living in intolerable hardship. By this time, 1 in 4 people were domestic servants, mostly women who worked seven days a week from as early as 5am to 10pm for very little money. And yet, this was considered a reasonable alternative to the slums and gave some a certain amount of social status, especially if they worked in a home like Downton Abbey where they were housed and fed.

No matter the prestige of such a demanding job, a visible distinction in appearance was seen as crucial by their employers. Butlers, like Mr. Carson, were the highest ranking official servant in the house. They were responsible for running the house. It was customary in the early 19th century for employers to give butlers and other menservants, like Mr. Bates, their cast-off clothes but at the same time to make sure that the resulting outfit was never quite ‘correct’. The tie was not quite right with the coat or the coat was slightly out of fashion. A butler looked like a gentleman’s gentleman but not a gentleman in his own right. In the case of Mr. Carson, he wears a black suit so that he is slightly differentiated from other upper level male servants, and thus displays a visible signal of his superior status.


From Downton Abbey, Footmen

The footman, like the incorrigible Thomas Barrow, was the most visible and splendid of the servants in a large Edwardian home, an adornment whose chief job was waiting at table, polishing dishes and supervising the rooms and activities of the lady of the house. Footmen reflected the wealth and class of the family, and tall, good-looking young men were quickly promoted to this position in the best households. A six-foot footman could expect to be paid more than a shorter one. Appearance seemed to be everything and some ambitious footmen made use of special pads to make their calves appear shapelier.

A whole coterie of maids would work in a home the size of Downton Abbey such as a housekeeper, lady’s maids, parlour maids, a head house maid, a nursery maid, chamber maids, laundry maids and lower on the totem pole would be the scullery and between maids. Maids who were most visible wore cotton print dresses in the morning to do the dirty work of cleaning the house and then changed to a uniform of black dress, turned-down white collar and cuffs, and muslin cap with or without streamers and bib-apron in the afternoon when, most importantly, guests came to call. Physical appearance, once again, was of considerable importance. Those maids possessing tall, trim figures were in far greater demand than short, stout individuals due to their perceived more graceful movements when waiting at table. Taller maids were favoured and could garner a higher wage just due to this advantage. Short girls were destined to be firmly below stairs or employed in poorer households.

Cooks, like Mrs. Patmore, had an important role in providing good food to the family and visitors but were not as visible and so usually wore washing dresses and white aprons, with coarse ones for cleaning purposes. Cooks did not always wear caps, except in houses where they were expected to answer the front door.

Uniforms or work dresses were rarely supplied to female servants and if they were, were taken out of their meagre wages. Boots were also expected to be provided by the maids themselves and as one girl in Somerset reported in 1913, her shoes cost an entire first month’s wages. In contrast to the more visible lady’s maids and parlour maids was the lowly “tweeny” maid or scullery maid like Daisy, who was often as poorly dressed as unskilled labourers because there was no fear of anyone seeing her slaving away downstairs in the kitchen.


From Seneca Fashion Resource Centre, Footwear



In highly- class conscious industrial societies, even accessories like hats were enormously important as signals that claimed or maintained social status. There are instances of maids instructed not to wear hats in church on Sundays but to wear identifying bonnets in case they should be mistaken for one of the family. Even personal choices like facial hair for menservants were discouraged while their employers wore the latest fashions in whiskers of the time. All of this points to the extreme social control and institutionalized separation of spheres that was imposed on working class employees. This is aptly captured in The Duties of Servants (1890), a bible for managing a household of servants, which warns lady’s maids to “never to dress out of your station as a servant: for your knowledge of stuffs, trimmings and fashions, gives you the means of doing this more successfully than any other servant.” (Lethbridge 41).


From the Seneca Fashion Resource Centre – Upper class Edwardian woman’s hat


As Downton Abbey progresses into the interwar years and winds down in the 1920’s, we see the sun beginning to set on the lavish lifestyle of the Edwardian period with its wide range of appropriately dressed servants. Labour-saving devices, alternative sources of employment for women and increased wages began to shape the view that multiple servants for every task was an extravagance save for all but the biggest houses to have. Women were attracted to the new options for work that were less demeaning and didn’t require the wearing of the hated servant’s uniform of starched cap and apron. Although it would take until WWII to radically diminish the numbers of servants, dressed to reflect their place in the hierarchy was a thing of the glorified or horrified part of the past, depending on the level of the stairs you were looking at it from.


From Seneca Fashion Resource Centre, Upper Class Dress


Servant’s Dress

Works Cited

Lethbridge, Lucy. Servants. A Downstairs View of Twentieth-century Britain. London:
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 2013. Print.

Maloney, Alison. Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants. New York: St.
Martin’s Press, 2012. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.

Author Bio

Rhonda Roth is Editor of the Fashion Resource Centre Blog & Liaison Librarian at Seneca College. She is a devotee of the history of fashion and Downton Abbey.


It’s a Rarity

What qualifies as rare in fashion?  Is it the singular genius of a designer’s work?  Is it the incredible delicacy of hand embroidered cotton or lace?  Is it the one-of-a-kind couture garment? We certainly have our share of beautifully designed, constructed and embellished garments in The Fashion Resource Centre Collection.  And many of these have been lovingly preserved by their owners or their owner’s descendants before making there way to us.  Ceremonial garments like christening gowns, graduation robes, bridal attire and formal wear, such as tuxedos, fall easily into this category.

I would agree that all of these qualify as rare but there is another, often overlooked classification of rare fashion: those items which we rarely see.

In our collection I believe some of the rare pieces are those that we preserved while others of the same category have been discarded.  If you think about what you have in your closet that you never seem able to send off to a Value Village or consignment store, what would it be?

Would you save underwear?  Would you save a ski suit you wore 15 years ago?  Would you save the maternity clothing you wore?  How about a simple day dress?

These are some of the pieces that I consider to be rare.  The everyday garments that we might describe as ordinary, but which are actually quite interesting to someone studying the clothing worn by members of a society decades ago.

These pieces are part of our Zeitgeist.  They reveal details of the people who have worn them.  The activities they engaged in and the type of clothing that may have been required either physically or socially.  They may illustrate the decorative arts popular in a particular period.  And, they may reveal the social position of the individual wearing them.

In a future blog my colleague Rhonda Roth has chosen to explore one such group of individuals who played an integral role in society in earlier centuries.

These are images of what I consider are rare garments within our collection.

Hope you enjoy!


A woolen, one piece bathing suit from the 1920s


A hand crochet vest for a “love-child” of the 60’s/70’s


Maternity wear from the 1950s

A day suit from the 1920s with an icon Art Deco pattern (and square, not round buttons!)

A day suit from the 1920s with an icon Art Deco pattern (and square, not round buttons!)

Slow Down Fast Fashion

Browsing through a magazine today,  I came across what is not really news, nor a really a new movement but one that has become more a part of the way we are choosing to eat.  The article discussed the concepts of dining close to where the chef has a farm, or “farm-to-table” and savvy shoppers who fill their grocery carts with food that is not only wholesome, organic and good for them but is produced in a way that is good for animals and the environment alike.  You too may know the concept of sustainability as one that has become trendy in the food world.

What has this to do with fashion?  The concept of fashion and sustainability is also one that is not really news but has begun to become a movement that will hopefully become as important to us as the attention we are paying to feeding our bodies.

It is important to remind ourselves that there are 7 billion people currently on earth,  and the vast majority made up of societies who deem wearing clothing a necessity,therefore  the fashion industry is as important to humans as the food industry.  One of the inherent characteristics of fashion is that it involves change.  And, as so many people tell us – “Change is Good!”  This adage might help someone who is balking at the idea of accepting a new technology into their business lives, but is a motto that few fashionistas need to be given?

The speed of change is something else that we should examine.  If change is good does it necessarily mean that it must occur immediately?  Our initial answer may likely be a resounding yes!  We seem to have little patience anymore for the light to turn green, for the song to upload, for the app to open.  We want everything to happen quickly and no better example of that in the fashion world is what has been deemed “Fast Fashion”.

Fast fashion has certainly contributed to a fashion addiction for many.  The need to have the newest and trendiest is not necessarily a new concept but the possibility of that being available to anyone with $14.99 is what has enabled us to become the ultimate consumers.

Gobbling up a new product every two to three weeks was not possible, even five years ago.  Slow fashion meant that there were new fashions but it took much longer for those trends to diffuse through society.  The production of merchandise was slower and I would suggest it was better for this lack of speed.  The quality of the product was definitely superior to some of the merchandise available to us today.  This superiority also meant that the longevity of the product was assured.

In the not so far off past, there were items in everyone’s closet that they kept for years because the style was deemed to be classic.  The LBD as proposed by Coco Chanel is a perfect example.  Our Fashion Resource Centre has many wonderful examples of these Little Black Dresses for exactly that reason – they were classic, could be worn for a number of different occasions and by more than one person in the family!


Dresses from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

In examining some of today’s fast fashions, there are few that I could say “need” to be added to our Fashion Resource Centre. In fact, I’m not sure that they would ever make it to the collection as the quality of the product is so poor that it is likely to be discarded by a wearer rather then them thinking it would make a good donation.


Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Earlier periods in the history of fashion production attempted to create patterns that would be as economical in the use of the fabric as possible. During WWII “Utility Dressing” was a movement of British fashion designers to create fashionable and utilitarian garments for women during a period when rationing was required. Today the wastefulness to be found not only in the cutting of fabric but in the use and pollution of natural resources is appalling.

Customers paid dearly for the garments they purchased in times past and this might have been one of the reasons for the slower diffusion of fashion trends. They paid for the artistry of the designers as well as the producers of the actual garment. Today, men, women and children are paid wages that are as close to slave labour as it is possible to be. And, these business practices are fueled in part by the consumers who demand low prices and fast fashion.

It is not simply the Little Black Dresses that prove interesting in the study of fashion. The attention to detail that designers and manufacturers considered important to their reputation as well as to the comfort of their clients is important to examine. When we look at the care to ensure that each tiny pleat has been added with mathematic precision to add the desired fullness to a skirt or the exacting placement of each bead, rhinestone and thread in the embroidery of a gown we admire not only the symmetry, the decoration and the artistry but the passion that fueled the need to create such a thing of beauty.

Although we have the ability to create fast fashion there is a need, and hopefully a desire among designers and consumers to pause and consider the value of slow fashion. The fashion industry needs to feed the soul with the beauty of a unique garment, lovingly created and done so with the least impact on human beings and the endangered environment.

Dale's signature

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

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

Bata Shoe Museum, Standing Tall exhibit, Image from

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

¡Viva México! Clothing and Culture exhibit, Image from

¡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

From Rationing to Ravishing exhibit at Museum of Vancouver, Image from

EMP Museum, Seattle, Washington:

Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit, EMP Museum, Image from

Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit, EMP Museum, Image from

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

Horst: Photographer of Style exhibit, McCord Museum, Image from

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

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

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

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:


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

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit, Image from

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.


Visitors enjoying 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


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 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 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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Easter Bonnets, Parades and the Fashionable Arrival of Spring

Spring has indeed arrived and the latest flowers which have sprung can be found on the Newnham campus in the Fashion Resource Centre window. A selection of over 40 hats is currently on display in the fourth floor hallway in D building, in celebration of Easter Bonnets.

bonnet1 bonnet2
The history of Easter finery in particular has been attributed to the celebration of re-birth and new life with a new addition to one’s wardrobe. Circlets of flowers were also worn in young women’s hair to herald the arrival of spring. What better way to recognize the change from winter to spring than with flowers blossoming?

bonnet3 bonnet4

Spring hats or Easter Bonnets provide the perfect base for a floral celebration. And, when women add a new chapeau to their wardrobe they definitely want to show it off to admiring audiences.


Image from T2Conline

The Easter Parade up and down Fifth Avenue in New York City began as early as 1870 and by the mid-twentieth century had hundreds of thousands of people promenading on a Sunday afternoon.

While the wearing of hats began to lessen the crowds did too but the ritual continued. In 1948 “Easter Parade” starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland ends with the (now) happy couple strolling along the Avenue.


Image from Wikipedia

Easter Parades were found not only in New York City. Below are images from Toronto’s Sunnyside from the 1920s when beautiful cloche hats were all the rage.


Image from City of Toronto Archives


Image from City of Toronto Archives

The wearing of ones’ best hat, shoes and gloves was not restricted by age. We have a few rare children’s hats in the collection such as this blue felt one that was worn by young girls and purchased at historic Canadian department store retailers such as Simpson’s and Eaton’s.

hat3 pinkhat

The pink straw hat from our collection is similar to the one I am wearing in this photo. One of my first fashion memories is this multi-coloured gingham dress with tulip petal skirt supported by a (scratchy!) crinoline and was my favorite dress of all time. I do recall that the dress came with its own hat, made of the same gingham and was a series of flower petals that duplicated the shape of the skirt. However, the pink straw hat was my new Easter hat and felt more sophisticated than the other! (Please note that my hat and handbag match.)


Fewer opportunities seem to exist today to wear or to own a wardrobe of hats as women once did. If you would like to re-live the glory of hats make a trip up to our fourth floor sometime before mid-April and see the varied choices for Easter Bonnets.


Be-gone Blizzards


Dress from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Be-gone Blizzardy weather! Let’s bring on the Beach! The current display in our Fashion Resource Centre window at the Newnham Campus of Seneca College was inspired by the coldest February on record.

The thing about Canadian weather is that a) it is a frequent topic of conversation b) it changes rapidly and c) no one can really predict what we are in for – not even Wiarton Willy!

However, the respite of a winter vacation is one thing that Canadians do look forward to and, as a result we chose to present His and Her Hawaiian attire and bathing suits.  If nothing else this colourful window is sure to help alleviate some of the winter blues brought on by sun deprivation.

Hawaiian shirts from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

Hawaiian shirts from Seneca Fashion Resource Centre

The colourful Hawaiian or Aloha shirt is an easily recognized fashion icon.  Whether it is recognizable for its colourful patterns or the equally colourful personalities who choose to wear it is up to the observer. The history of these fashions can be traced back to missionaries who looked to cover the nakedness of island inhabitants.  As the plantation economy of Hawaii began to emerge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, workers needed a shirt that could weather the physical efforts of sugar, coffee and pineapple farming.


Image from East Coast Radio,

Ellery Chun is credited with creating the popularity of the Aloha Shirt.  With a degree in economics from Yale University, Mr. Chun returned to Hawaii in 1931 to take over his father’s dry goods store.  The establishment had catered primarily to the local Asian Community but Mr. Chun wanted to expand the scope of his retail enterprise.  He and his sister began selling bright, print short sleeve shirts made of leftover material from Japanese kimonos. (Lisa (da Beanteacher))

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, tourists came and the distinctive shirts became popular souvenirs. However due to the warm climate they are considered by the locals to be the equivalent of a suit and appropriate for business wear.  While we may have Casual Fridays the people of Hawaii have Aloha Fridays.


Images from Karmakula, and Ragstock,


Image from Vintage Aloha Shirts,

While tourists may prefer brightly coloured versions with “hula girls”, pineapples and surfboards, native Hawaiians prefer more subtle patterns.  “Reverse print” shirts have the pattern printed on the inside which creates a more muted effect.  Status can also be perceived in Aloha shirts with border prints.  More fabric must be used in the creation of a border print which makes the shirt more expensive.

hawaiian shirt

Image from Maui Shirts,

The construction of an Aloha shirt is deceptively simple.  It has a left chest pocket sewn in and a good quality shirt must have a pattern that is uninterrupted by that pocket.  The lower hem of the shirt is straight and is never to be worn tucked in.

The beautiful tropical prints in exuberant colors found in Aloha Attire are a perfect choice for either the extrovert or the introvert.  The extrovert expresses loud and clearly their enthusiasm while the introvert can let their attire spark a conversation with a perfect stranger.

Winter will probably linger on for a few more weeks, making the weather a constant topic of conversation and the need to book a winter escape all the more necessary.  Perhaps into that conversation you will now include a tidbit or two about this colourful fashion choice.  Aloha!


Works Cited:

Lisa (da Beanteacher). “Beanteacher Hawaiian Style Home.”, 2011. Web 25 Feb. 2015.