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Fashion: A Canadian Perspective

Edited by Alexandra Palmer
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 390
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Controversial and unconventional, this collection examines Canadian identity in terms of the fashion worn and designed over the last three centuries, and the internal and external influences of those socio-cultural decisions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7480-6
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    ‘What?… I didn’t know there was any Canadian fashion.’¹ This comment, from a member of the British press who queried the invitation to a Canadian fashion show in London in 1988, highlights the absence of a national design identity for Canada. Unfortunately, such comments might well have come from the Canadian public, who also rarely recognize the work or names of their own fashion designers. This book hopes to begin to redress this situation.

    Internationally successful Canadian fashion companies, such as Club Monaco or MAC, both of whom have been bought out by large American corporations, were never linked to...

  6. Fashion and Identity

    • ‘Very Picturesque and Very Canadian’: The Blanket Coat and Anglo-Canadian Identity in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 17-40)

      The task of identifying Canada’s national dress is not an easy one. Indeed, even costume historians hesitate when queried. During the second half of the nineteenth century, however, one garment was readily identified as Canadian costume: the blanket coat. Cut and sewn from a wool blanket or blanket-like material and constructed with a distinctive hood, the blanket coat has been worn in North America since the mid-seventeenth century.¹ Although the blanket coat is mentioned in several studies, little or no interpretation of the phenomenon has been offered.²

      This chapter examines Anglo-Canadian use of the blanket coat in the second half...

    • Dressing Up: A Consuming Passion
      (pp. 41-67)

      In the late nineteenth century, moral contradictions underlying fashionable dress were heightened for clothing worn for dressing up, known as ‘fancy dress.’ The vogue in Canada was in many ways similar to that in Europe and the United States; in fact, Victorians of all walks of life were taken with a passion for costumed entertainments. Amateur theatricals and tableaux vivants were popular parlour versions of this entertainment; fancy-dress skating carnivals were its public manifestation, and elaborate fancy-dress balls, either by invitation or with expensive tickets, the most prestigious and decorous form. This chapter examines the cultural tensions over the issue...

    • Defrocking Dad: Masculinity and Dress in Montreal, 1700–1867
      (pp. 68-89)
      JAN NOEL

      The Montreal lawyer Arthur Davidson wrote to his London tailor in 1791: ‘I want, by one of the first ships … cambrick, enough to ruffle seven shirts. Also a suit of black clothes such as are now worn by Gentlemen of the Bar. The Breeches, you know, I wish to be long and sit easy … The bodies of both the coat and waistcoat ought to be rather wider.¹ In a later letter Davidson asked the tailor to double-stitch all seams, anticipating Montreal tailors would be so offended at his ordering fashions from London they would refuse to make repairs....

    • The Association of Canadian Couturiers
      (pp. 90-110)

      During the 1950s there was a concentrated effort to establish a Canadian couture industry. Through the Association of Canadian Couturiers (ACC) an attempt was made to create a national voice for Canadian fashion design. Thus far this organization is a neglected aspect of the discussion surrounding the creation of a Canadian cultural identity though, as Stack and Cooper have clearly shown elsewhere in this volume, fashion can be manipulated for this result. The impetus for the ACC initiative lay in the general economic and cultural growth of the country, as well as the blossoming of Canada’s social and cultural life....

  7. Fashion, Trade, and Consumption

    • Shop and Factory: The Ontario Millinery Trade in Transition, 1870–1930
      (pp. 113-138)

      ‘The most fashionable and popular millinery and dress making establishment in Toronto,’ according to a commercial directory of 1893, ‘is that of Miss Paynter … An extensive display is made of Paris, London and New York millinery … in rooms fitted up with mirrors, plate glass showcases and all modern conveniences … by a lady of most excellent taste and judgement.’¹ Miss Paynter was one of a growing number of talented and ambitious women who set up millinery shops, not just in cities such as Toronto, but in virtually every town and village across Ontario (see colour plate B). At...

    • ‘The Work Being Chiefly Performed by Women’: Female Workers in the Garment Industry in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1871
      (pp. 139-165)

      Like other Canadian urban centres during the late Victorian era, Saint John, New Brunswick, had a large concentration of women working in the garment industry. Although female textile workers weaving cloth at home and in factories have been the focus of numerous studies, women producing clothing for the garment industry have received less attention from Canadian historians. Yet the garment industry provides an ideal setting for an investigation of the degree to which industrial capitalist production may have reinforced distinctions of age and gender. Some of the association between job and gender can be attributed to the invention and manufacture...

    • Three Thousand Stitches: The Development of the Clothing Industry in Nineteenth-Century Halifax
      (pp. 166-181)
      M. ELAINE MacKAY

      Halifax, Nova Scotia, may seem like an unlikely setting for an important clothing industry that rivalled any in the country.¹ However the maelstrom of industrial change that arose during Victoria’s reign affected the clothing industry in Halifax, much as it did in other manufacturing centres. In an effort to supply a growing middle class with affordable, ready-to-wear clothing, tailors adopted the most modern cutting and sewing techniques. Small, individually run shops expanded into factories that employed hundreds of hands. This chapter traces the economic and social impact of the wave of industrialization in Halifax that crested at the end of...

    • Enduring Roots: Gibb and Co. and the Nineteenth-Century Tailoring Trade in Montreal
      (pp. 182-202)

      In 1774 Benaiah Gibb, an ambitious young tailor from England, arrived in Montreal. Ten years later he had formed a partnership with Peter McFarlane, a well-established Montreal merchant tailor. McFarlane retired in 1790, leaving the business in Gibb’s hands. The subsequent fortunes of the firm are a fascinating case study of a custom-tailoring business that survived for nearly two hundred years. The company founded by Benaiah Gibb finally closed its doors in 1968, its reputation as a custom-tailoring establishment to Montreal’s elite still intact.

      Benaiah Gibb was born in England in 1755 to a family of Scottish origin. Trained as...

    • Colour plates
      (pp. None)
    • Montreal’s Fashion Mile: St Catherine Street, 1890–1930
      (pp. 203-226)

      These words were written in 1897, as merchants moved to St Catherine Street transforming it from a street where residences, churches, and small businesses existed side by side into what was to become Montreal’s leading retail artery. In the late nineteenth century, Montreal’s major retailers were Henry Morgan, John Murphy, Samuel Carsley, James A. Ogilvy, and Henry Birks. Their stores were in the long-established commercial area, centred on Notre Dame and St James streets. This area was near the busy harbour and prone to spring flooding, its streets were narrow, noisy, dirty, and crowded with traffic, and it was no...

  8. Fashion and Transition

    • Dress Reform in Nineteenth-Century Canada
      (pp. 229-248)

      It was undoubtedly a courageous and liberated Clara Graham who wrote to the editor ofPublic Health Magazinein 1877 about her new underwear and the subsequent emancipation of her limbs and lungs.¹ With unbridled enthusiasm for the new dress reform, Graham chided the magazine’s female readers for squeezing their bones into ‘strong little cases’ which pushed the natural female form into a more finished appearance. She considered it strange the Creator did not provide women with a proper figure in the first place, and concluded His error was rectified when ‘God created great whales.’

      Clara Graham referredPublic Health...

    • Fashion and War in Canada, 1939–1945
      (pp. 249-269)

      Popular slogans from the Second World War epitomized the mood and intentions of the Canadian people: ‘Shoulder your share,’ ‘If YOU waste THEY want,’ ‘She serves that men may fly,’ and ‘Eat it up, wear it out, make it do.’ The nation was encouraged to set aside individual concerns and issues, to work for the overall good and the common cause. Sylvia Fraser’s history ofChatelainemagazine points out that both Canadian men and women ‘projected their energies and anxieties overseas.’ Women were encouraged to serve their country in some way, as part of their patriotic duty. The campaign to...

    • Fashion and Refuge: The Jane Harris Salon, Montreal, 1941–1961
      (pp. 270-288)

      Jane Harris-Putnam (née Van Gelder) was a Second World War evacuee from England who arrived in Canada without material resources and successfully made a place for herself beside Montreal’s established couturiers. In the 1940s and 1950s her salons on Sherbrooke Street, a few doors from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, were a centre of fashion and a meeting place for evacuees and refugees. In 1991 Jane Harris donated her archives to the McCord Museum at the request of Stanley Triggs, at that time curator of the Notman Collection. In 1997 the McGill University School of Social Work honoured Jane’s work with evacuees...

  9. Fashion and Journalism

    • Laced In and Let Down: Women’s Fashion Features in the Toronto Daily Press, 1890–1900
      (pp. 291-314)

      During the late nineteenth century, women were taking on new roles in society, and also deciding how to dress for them. Many turned for guidance to the daily newspapers, where a new professional, the woman journalist, was offering news and commentary about the world of fashion and advice for women on how to dress and present themselves. That advice often included encouraging their readers to adopt dress that was healthy, becoming and comfortable, and warning them about the dangers of tight-lacing corsets or other dubious practices. Still, the economics of the newspaper business, which depended increasingly on advertising, ensured that...

    • The Fashion of Writing, 1985–2000: Fashion-Themed Television’s Impact on the Canadian Fashion Press
      (pp. 315-338)

      Karl Lagerfeld, the ever-dramatic designer for the house of Chanel, waved his signature fan and declared ‘the pussy’ as fashion’s newest erogenous zone. TheFashion Televisioncamera then turned to the runway. With pulsing club music in the background, the photographer’s lens zoomed repeatedly to the hip area of a string of strutting models in effort to record the runway’s latest G-spots shown highlighted with plunging necklines and provocative cross pendants.

      Pre-television, fashion belonged to the rarified world of the elite. But as Lagerfeld’s street-lingo summation of the trend-of-the-moment illustrates, times have changed. Today, with television broadcasting fashion news from...

    • A Little on the Wild Side: Eaton’s Prestige Fashion Advertising Published in the Montreal Gazette, 1952–1972
      (pp. 339-364)

      Beginning in the 1950s, a team of three artists working for Eaton’s of Montreal developed an innovative new style of fashion illustration which would quickly attract the attention of the design art world and continue to captivate it for more than twenty years. The prestige fashion ads which Eugenie Groh, Jack Parker, and Georgine Strathy created for theMontreal Gazettereceived international acclaim, both for their unusual design and their complex use of colour. Over one hundred awards and countless accolades, including mentions inWomen’s Wear Daily(New York), the Art Directors Club of New York,Graphis(Zurich),Communication Arts...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 365-370)
  11. Index
    (pp. 371-382)