Canadian Fashion from the 60s, 70s and 80s on display

Style changed forever in the 1960s (and we’re not just referring to the hemlines). Space-age design met space-age fabrics, many of which are still in use today: polyamide, polyester, acrylic, polyvinyl, and spandex to name a few. These are laboratory-brewed fibres, extruded through spinnerettes in liquid or molten petro-chemical streams. These were cheaper and more versatile than many of the natural fibres used in clothing up to this point.

The dresses currently on display in Special Collections each use an unexpected fabric to achieve their look, whether it is the plasticized cloth of this shiny-copper mini-dress, the silver lurex suit with multicolored threads from the disco-influenced 70s, or the 100% silk power suit from the 80s. Visit Special Collections today to see these fashionable fabrics produced by Canadian designers.

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The dresses in this exhibit were taken from the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University, a collection of costume items, accessories, flat textiles and paper patterns donated to the School of Fashion for use in teaching and research. The collection consists of about 4,500 items of mid-twentieth century men’s, women’s and children’s clothes and accessories and illustrates many of the social, cultural, technological and economic influcences on style made or worn in Canada. It contains designs by leading Canadian figures such as Beate Ziegert, Ira Berg and Pat McDonagh, as well as internationally famous names such as Sonia Rykiel, Christian Dior, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Diane von Furstenberg, Perry Ellis, Laura Ashley, Thierry Mugler and Valentino.  There are also pattern and reference books, magazines and articles which are not duplicated in the Ryerson Library catalogue, making this a rich and valuable resource for fashion education.

Dress photography by Olena Vivcharyuk. Detail photographs (below) provided by Renée Munn.

Feature from the Collections: Summer Fashions

Special Collections staff recently stumbled upon this gorgeous photograph of a lady relaxing in a hammock during a late 1890s summer and wanted to share. Knowing how warm our Ontario summers can be, we can’t help but feel thankful for our own more comfortable options for summer attire.

This unidentified amateur snapshot showing a woman relaxing outdoors illustrates how helpful it can be to have changes in clothing trends to consider when attributing a date to an image. In this case, the large puffed sleeves are a clue to the date of this photograph. According to the historical fashion online resources provided by the Vintage Fashion Guild:

“[In 1890-1900] with the decline of the bustle, sleeves began to grow and the 1830s hourglass revival was well underway. Sleeves ballooned to proportions never seen before or indeed since – reaching their height in 1895-96.”

The size and shape of the photograph itself can also help narrow down a time period for an image. In this case the somewhat rectangular shape of the print rules out the very early circular images produced by the No. 1 Kodaks, and the popular Brownie models produced in the 1890s tended to make square pictures that were a bit smaller. Our best guess is that the 10.3 x 12.9 cm picture might have been produced by the No. 4 Bullet Special Camera, produced between 1898-1900 and thereby giving us our “circa 1898” attribution.

Woman Reclining in Hammock, ca. 1895

References:

Dressedforthephotographer : ordinary Americans and fashion, 1840-1900 / Joan L. Severa. Kent, Ohio : Kent State University Press, c1995.
http://catalogue.library.ryerson.ca/record=b1235603~S0

Vintage Fashion Guild. (n.d.) Fashion Timeline:1890-1900. Vintage Fashion Guild Resources. Retrieved July 22, 2011 from http://vintagefashionguild.org/fashion-timeline/1890-to-1900/

No. 4 Bullet Special Kodak Camera at Historic Camera’s History Librarium. Retrieved July 22, 2011 from http://www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium/pm.cgi?action=display&login=no4bulletspecial