Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive

Leave a comment

Exhibitions of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

By Ingrid Mida, BA, MA. Collection Co-ordinator.


Evening Dress in white satin with black velvet applique. Label: Pat McDonagh. FRC2013.99.020.

One way collections come to life is through exhibitions. The public exhibition of garments from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection has occurred only three times in its  thirty-two year history.

In June 1987, there was an exhibition of 1960s garments called “Youthquake: Canadian Fashion in the 1960s” for two weeks in the Olive Baker Lounge on campus. In a Toronto Star article called “Exhibit Features ’60s gear” by Fashion writer Nancy Hastings she interviewed Professor Kathy Cleaver who put the exhibit together with student Jacques Buteau. Kathy was quoted as saying she “felt it was important to look back on the beginnings of this Canadian fashion consciousness” and that she had “recovered vintage garments from designers’ storerooms and fashionable closets”.

Toronto Star Article, June 11, 1987 "Exhibit features '60s gear"

Toronto Star Article, June 11, 1987 “Exhibit features ’60s gear”

In October 1989, there was an exhibition of early 20th century garments called “Every hour an Occasion, Women’s Dress 1900-1910” curated by Kathy Cleaver and Alan Suddon and designed by Robert Ott for display in the Olive Baker Lounge on campus.

In November 2007, the School of Fashion celebrated its 40-year anniversary with an exhibition at the Design Exchange in Toronto called “From Home Ec to High Tech: 60 Years of Fashion Education at Ryerson”. This display traced the evolution of the School of Fashion from its inception in 1948 and was researched and designed by students and supervised by Dr. Alison Matthews David. Photos of that exhibit are available here.

Although there are no immediate plans to have a public exhibition, this digital portal – as well as the Pinterest site – might be thought of as a online museum – a gallery open at your convenience – wherever and whenever you need it!

This project has been sponsored by a grant from the Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University. 

Leave a comment

Opening the door to the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

By: Ingrid Mida, BA, MA. Collection Co-ordinator

We invent nothing, we always start from something that has come before . Christian Dior

Detail of Art-Deco inspired beading on black chiffon Flapper style dress, c.1925. FRC2003.10.002

Detail of Art-Deco inspired beading on black chiffon Flapper style dress, c.1925.

Historic garments can inform and inspire the present, offering up design potential for reinterpretations of styles of the past or serving as evidence of how fashion was worn and lived for material culture studies. Seeing a dress in a photo is a very different experience than feeling the weight of the fabric in hand, examining the details of cut, construction and embellishment, considering the relationship of the garment to the body or searching for evidence of how  the garment was worn, used or altered over time.

The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection is a repository of several thousand garments, accessories, furs, and fashion ephemera acquired by donation to the School of Fashion since 1981. For several years, this collection lay dormant behind an unmarked door …. that is until I wedged it open just a little.

Over the past 18 months, I have been working to make this collection accessible for students, faculty, and visiting researchers. During that time I have re-discovered garments that document aspects of the history of Canadian fashion since 1860 as well as garments designed by international designers like Christian Dior, Valentino and Balenciaga.


BALENCIAGA Label, FRC1992.01.019

With the support of Dr. Lu Ann Lafrenz, we were awarded a Learning and Teaching Grant to digitize some of the key pieces in the Collection. Each piece was chosen by me and is important in its own way, either because of the provence, the label, or its social history. This past summer, about 100 pieces were photographed by a team of two students. Restrictions in budget meant that we were not able to photograph some of the older or more fragile pieces that would have required considerable extra work to mount and/or conservation work to protect, but hopefully that will happen in due course.  

Detail of silk kimono, c.1930s. FRC2013.03.005. Gift of Anne Callahan

Detail of silk kimono, c.1930s. FRC2013.03.005.
Gift of Anne Callahan

Although my work to re-establish the Collection is far from complete, the door has been opened a crack, and I hope to eventually open up the door up all the way, offering access to the many beautiful artifacts therein – whether you are on campus or on the other side of the world. I have posted a selection of items already on Pinterest and encourage you to visit or follow me on Twitter.

At the present time, access to the facility is by appointment only, but I welcome your questions and comments any time.

Over the course of the next year, this blog will serve as a window into the Collection. I will feature items here, offering additional descriptive information which might not be visible in the photos as well as contextual material and links to other research. With each post, the door will open just a little wider….


Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator

This project has been sponsored by a grant from the Learning & Teaching Office at Ryerson University.