Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


Black silk Parasol with cordwork embroidery c.1900

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator, Ryerson Fashion Research Collection.


Black silk parasol, cream ribbon cordwork embroidery, wooden handle. c.1900-1910

What new graces the Parasol offers to a woman! It is her weapon out of doors, which she carries jauntily and willfully, either at her side, or tilted on her shoulder. It protects her adornment and assures her poise, surrounding the charms of her face like a halo.”  Octave Uzane, The Sunshade, the Glove, the Muff, 1883.

As French writer Octave Uzane so eloquently noted in 1883, there was once an art to carrying a parasol. Although conceived of as way for a woman to protect her delicate complexion from the sun, the parasol, like the fan, was a feminine accessory used to create visual interest and signal flirtatious behaviour.  An elegant woman could attract attention with her parasol by how she held it and moved with it, such as twirling it or snapping it shut. For a couple, the parasol offered a place to hide, and there are even songs from the early 20th century written about the love that could blossom behind a parasol, including “Underneath a Parasol”  (Beaujot 122-123).

The exquisite parasol pictured above from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection (FRC1989.02.001) is made of black silk with a black net overlay and trimmed with 1/2 inch machine black lace. It measures 37.5 inches or 95 cm from tip to the end of the rod, which is missing its handle.


The parasol is embellished with elaborate scrollwork embroidery in cream cord.


The interior of the parasol is finished in black net. There is a decorative non-functional black bobble attached with black cord that dangles from one of the tips of the ribs. A ribbon flower in cream silk twill with a bead centre is attached to the wooden handle which is otherwise plain.


There is an open screw at the end to which would have been attached an ornamental handle that has since been lost. Otherwise, the parasol is in very good condition for its age. Had it actually been actively used to shield the owner from the sun, the black silk fabric probably would have been faded or showed signs of stress near the frame, but the material is intact and does not appear sun-damaged. The tip of the parasol is slightly worn, probably from resting it on the ground.

This parasol is one of several  donated in 1989 by Helen Simpson. She also donated many other historic artifacts, including the oldest garment in the Collection: a green taffeta bodice and crinolined skirt dating to 1860. All of the parasols from this donation were dated to around the turn of the century.

On page 7 of the Ottawa Evening Journal dated Tuesday, June 12, 1900, there is an advertisement for the opening of an exhibit of “720 new and lovely” parasols at The Ross Co. of Ottawa Limited. The ad provides details of some of the parasols available including:

“Thirty dozens in light silk crepes and chiffons, the latest creations of the London makers, and some from Berlin Germany, where the choices are these goods are now made. Thirty dozen sunshades of the latest styles. Some of taffeta silks, fancy circular striped, iridescent combinations,, diagonal plaids and many other sorts of real beauty, gold and silver frames and rods, with natural and fancy handles at $1.88, $2.00, $2.34, $2.37, $2.50, $3.95. and $4.50”.

“Black, and black and white taffeta parasols and chiffon parasols in eleven different styles, $3.95 to $12.00”.

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a large number of parasols in its collection. These can be seen here.

For further reading:  Beaujot, Ariel. Victorian Fashion Accessories. London: Berg, 2012. Print.

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

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Wedding slippers c.1890

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator.


Cream satin wedding slippers, c.1889-1890.
FRC1987.04.001 A+B

Dress artifacts often have complex histories. When an artifact is accepted into a collection and time permits, a detailed history is obtained from the donor and included in the object record. This type of information is invaluable to future researchers, providing contextual information and a social history for the artifact that is otherwise very difficult to obtain. Ideally each donation would be accompanied by photos of the item being worn, information on where it was purchased, how much it cost, where and when it was worn. When this type of information is recorded, it can materially affect the relative importance and value of the item within a collection.

One of my favourite artifacts in the collection is this beautiful pair of cream satin wedding slippers with a one-inch Louis heel that date back to 1889-1890. These slippers are in perfect condition with only the barest hint of a scuff on the bottom of the soles, indicating that they were worn at least once, and then were carefully stored away as a memory of the day. Like many shoes of the period, there was no left or right for the pair; shoes were supposed to be rotated to ensure even wear.


Close-up detail of the satin bow on the wedding slipper c.1889-1890. FRC1987.04.001 A

The donor, Ruth D. wrote a letter that is on file that gives the history of these slippers.

These were wedding slippers of Mary Lawson of Caledon who wed Edward Dowling (a telegraph operator) of Bolton in either 1889 or 1890. There is no record of where the marriage took place – either Bolton or Caledon. Miss Lawson had a sister who lived in Buffalo so the slippers may have been purchased there. For the wedding, Miss Lawson wore a pale grey, long satin dress.

These shoes are important artifacts because of their social history. The fact that they were worn with a pale grey, long satin dress is also interesting. Although it was not unusual to wear a wedding dress that was not white, cream slippers would more typically have been worn with a cream wedding dress. How I wish I had a photo of the wedding couple!

To see other examples of wedding slippers of this type, online collections with similar shoes include:

Costume Institute at the Met:

1880 cream leather wedding slippers: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/112828?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=Wedding+slippers+1890&pos=13

1894 cream silk and leather wedding slippers: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/113196?rpp=20&pg=1&ft=Wedding+slippers+1890&pos=15

Oakland Museum:

1887 cream satin wedding slippers: http://collections.museumca.org/?q=collection-item/h4623138

The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection only has a small number of select shoes in the collection, since students and faculty have relatively easy access to the vast collection of the Bata Shoe Museum, which is nearby. Nevertheless, artifacts such as this lovely pair of wedding slippers that have a social history have been retained in the Collection.

For further reading on 19th-century dress: 

Beaudoin-Ross, Jacquelin. Form and Fashion: Nineteenth-Century Montreal Dress. Montréal, Québec: Musée McCord d’histoire canadienne, 1992. Print.

Beaujot, Ariel. Victorian Fashion Accessories. London: Berg, 2012. Print.

Blum, Stella, ed. Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper’s Bazaar 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, 1974. Print.

Brett, Katharine B. Modesty to Mod: Dress and Underdress in Canada 1780-1967. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967. Print.

—. Women’s Costume in Ontario, 1867-1907. Ed. Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto, 1966. Print.

Perrot, Philippe. Fashioning the Bourgeoisie: A History of Clothing in the Nineteenth Century. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994. Print.

This project was made possible by a grant from the Learning & Teaching Office of Ryerson University. 

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The Patricia Rogal Collection of Photographs

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator.

Another significant donation to the Fashion Research Collection was received from Patricia Rogal in 2002. In donating her personal collection of 984 carte de visite, cabinet cards and photographs dating 1860-1920, Patricia Rogal hoped to help students see “what real people wore” in the past. 

Carte des visite 003_LR

Cabinet card, backing removed. Undated. No photographer label.

Carte de visite and cabinet cards are albumen prints made from glass negatives, attached to stiff card backing usually printed with the photographer’s name. In this medium, we can  revisit the past to see the clothing that ordinary people wore in the latter half of the 19th century.

Carte des visites002_LR

Cabinet Card, Undated. Photographer’s stamp cut off. Donated by Patricia Rogal.

This small cache of rare carte de visite and cabinet cards is unusual in that it includes a substantial number of photographs in Canadian studios from Toronto and other Ontario towns. In a few cases, names have been carefully written in blue ink just below the image or on the back of the card. The thick cards are yellowed at the edges and some have faded. These artifacts are extremely fragile and ideally should be scanned to limit their handling. (Unfortunately, time did not permit that in the grant received from the Learning & Teaching Office.)

I find these photographs haunting. In studying these cabinet cards and carte de visites, my eye fixes on items of clothing that remind me of the specific historic pieces in the collection, including one of the oldest garments in the collection, a greed plaid silk taffeta bodice and crinoline skirt from 1860. In these photographs, I feel like I am looking into the face of the wearer and seeing what is now a fragile artifact reborn. Through the image, the dress comes to life in a way that it will never be again. 

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The Kathleen Kubas Collection

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator.

Black sinamay cartwheel hat with asymmetrical brim with draped black mesh.  Miss Jones by Stephen Jones FRC2009.01.608

Black sinamay cartwheel hat with asymmetrical brim with draped black mesh.
Miss Jones by Stephen Jones

In 2009, the School of Fashion received its largest single donation of over 700 garments and accessories for the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection from the family of Kathleen Kubas., after she had passed away in 2008 at the age of 70. Kathleen Kubas was a former model and actress before she became a grade 1 schoolteacher. She loved fashion, and was known in Toronto as the “Hat Lady”.  Kathleen had an extraordinary millinery collection, including many from milliners Phillip Treacy, Stephen Jones and Eric Javits. Her friends said her “hats reflected her personality — extravagent, yet elegant and fashionable” (note 1).

Beige sinamay pciture hat with layered and draped raffia and scattered black sequins. Linda Campisano Millinery Chicago. FRC2009.01.694

Beige sinamay picture hat with layered and draped raffia and scattered black sequins.
Linda Campisano Millinery Chicago.

This donation from the Kubas family added an infusion of contemporary designer labels from about 1985 – 2005 into the Fashion Research Collection, including garments by Gucci, Kenzo, Issey Miyake, Missoni, Jean Muir, and many others. Her wardrobe shows an affinity for bold fashion-forward pieces as well as textures like knits and furs. The colours of her wardrobe are vibrant, dominated by bright colours like pinks and purples but also balanced by neutral pieces in gray, black and white. She clearly knew what she liked and what looked good on her tall, slender frame.

Garments and accessories from the Kathleen Kubas donation were photographed for this project included:

Dyed Feather Boa with black satin ribbon tie FRC2009.01.439

Dyed Feather Boa with black satin ribbon tie

Wool coat with leopard silk lining, DOLCE & GABBANA, FRC2009.01.667

Wool coat with leopard silk lining, DOLCE & GABBANA,

Burgundy textured knit jersey pullover dress with matching overcoat. Missoni Creeds Toronto

Burgundy textured knit jersey pullover dress with matching overcoat.
MISSONI Creeds Toronto, FRC2009.01.684


Black jersey dress with extended shoulders, keyhole neckline at back. JEAN MUIR

Brown, black and cream felted wool blanket  coat, lined in quilted polyester satin, single  button closure on left shoulder. Issey Miyake FRC2009.01.680

Brown, black and cream felted wool blanket
coat, lined in quilted polyester satin, single
button closure on left shoulder.

Cream wool coat with red fox fur collar. GUCCI FRC2009.01.374

Cream wool coat with red fox fur collar. GUCCI

The high caliber of the labels in the Kathleen Kubas Collection and the near perfect condition of the pieces gives significant weight and importance to this part of the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University.

Note 1: In the undated pamphlet for the celebration of life ceremony in honour of Kathleen Kubas, she is described this way.

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

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Labels in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator.

Pierre Cardin Paris FRC197.04.003

Pierre Cardin Paris

Label: VALENTINO Roma FRC1997.04.009


In the 1850s, the ‘father of haute couture’ Charles Frederick Worth was the first fashion designer to insert a label into his garments and sign them like a work of art. Since then, it has become a common practice. Labels tell stories, especially if it is a numbered couture piece.  Other than the designer name, they often include the place of manufacture, and sometimes the season or date.

Label Nina Ricci Paris  FRC1997.04.003

Label Nina Ricci Paris

Putting a value on a garment depends so much on whether the fashion house still exists and its current ranking or status. If the label has been retired and the designer is no longer known, the garment might be beautifully constructed, but its value is diminished.


Label Hyperbole Courreges FRC2013.002.009

Label Hyperbole Courreges

The Designer Archive of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection contains a range of designer labels, including international designers like Balenciaga, Balmain, Dior, Issey Miyake, Kenzo, Nina RIcci, Valentino. There are also uniquely Canadian labels, some of which are rare and hard-to-find labels, like Meme Dysthe or Ruth Dukas, who made beautiful couture-like garments in the 1960s, but their names are almost totally unknown today. There are also garments with labels from Canadian retailers like the T. Eaton Company or Jean Pierce that no longer exist. For this reason, the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection offers a unique opportunity to study Canadian fashion history and to celebrate our past.

Label: Ruth Dukas FRC2013.02.001

Label: Ruth Dukas

Label T. Eaton Co, Limited FRC2008.03.007

Label T. Eaton Co, Limited

Label: Pat McDonagh FRC2013.99.020

Label: Pat McDonagh

To discover more labels in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, visit the Pinterest Board here.

This project was sponsored by a grant from the Learning and Teaching Office at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.