Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


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How to Prepare for your Research Appointment in the FRC

by Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator.

It is always a good idea to do some advance preparation for your appointment in a museum or study collection. Time goes quickly and your appointment slot might be over before you have gathered all the information. Here are five tips to get the most out of your visit.

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1. Do some reading in advance. Read about the designer, the time period or the type of garment that you have asked to see. For example, if you are going to study this dress by Balenciaga, read about the designer in advance. Or if you are asking to look at dresses from the Edwardian era, know the characteristics of the period. Knowing what you might expect to see will help you recognize when something is unusual. Garments have complex histories and might have been altered by the wearer.

2, Look up similar garments or designers in other collections. More museums are offering parts of their collections online. These usually do not come up in a Google search. Visit the websites of the largest collections of costume such as the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York or the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to access and search their online collection and ancillary scholarly material.

3, Bring the right tools. Your tool kit might include a pencil, notebook, camera (with the flash disabled), and perhaps a measuring tape and magnifying glass.

4, Wash your hands before your visit and be prepared to wear gloves. Leave dangling jewelry, long scarves and big backpacks in your locker.

5. Slow down. Turn off your phone and other distractions. Make a mental shift to be present and engaged.

For more information on how to make an appointment, please see the tab near the top of the site. Please be advised that appointments must be made in advance. since the Fashion Research Centre is not available for browsing. You can visit the Pinterest site to see a sampling of the type of artifacts on hand. A project to provide an online catalogue is underway. 


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Ensemble by Chloé

by Jazmin Welch

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This two-piece ensemble made by the French designer label Chloé consists of an A-line panel skirt and a long sleeved box cut jacket with black velvet banded collar and embellished back panel (FRC2009.01.676 A+B). The primary fabric used to construct this garment is 100% wool in a slightly grayed tone of navy blue. The jacket has a flat square-like panel overlay that attaches to the shoulder seam and hangs off of the back of the garment. The hem, sides and over-panel of the jacket as well as the sleeves are embellished with a 1 1/2” border of 2 mm. cylindrical,silver beads in a geometric pattern.

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There is a bright red silk lining in the jacket, used only in areas with embellishment. The dolman sleeves are 14” in circumference at the wrist. There is a velvet mandarin collar in a deep blue-black. The jacket has an asymmetrical closure with two 1/2” wide iridescent blue buttons that are placed about 2 1/4” left of the centre line; one is fastened with a loop of navy thread at the neckline and the other is fastened using a standard buttonhole. The skirt is constructed with three panels on the front and back, and a polyester lining. The closure is aligned with the asymmetrical closure of the jacket. There is a metal zipper and two hook and eye closures along the waistband.

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The labels on both the skirt and jacket indicate that the garment was made in France, and the designer is Chloé, but it was purchased at Holt Renfrew Boutique (a Canadian retailer). Care label instructions indicate that the garment needs to be dry cleaned, ironed on medium, and that no bleach should be used. The thread button loop at the neckline has been stretched out, showing signs of wear. The skirt’s waistband had been let out by 1 1/4” using a piece of navy ultra-suede with uneven stitching in a slightly different colour.

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This jacket feels quite heavy because of the extra panel and embroidery. This sense of weight is reminiscent of the robes of royalty, especially with the panel that falls from the back of the jacket. The fine and fairly thin nature of the wool suggests that it would have been worn in the cooler temperatures of spring or early fall in Toronto (where the owner lived). The wool is soft to the touch despite its very textured surface and is not itchy. This contrasts with the cold feeling of the metallic beads. My emotional response to this item is one of awe. The inside is almost as beautifully finished as the outside. The silk lining that peaks out from the panel on the jacket provides a unique pop of colour and adds to the overall complexity of the piece. The silhouette is interesting and all the details combined create an overall depiction of a work of art.

The ensemble is one of many in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection that once belonged to Kathleen Kubas. This garment in pristine condition, like all of her donated clothing. The signs of alteration indicate that the artifact was likely a well-loved item that Kubas wanted to keep in her wardrobe, even after it no longer fit as well. According to Collection Co-ordinator Ingrid Mida, few of her items show signs of wear, so this alteration might indicate that this piece was one of her favourites. The beading is delicate and could easily be torn off. The jacket is not for warmth since the wool is fine and the front is open, yet the over-panel is too bulky to be layered under a coat. Perhaps Kubas wore this ensemble under one of her many capes or wraps.

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The designer label Chloé is known for ultra-feminine pieces. Founded in 1952 by Gaby Aghion, the house has had various designers at the helm. Karl Lagerfeld became the head designer in 1966 and under his direction the label personified the romantic looks of the 1970s. In 1997, Stella McCartney became the designer and introduced more tailored and structured pieces. The exact date of origin for this piece is unclear. It was likely produced in the mid-1990s when this type of embellishment and strong shoulder line was popular.

Jazmin Welch is a fourth year Fashion Communication student at Ryerson University. She is currently working in the Fashion Research Collection as an assistant to Ingrid Mida.

Edited by Ingrid Mida, FRC Collection Co-ordinator