Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


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Mulhallen’s Muglers: The biography of a pair of hand-painted pumps

By Annika Waddell 

FRC_Shoes_1994.01.030_A+B_FRT_Web

Thierry Mugler hand-painted pumps, 1994.01.030 A+B

Amid the assemblage of shoes found within the Ryerson Research Collection is one unassuming white shoebox (FRC1994.01.030 A+B), pulled delicately from a shelf by the collection’s coordinator, and author of The Dress Detective, Ingrid Mida. The name “Thierry Mugler” is written in black sharpie along the box’s edge. Taking the box in my hands, I wonder if the shoes will embody the aura of Mugler’s 80’s femme fatale, and if the former owner of the footwear might have some shared characteristics. Thierry Mugler, or Manfred as he goes by now, is more often recognized in recent decades for his perfumes that include the likes of Angel and Womanity .  But his early notoriety stemmed from his 80’s power suits and skin hugging dresses as well as his 90’s sci-fi-inspired metallics —looks seemingly predestined for a strong female character. Remaining faithful to his former female ideal, a similar style emerged almost 15 years later in his designs for Beyonce’s 2009 I AM tour, aiming to present the ‘duality of woman and warrior’ (note 1).

As evidenced in Mugler’s collections, fashion items are often accompanied by a pre-ordained persona, available for short-term adoption by the consumer. In The Cultural Biography of Things, Igor Kopytoff discusses how the commoditization of an object will always be usurped by the culture in which they find themselves and the owner of said object, “The counterforces [to commoditization] are culture and the individual, with their drive to discriminate, classify, compare and sacralize,” (note 2). However, I would argue that even before an item becomes a commodity, when a design is merely a kernel in the minds eye of a designer, the commodity has already been touched by the individual and by culture. As an observer, I can only speculate from the shoes and their label that they were made in Europe in collaboration with a shoe designer; purchased, owned, and worn for a brief period by a single owner. This would mean that the shoes had two very distinct biographies, or what Kopytoff would have further deemed “private singularisation” (note 3)– that of the design phase and that in which it becomes commodity by an owner.

It is here that I wonder: does the pre-appointed biography or personality of a garment imposed by a designer ever intersect with the identity of the consumer? Further, artifacts or items within a collection (such as the shoes I am observing) challenge the lifespan of what Kopytoff calls “terminal commodities” (note 4 ), raising their importance through the very act of preservation. Giving them public access further encourages identity-making in which to be interpreted and reinterpreted. I find myself at the latter stage, speculating and attempting to unravel a biography for a pair of shoes I have only just met.

FRC_Shoes_1994.01.030_A+B_Det_3_Web

Detail of pumps 1994.01.030 A+B

When I lifted the lid off of the box, two medium-heeled seafoam green shoes were lying inside, top and tail.  Across the very soft green leather was a series of hand-painted vine flowers in a reddish-brown. What struck me about the painted flowers was that they did not appear expertly or daintily applied. Instead, they were painted freehand: playful and not too self-conscious. The lush green leather was gorgeous to the touch, with fine creases along the toe line and only slight wearing around the toe box.

FRC_Shoes_1994.01.030_A+B_Det_1_Web

Detail of pumps 1994.01.030 A+B

Contrary to the intact surface of the shoe, the sole showed signs of being well-loved. The three-inch heel indicated that its wearer was a pronator. When I placed the heels side-by-side on the surface of the desk, the pronation became more evident on the right foot as the right heel dipped towards the left with a mind of its own.

FRC_Shoes_1994.01.030_A+B_B34_Web.jpg

FRC1994.01.030 A+B

The wearer, with her probable high arches, managed to avoid too much erosion on the inner label, a shiny blue rectangular weave with the name Thierry Mugler written in an 80’s cursive type. The label also read, “Made in Italy” and to the right, “Paris”. To the bottom is the name of the collaborator “Linea Lidia”. The box indicated clearly that these shoes were from a time between the years 1980 and 1985. There are many unknowns about these shoes– from the inspiration drawn between Mugler and his collaborator Linea Lidia, the number of shoes made, who the painter of the flowers was and whether any of them would have anticipated the fate of their work in Fashion Research Collection.

FRC_Shoes_1994.01.030_A+B_LBL_Web.jpg

Label of pumps 1994.01.030 A+B

Of all the decades to resurface, no one suspected a visit from the 80’s, but its resurgence proved that the nostalgia was genuine and, in so doing, solidified the past as artifact. Given that the shoes that I was fawning over were the ‘real deal’, the question was, who had the privilege of wearing these *ahem totally bitchin’ heels?

I envisioned the owner.  Perhaps she stood at a gallery or cocktail bar, in her hand a Sea Breeze, Singapore Sling or some 80’s equivalent of exotically named drinks.  From the knee down, the hem of her fitted skirt or dress grazing, in 80’s fashion, just below the knee. Her left (and more level shoe) would carry most of her weight while her right leg would rest, casually bent at the knee, the painted flower vines more clearly exposed on the exterior right of the shoe. At size 5 1/2 and narrow in shape, the owner of these shoes was light on her feet. I imagined her weaving through city crowds with stealth and a speedy clacking of the heels, her narrow calves transporting her through the busy streets of a city perhaps more outrageous than Toronto.

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The Enduring Fedora

By Millie Yates

The fedora hat was named after a character in the Sardou play in which it first appeared in 1882 (“Fedora”). How fitting that a hat designed for the stage should be re-interpreted by a theatrical millinery designer like Philip Treacy. Traditionally the fedora was a hat worn by men, but later in the 20th century the fedora was fashioned for women in brighter colours and with an upturned brim for an air of femininity (Peck, “The History of the Fedora”). The object I have chosen to study is a woman’s gray felted fedora by Philip Treacy (FRC 2009.01.402). The beauty of this hat lies in its inexplicable delicacy. A warm, woollen hat such as this (in an oversized shape, no less) should by definition appear bulky. Yet the talented Treacy has made such a hat look as light as air.

Gray fedora felted wool hat with two brown clipper feathers. By Phillip Treacy. C. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.402

Gray fedora felted wool hat with two brown clipper feathers. By Phillip Treacy. FRC 2009.01.402, Gift of Kathleen Kubas.

The first thing to be noticed about this hat is its beautiful soft curves. The round, gently sloping brim is 4’’ (10.16 cm) deep around the hat, with a 1/4’’ (0.635 cm) of topstitching folded up and over the brim towards the sideband of the hat. Based on the appearance of the stitches, it was most likely done by machine. The brim bends upwards gradually towards the back and right side of the hat, peaking at 2 1/4’’ inches (5.715 cm) at the right back of the brim.

The sideband of the hat was blocked in a fedora-style, though the shape has been exaggerated in a number of ways. At its highest point, the sideband of the hat sits at 6’’ (15.24 cm). This peak is on the opposite side of the peak of the hat’s brim, creating a balance within the accessory. The sideband is slightly dented in a number of areas, most notably at left centre-front, right centre-front and left centre-back. These dents look intentional and there are no apparent signs that they were created by the wearer.

The crown of the hat is one of its most interesting attributes. Blocked on a teardrop-shaped hat block, the crown is built up 1 1/4’’ (3.175 cm) along the sides and then sharply dips into the teardrop shape.  All of Treacy’s blocks are handmade by Lorenzo Ré in Paris (Davies 126). The point of the teardrop points slightly off-centre, creating a pretty asymmetry that would frame the face of the wearer. Asymmetry is not uncommon in millinery, as angles that parallel those of the face tend to appear too harsh and geometric when worn (Dreher 12).

A beautiful blue-gray  band curves around where the brim meets the sideband at 3 1/2’’ wide (8.89 cm) for the majority of its length. This appears to be a dyed replica of a Cobra snakeskin. Like the crown of the hat, the band of skin is slightly off-centre. It narrows considerably towards the front left side, where the skin overlaps and is secured with a skin-covered button. The skin folds in three places where it narrows towards the left centre front of the hat, creating an interesting texture with the skin. Tucked between where the skin overlaps are two clipper feathers that lean on a low angle towards the left side of the hat. The feathers are mostly brown and white, and these two colours pick up on the lighter nap of the wool and the darker scales of the skin. At their widest point they are about 2 3/4’’ wide (6.985) but narrow dramatically to a fine point at their tips. The feathers extend approximately 8-9’’ (20.32-22.86 cm) from the hat. The feathers contribute significantly to the delicate air of the hat, giving it lightness and a touch of whimsy.

Gray fedora felted wool hat with two brown clipper feathers. By Phillip Treacy. C. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.402

Detail of band on gray fedora felted wool hat with two brown clipper feathers by Phillip Treacy. FRC 2009.01.402

The wool of the hat has a long luxurious nap that has been brushed in a counter-clockwise direction. It is made from rabbit wool. The colour of the wool is a blue-gray. Its texture is soft and plush, and one could imagine that this would be a very warm hat. This hat was most likely intended for wear in a cooler climate or season. The felt is thick, and would be too hot for the summer.

The inside of the hat is lined with a blue silk satin with a gold piping at the crown. A stretchy Petersham ribbon circles the head size collar. Treacy’s logo is stamped where the lining touches the crown, and in a label at the centre-back of the hat. There is a content label that reads “100% Poils de Lapin” which is French for “100% rabbit hair”.

The hat is in very good condition. The only apparent damage is one small, circular dent on the right sideband just above the skin band. Felted hats may not be worn during humid or wet weather, because they are heat-set and moisture can cause the blocked shape to wilt. The edges and curves of the hat are still very sharp, and the feathers do not appear to be bent or distorted in any way.

A number of sensory reactions occurred to me when viewing and handling this hat. The first was my reaction to the texture. The softness of the hat is felt before even touching the hat’s plush surface. The thickness of the felt looks compressible, as though if it were squeezed it would bounce back. The juxtaposition of the soft rabbit hair next to the scaly, sleek snakeskin is eye-catching. It is interesting that Treacy has used entirely natural fiber and skins in his design: from the rabbit felt, to the ostrich feathers, to the snakeskin and even the silk lining.

Gray fedora felted wool hat with two brown clipper feathers. By Phillip Treacy. C. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.402

Gray fedora felted wool hat with two brown clipper feathers. By Phillip Treacy. C.  FRC 2009.01.402

The balance of shapes and weight within the form of the hat is another hallmark of Treacy’s work. He always works in front of a mirror when creating his forms because to him, mirrors tell the absolute truth about a design. He has said: “If something is off, I need to be able to see it, and then I can spot millimetres from miles away…I believe in that millimetre” (Davies 38).

Drawing of Philip Treacy hat detail FRC 2009.01.402 by Millie Yates Drawing of Philip Treacy hat FRC 2009.01.402 by Millie Yates

Drawing of Philip Treacy hat detail by Millie Yates FRC 2009.01.402

This hat was worn by Kathleen Kubas who loved wearing hats and was known as ‘The Hat Lady’ in Toronto. After she passed away, her family donated over 300 hats to the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. Her hat collection included other top millinery labels like Stephen Jones, Oscar de la Renta, Bentley Tomlin, and Eric Javits.

Light brown felted Breton trimmed with Mongolian sheep fur, resulting in a halo-like effect. By Oscar de la Renta. C. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.703

Light brown felted Breton trimmed with Mongolian sheep fur, resulting in a halo-like effect. By Oscar de la Renta. ca. Post 2000 – 2008. FRC 2009.01.703, Gift of Kathleen Kubas.

 

Black Mad-hatter women's hat with silk flowers and fur-like feathers. By Philip Treacy. C. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.512

Black Mad-hatter women’s hat with silk flowers and fur-like feathers. By Philip Treacy. ca. Post 2000-2008. FRC 2009.01.512. Gift of Kathleen Kubas

 

Black velvet beret. Black veil with chenille spotted and black rhinestone details. Veil is full face with two long trains. By Kokin New York. C. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.488

Black velvet beret. Black veil with chenille spotted and black rhinestone details. Veil is full face with two long trains. By Kokin New York. ca. Post 2000. FRC 2009.01.488. Gift of Kathleen Kubas.

Her affinity for the fedora style of hat is evidenced by a number of other hats in this style made in different colours and materials like a pink satin fedora (FRC 2009.01.03) and a cheetah-print rabbit wool felt hat (FRC 2009.01.405), also by Treacy . The cheetah-print hat in particular bears a striking resemblance to the gray fedora. Its crown is blocked in a similar tear-drop shape, its sideband is circled by trim and its brim turns up towards the back of the hat. It even shares the same navy-blue lining! The pink satin fedora provides an interesting contrast. Made entirely of a hot-pint satin, this hat is smaller in size than the felt has but shares the upturned brim towards the back of the hat. Its brim is circled with topstitching every 3/16’’ (0.47625 cm). Its lining is equally as bold as its exterior, with a vibrant butterfly pattern in black, pink, orange, blue and green. The classic fedora is an enduring shape in Treacy’s work, fashioned differently from collection to collection. At one time, hats were an essential part of everyday dress. This change in fashion has meant that contemporary milliners like Philip Treacy can treat their designs as exciting challenges and opportunities for new innovations.

The majority of Philip Treacy’s designs today retail upwards of $1000, and his couture pieces often sell for much more. Treacy’s work is favoured by royalty and popular-culture royalty alike. He has designed for Grace Jones, Lady Gaga, Camilla Bowles and created 36 hats for the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate. Born in Ireland, Treacy studied at London’s Royal College of Art and graduated in 1990. His eye-catching designs quickly rose the young designer to fame. Though he is primarily known for his namesake line, Treacy also designs for many established couture houses in Europe, such as Chanel, Dior, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen. In the millinery world of today, Treacy’s name is ubiquitous.

Drawing of Philip Treacy hat FRC 2009.01.402 by Millie Yates

Drawing of Philip Treacy hat by Millie Yates FRC 2009.01.402

The colour palette of the hat is elegant and natural, but it is its design that is most intriguing. Treacy does not create ordinary hats; it is the sharp shaping, smooth curves and dramatic feathers in this particular design that command attention. It is this touch of originality imbued in even his most classic pieces that makes Treacy’s work so remarkable.

References

Davies, Kevin, and Philip Treacy. Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies. Berlin: Phaidon, 2013. Print.

Dreher, Denise. From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking. Minneapolis, MN: Madhatter, 1981. Print.

“Fedora.” The Berg Fashion Library. The Berg Fashion Library, n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2015. <http://www.bergfashionlibrary.com/view/bdfh/bdfh-div13290.xml&gt;.

Hopkins, Susie. “Milliners.” The Berg Fashion Library. The Berg Fashion Library, 2005. Web. 4 Nov. 2015. <http://www.bergfashionlibrary.com/view/bazf/bazf00399.xml&gt;.

Peck, Jamie. “The History of the Fedora.” Broadly RSS. N.p., 01 Aug. 2015. Web. 04 Nov. 2015.

Phillips, Tom. Women & Hats: Vintage People on Photo Postcards. Oxford: U of Oxford, 2010. Print.

Philip Treacy Website. http://www.philiptreacy.co.uk/

Philip Treacy Millinery. Perf. Philip Treacy. Victoria and Albert Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/videos/p/video-philip-treacy-millinery&gt;.


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A Cherry red Men’s Ceremonial Cap

by Kate O’Reilly

One of the more unusual men’s hats in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection is a cherry red men’s cap with a gold emblem, gold buttons, and gold braid. The name of the owner, Clarence B. Shulenberger, is embroidered on the inside. There are no associated records or documentation within the FRC related to the donation of this hat in 1993.

Men's cherry red cap FRC1993.08.059

Men’s cherry red cap
FRC1993.08.059

The hat measures 32 cm in diameter and 7.5 cm in height. It is constructed primarily by machine stitching, with a seam at the center-back of the crown. The cap has a cherry red self-fabric, which has the sheen of silk but perhaps the texture of acetate polyester.

The base of the cap is adorned with a 3.5 cm wide decorative band made up of two gold ribbons, encasing a series of nine ruby red braids. Two 1cm wide gold buttons adorn either side of the base of the crown. The buttons have a decorative motif containing a double-headed eagle perched atop a flag with a coat of arms on its chest with one crown above the heads. A gold braided chinstrap is knotted around the gold buttons, and is 37.5cm in length.

Emblem on front of cap FRC1993.08.059

Emblem on front of cap
FRC1993.08.059

An emblem adorns the center front of the cap, and measures 5 cm in height and 4.5 cm in width. The emblem consists of an embroidered Celtic-style cross, made from a metal composite and threaded using a couching technique. In the center of the emblem is a green, embroidered tree surrounded by yellow, hand embroidered text reading “K.T. Comm Court of Honour”.

The cap is lined in a yellow lining that has the sheen of satin but appears to also be a polyester material and made from a twill weave. A 4.25 cm wide brown painted canvas band, made to imitate a leather band, lines the base of the inside of the cap, and is whip stitched into place. The lining is whip stitched into place underneath the canvas band with black thread and lengthy stitches.

Name of owner Embroidered inside cap FRC1993.08.059

Name of owner Embroidered inside cap
FRC1993.08.059

The owners’ name, Clarence B. Shulenberger, is embroidered on the inside of the cap. A 1.75cm x 15.25cm red polyester ribbon is centered on the inside top of the cap and the name is embroidered with a chain stitch in cursive writing. There is a narrow line of padding on the inside of the crown, between self-fabric and lining. The padding runs the lengths of the name inscription and measures 5.5 cm wide and 15.5cm in length.

CONDITION

There is tarnishing along edge of the metal composite emblem and small areas of discoloration on the self-fabric. As well, the gold buttons are tarnished on raised areas. The yellow chinstrap has a greyed appearance, likely caused by dust and dirt. The decorative band encasing the base of the crown also has an overall greyed discoloration, but appears to be more uniform. The ribbons in the band may contain a metal composite that is causing a more uniform aging. On the inside lining there are dark sweat/dirt stains along the top and front where the hat would touch the head and forehead. As well, there are small patches where the lining has been worn in areas. On the inside of the crown are wet stains with a patina color, located next to where the gold buttons are attached with metal wire. The canvas band is losing its paint and is peeking through in areas. As well, the canvas is frayed along the base of the crown.

Detail of braid FRC1993.08.059

Detail of braid
FRC1993.08.059

ANALYSIS

Based on the decorative nature and the considerable wear of this cap, it is likely that this hat was used for ceremonial purposes.  The large emblem placed at the center-front of the crown includes a Celtic cross and appears to be associated with the Scottish Rite style. The emblem, color combination, details and Scottish Rite style is in keeping with the design of the Masonic Lodge’s current cap and emblem that is used by the group today.

The name embroidered on the inside of the cap may be associated with a Clarence B. Shulenberger from North Carolina. He was registered with the Raleigh Lodge #500 Freemasons, located in North Carolina. Mr. Shulenberger was a Grand Master Mason and was registered with Raleigh Lodge #500 in 1939, 1942 and again on November 4, 1961 in The Rosicrucian Fama as a Frater of the Eight Grade. The hat could date anywhere in between that span of time.

There are a number of sources that were consulted to consider the possible owner of the cap, as well as where and for what the cap was used for. Some of the most promising sources include the website of Raleigh Lodge #500, Ancestry.ca, a journal (#23) from The Rosicrucian Fama dated January 1962, a book called The History of Royal Arch Masonry Part Three where Mr. Shulenberger is mentioned.

Note: This post has been edited by Collection Co-ordinator Ingrid Mida.

Kate O’Reilly is a fourth year Communications Student at Ryerson University School of Fashion. She worked as an assistant to Collection Co-ordinator Ingrid Mida in Summer 2013.


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Of Hats and History

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
FRC2009.01.608

Hats are one of the most visible means to signal power, class, status, belonging and/or conformity to modes of dress. After all, for centuries kings and queens wore crowns to signal their power and dynastic position and their servants would be required to remove their hat in their presence to demonstrate their subservience.  Hats can also convey emotional states (mourning) or marital status (bridal veils). Although hats, outside of ones worn as part of a uniform or religious affiliation, are now generally worn as optional accessories to convey personality or as a form of fashionable ornamentation, it was once considered unseemly for a refined gentleman or woman to appear in public without a hat. Like other dress artifacts, hats reflect the social and cultural attitudes of their period.

In terms of fashion history, we as Canadians often overlook the fact that the fashion for men’s hats created out of beaver felts was an important part of the history and the settlement of this country. Felt was made out of animal hairs and the highest quality hats were made out of beaver pelts. Felt hats were once called “beavers” and signaled that the wearer was rich.  The purchase of such a hat was a costly proposition because demand for beaver pelts greatly surpassed the supply. One of the oldest companies in the world, the Hudson’s Bay Company, was founded in 1670, exporting furs from Canada to meet European demand.

This quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes conveys the respect for the quality of Canadian furs:”Wear a good hat, the secret of your looks/Lies with the beaver in Canadian brooks.”

The beaver hat was in high demand until the 19th century when the silk topper became the mark of status.

FRC_Hats_1991.02.005_FRT_Web

Felted top hat with 3 cm black grosgrain hatband. Forest green silk brim lining and patent leather and cream silk crown lining. Late 19th c. Label: Christy’s London. FRC1995.02.005

The  Ryerson Fashion Research Collection has only one top hat (FRC1995.02.005). This Victorian top hat with 3 cm black grosgrain hatband is made of a felted animal hair. It has a forest green silk brim lining and patent leather and cream silk lining and has a label from Christy’s London. The crown is dented and the lining is coming apart inside the crown. The grosgrain is worn and browning, indicating that it was well-worn.  It is likely from the late 19th century and made of rabbit fur. The hat interior crown has the signature of the owner in pencil on the interior “H. Fitzgerald”.

Although the collection has very few men’s hats, we have more than 500 women’s hats, including many by milliner’s like Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, Eric Javits and others. Our hat room is an aspiring milliner’s dream. Visit our Pinterest site to see a small sampling of our hat collection.

Further reading:

Folledore, Giulliano. Men’s Hats. Modena: Zanft Editions, 1989.

Hopkins, Susie. The Century of Hats. London: Aurum Press, 1999.

Jones, Stephen. Hats: An Anthology. London: V&A Publications, 2009.

Langley, Susan. Vintage Hats & Bonnets, 1770-1970. Paducah: Collector Books, 1998.

McDowell, Colin. Hats: Status, Style and Glamour. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.


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The Muff

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator

The muff – a roll of fabric or fur, lined in wool, satin, silk, linen or other fabric – typically used to keep one’s hands warm is considered a feminine accessory. However, at one time the muff was used by both men and women.

FRC_Fur&Fea_1992.05.003_FRT_Web

FRC1992.05.003

One of the earliest muffs recorded was illustrated in the 16th century drawing by Gaspar Rutz from 1598 showing an English lady with a cloth muff hanging from her girdle (Morse Earle 1901: 448).

Fashionable men in the 17th century carried muffs as a mark of dignity. The wardrobe inventory of Prince Henry of England (1594-1612) in 1608 included: “Two muffes; one of cloth of silver embroidered with purles plates and Venice twists of silver and gold; the other of black satten embroidered with black silk and bugles” (Morse Earle 1901: 448).

A muff with a pocket could be used to contain or conceal objects and it was reported that in the 18th century the somewhat eccentric head of a college at Oxford University carried  in his muff a pair of scissors with which he slyly clipped off the locks deemed “too long” of male students (Morse Earle 1901: 450). It is not clear when muffs became a strictly feminine accessory, but it seems likely that this followed the changes in men’s attire in the early part of the 19th century.

Now the muff is considered a strictly feminine accessory, and in the 19th century, muffs sometimes served as a type of handbag  for carrying daily necessities such as a handkerchief or a bit of money. Sometimes muffs were worn suspended from the neck by a rich cord finished with tassels.

The Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine of December 1865 describes the fashions for muffs at the time as follows:

We are happy to announce to the ladies a decided novelty in muffs. They are, however, the prettiest and most ravissante [sic] little affairs we have ever seen, and we commend them to the notice of the ladies. They are to be had in ermine tipped with swan’s-down, seal-skin edged with sable and finished with a sable hood, mink richly trimmed, and grebe. As some of our readers may not be familiar with the grebe, we will state that it is the skin of a Russian duck, which is made up as fur into muffs, victorianes [sic], and collars.”  (page 549).

Lady with muff001

FRC2002.04.209
Cabinet card with deckled edge by A.S. Green, 361 Talbot Street, St. Thomas, Ontario.

In this historic photo from 1885-1890 (FRC2002.04.209), a cabinet card of a woman with her daughter by photographer A.S. Green of St. Thomas, Ontario,  both are dressed for winter, even though the photo was obviously taken inside the studio. The woman holds what looks to be a mink muff in her hand. Carrying visible signs of wealth, such as a muff or fur scarf, was a way to signify class.

The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection has two muffs, one dates to approximately 1880-1890 and the other is a contemporary muff.

FRC_Fur&Fea_1992.05.003_F34_Web

FRC1992.05.003

The older muff is made of black sheered velvet and has ruched brown silk sides (FRC1992.05.003). Stuffed with horsehair and lined with wool, it is dated to approximately 1880-1890. It does not have a pocket. The absence of a cord, tassels or other embellishment suggests that it likely did not belong to a rich woman.

FRC_Fur&Fea_2009.01.531_F34_Web

FRC2009.01.531

This contemporary version of a muff (FRC2009.01.531) is brown sable and is lined in black satin with an interior corded loop and zipper. It has no label and is dated to post-1990. It was donated by Kathleen Kubas in 2009 and is one of many fur accessories that she owned.

This project was funded by a grant by the Learning and Teaching Office at Ryerson University.

References:

Fashions. Notice to Lady Subscribers. Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine. Philadelphia, December 1865 (p.485-650)..

Morse Earle, Alice.) 1901. Two Centuries of Costume in America, Volume II. New York: The MacMillan Company.


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The Reversible Player Sports Bustle, c.1885-1890

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator

In the latter part of the 19th century, the bustle (also known as the tournure in France) came in and out of fashion, and there were many variations that fashionably emphasizing a woman’s derriere. Designed to support the draping of the dress from the inside, they were constructed from various materials, including horsehair, stiffly starched cloth, and frames of whalebone, bamboo, rattan and wire.

FRC_ACC_Other_2013.99.001_FRT_Web

Wire Bustle, c.1885-1890
FRC.2013.99.001

The bustle pictured above is made of wire mesh and cotton tape with a metal fastener and would have been worn attached around the waist. This sports bustle has the label “The Reversible Player Bustle” and includes patent details dated 1885 for the manufacturer Weston & Wells Mfg. Co. of Philadelphia. It is likely from c.1885-1890. Worn underneath a dress or skirt of the period, it would have added dimension and bulk to the derriere, consistent with the fashions of the period.  The band is 79 cm (31 inches) in length and is pierced at about 17.5 cm (7 inches) in where the metal closure would have been fastened.

Sports like tennis were becoming more popular for ladies during this period and this wire bustle was intended to achieve a fashionable silhouette with a lighter substructure than those composed of horsehair or stiffly starched fabric. The wire construction would have facilitated movement compared to a more rigid bustle such as that worn under a formal gown (like the examples on the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Collection website), since this wire bustle is springy.

FRC_ACC_Other_2013.99.001_LBL_1_Web

Label of the Reversible Player Bustle
FRC2013.99.001

Similar examples of wire bustles are found in the Kyoto Costume Institute Collection (pg. 284).

Further Reading:

The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute: Fashion, A History from the 18th to the 20th Century. ed. Akiko Fukai. London: Taschen, 2002.

Waugh, Norah. Corsets and Crinolines. New York: Theatre Art Books, 1954 (fourth printing 1987).


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Black silk Parasol with cordwork embroidery c.1900

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

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

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

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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.

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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.