Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


Leave a comment

Drawing Habits: Learning to Look Attentively at Dress

Workshop_3

Ingrid Mida (right) with workshop participants discussing the embellishment on a 1920s dress fragment, Photo by Victoria Hopgood

On Friday, July 20, 2018, artist Sarah Casey and Dress Detective Ingrid Mida offered a drawing workshop hosted at the Contemporary Textile Studio Co-op in Toronto. In this workshop, participants were introduced to methods of examining and interpreting garments through drawing.

 

 

Workshop_1

1920s Dress Fragment from Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, Photo by Victoria Hopgood

Participants were able to draw selected artifacts from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, principally dress fragments and other garments whose poor condition precluded them from being accessioned. Too beautiful to go into the bin, these objects are considered ‘dead artifacts’ but were retained for just such a purpose – as creative inspiration.

 

Participants were led through a series of drawing exercises by Ingrid that she uses in the classroom to help students learn the Slow Approach to Seeing from The Dress Detective.   Some of these exercises are included in a chapter written by Ingrid included in Teaching Fashion Studies, edited by Holly Kent (Bloomsbury 2018). Sarah also guided students through mark making exercises to encourage students to consider different methods of creating texture and invoking the sensation of touch.

DiktisoXkAInHm6

Ingrid Mida discussing the artifacts from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection, Photo by Sarah Casey

 

 

After lunch, Ingrid gave a talk about the artifacts from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. She also discussed how she unravels narratives related to dress artifacts and  encouraged participants to think about the personal stories revealed in garments as well as considering the broader cultural values reflected in fashion. Sarah gave a demonstration of egg tempera on acetate and workshop participants then experimented with a variety of papers and mediums.

IMG_6642

Sarah Casey demonstrating egg tempera, Photo by Ingrid Mida

In the end, each participant reflected on how the workshop resonated with their own practice and all left with a deeper appreciation of the merits of slowing down to look and to draw.

Workshop_4

Workshop participants, Photo by Victoria Hopgood


Leave a comment

FRC Research Appointments Fall 2016

For the fall term, research appointments in the FRC will generally be available on Mondays 830 am – 2 pm and Wednesday afternoons 130-6 p.m., as well as on Thursday afternoons between 4-6 p.m. The last appointment can begin no later than one hour beforehand.

Appointments must be booked in advance and are not available on short notice. Depending on the garments requested, it can take an hour to set up for a single appointment. Please make your requests with as much notice as possible. 

For tips on how to make an appointment and what type of information is needed so that I can best help you with your research question, please click on the tab at the top: “How to make a Research Appointment.”

I generally advise that students read Chapters 1-5 of my book The Dress Detective: The Practical Guide to Object-based Research in Fashion before their appointment.
Dress Detective_Cover_LRThere are two checklists at the end of the book to guide you through the steps so that you can make the most effective use of your time. It will also be helpful to read or peruse the case studies in the book, which include historic garments, couture, undergarments, bridal wear, and menswear. This book is available online through the Ryerson library portal.

 

Other tips to help you make most of your appointment:

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.

FRC_HistPieces_1999.06.006_INS_3_Web

Cream silk damask bodice with high neckline, extended sailor collar, and gigot sleeves with ribbon closure at cuff, front hook and eye closures, cream satin bow at chest, pink, green blue and cream vertical beaded trim at neckline, cotton interior lining with boning, self-fabric asymmetrical belt. C. 1890-1895. Donated by Alan Suddon, FRC 1999.06.066          Photo by Ingrid Mida, 2012.

 


Leave a comment

Looking forward and back – The Summer of 2016 in the FRC

The halls of Kerr Hall West have been quiet over the summer. And yet, behind the closed doors of the FRC, there has been a hub of activity. I have been doing inventory and updating the catalogue, processing donations, fielding loan requests and research questions from around the world.

In part that level of interest in the collection can be attributed to the release of The Dress Detective: A Practical Guide to Object-based Research in Fashion in November 2015. This book, which I co-wrote with Alexandra Kim, highlights some of the many treasures in the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson and also includes a checklist-based approach to object-based research in fashion. Sold round the world and on the shelves of several prominent European museums including the V&A Museum in London as well as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, this book has transformed Ryerson’s little-known collection of dress artifacts into a place that international scholars want to visit.

Dress Detective_Cover_LR

Cover of The Dress Detective, Cover Image by Ingrid Mida

This summer I welcomed scholars from as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom who come to study objects in the collection. I also fielded research inquiries from the USA, Japan, UK, and Australia. There is no doubt that the FRC is a hidden jewel within Ryerson.

Sarah Casey_visit 1_LR

Sarah Casey at work drawing artifacts in the FRC, Photo Ingrid Mida, May 2016

A memorable event for me was the visit of artist and prof Dr. Sarah Casey from the United Kingdom. Sarah has drawn artifacts from the collections of Kensington Palace and also at the Bowes Museum in the UK. She uses these drawings as a way of expressing ideas of temporality. After reading The Dress Detective and finding an affinity for the “Slow Approach to Seeing”, Sarah came across the pond for a visit – not once, but twice this summer. She drew a variety of artifacts from the collection, including gloves, bonnets, 19th century undergarments, and an exquisite 19th century two-piece gown.

What all these pieces shared in common was that they had been somewhat forgotten – not often requested or considered “important” as artifacts. Sarah drew these pieces and time will tell how she transforms lines on paper into something else altogether. This collaboration brought me back to my roots – as an artist – and reminded me that creativity is part of who I am and what has led me to this place. I have rekindled my drawing practice with a curator’s sketchbook and have resumed drawing as a meditation and as a research tool.

Curator's Sketchbook_MIDA_!_LR

Curator’s Sketchbook by Ingrid Mida 2015.99.002A

It is a pleasure and privilege to be able to share the many wondrous objects in the FRC with students, faculty and visiting scholars.

What is your area of research? Have you thought of visiting the FRC?

 

 

 


Leave a comment

The Language of the Kimono

by Ingrid Mida, Acting Curator/Collection Co-ordinator

Kimonos, long associated with the cultural fabric of Japan, have their own language. For example, ‘Kimono o kiru’ means ‘I’m going to wear kimono.’ Although this loose-fitting, T-shaped garment is worn by both men and women, and generally constructed out of lengths of a standard width fabric, every element of the garment serves to communicate aspects of the wearer’s identity, including age, gender, class and even the formality of the occasion. The type and colour of fabric, the length of the sleeves, the presence or absence of crests, and the type of accessories worn with the kimono can all be read like texts.

FRC_Coats_2013.03.005_F34_Web

Kimono, silk. ca.1930s. FRC2013.03.005

In 2013, three silk kimonos were donated to the FRC, including this blue-gray silk kimono with padded hem and red silk lining (FRC2013.03.005). The donor indicated that these garments were acquired by her grandparents in the 1930s during a trip to Orient, but it is not known whether the kimonos were purchased to be worn as loungewear or to be kept as souvenirs. The donor was not aware of any associated obi or other accessories that would normally be worn with these garments. Kimonos were collectible items and some versions were made expressly for export to western markets (note 1).

FRC_Coats_2013.03.005_Det_8_Web

Detail of textile, kimono ca.1930s. FRC2013.03.005

The radiant colour and pattern of this plain weave silk furisode (long-sleeved) kimono is a signal of youth. As a woman aged, she was expected to wear more subdued colours and patterns would be confined to the hem (note 2). In this kimono, the pattern appears relatively high on the body and depicts a landscape scene with cranes, turtles, flowers, and cherry trees in blossom. Parts of the scene have been over-embroidered with silk thread or gold thread. The red silk lining is visible on the neckband (eri), at the hem and as the sleeves move. The hem is thickly padded (hikisuso). At one time, such padding was associated with “aristocratic ladies and high prostitutes of the Edo period,” but is now often adopted for “the modern version of the traditional wedding ensemble” (note 3). The sleeve-length of a kimono is another element that is linked to gender and age, and these swinging sleeves are mid-length. They do not fall all the way to the ankle and this length is associated with a semi-full dress for unmarried women (note 4). The rounded corners of the sleeve are also markers associated with the garments of a single female.

FRC_Coats_2013.03.005_Det_11_Web

Detail of sleeve, kimono FRC2013.03.005

The kimono body (mihada) is atypical in that it has a horizontal seam at mid-body where the patterned material has been attached to the blue-gray silk. There would not normally be a seam here as typically the garment would be shortened by folding the extra fabric under the obi (note 5). This seam suggests that its western owner shortened the kimono so that it could be worn without an obi. The inside lining also shows evidence of unpicked basting stitches would have been used during laundering of the kimono.

This beautiful kimono is rife with meaning. Intended for a young, unmarried woman perhaps for her pending nuptials, we will never know whether it was actually worn for that purpose. Nonetheless, it serves as a primer of kimono connoisseurship.

Note 1: Terry Satsuki Milhaupt, Kimono: A Modern History, London: Reaktion Books, 2014, 234.

Note 2: Liza Dalby, Kimono: Fashioning Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993: 196-197.

Note 3: Ibid: 92.

Note 4: Ibid: 167.

Note 5: Annie Van Assche, “Interweavings: Kimono Past and Present” in Fashioning Kimono. Dress and Modernity in Early Twentieth-Century Japan. London: V&A Publications, 2005.

References:

Dalby, L. (1993) Kimono: Fashioning Culture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Milhaupt, T. (2014) Kimono: A Modern History. London: Reaktion Books.

Van Assche, A. (ed.), (2005). Fashioning Kimono. Dress and Modernity in Early Twentieth-Century Japan. London: V&A Publications.


Leave a comment

Upcoming Event: ICOM Costume Committee Study Day

Balenciaga Gown and Bolero, ca.1955-1960, FRC1992.01.019ab

Balenciaga Gown and Bolero, ca.1955-1960, FRC1992.01.019ab

Ryerson University School of Fashion will be the host of the International Council of Museums Costume Committee Study Day on Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

This event is open to students who are interested in historic dress and/or museum studies and will be held on campus. A limited number of tours of the FRC facility will also be held.

Advance sign-up is required. Interested students must rsvp by September 3, 2015 to Ellen Holzan at ellenhlozan@hotmail.com. Seating is limited to 50 students. 

Programme Details:

12:00 – 1:00 Pre-event Tours of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

1:05 – 1:15 Welcome, Announcements, and History of Student Saturday/Tuesday Ellen Hlozan and Vicki Berger

 

1:15 – 1:35 Ingrid Mida, Ryerson Fashion Research Collection Co-ordinator, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada –The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection and A Preview of “The Dress Detective: A Practical Guide to Object-based Research in Fashion” 

 

 

 

 

1:35 – 1:55 Isabel Alvarado Perales, Interim Director, Museum of National History, Santiago, Chile – The artistic representation as a source of knowledge of the history of women’s clothing in Chile: the case of José Gil de Castro and Raimundo Monvoisin

1:55 – 2:15 Vicki L. Berger, Ph.D., Retired Curator of Costume and Textiles, North Carolina Museum of History; Phoenix, Arizona, USA – A 1942 World War II American Bride: Anita Ruth Bonham Crawford

2:35 – 2:50 Q & A Session with first group of speakers

2:50 – 3:30 Refreshment break and Tour

 

Fashion Victims Cover3:30 – 3:50 Alison Matthews David, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director, Fashion MA, School of Fashion, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Preview of “Fashion Victims

 

 

 

 

3:50 – 4:10 Meg Wilcox, Wardrobe Supervisor, Sherbrooke Village Restoration, Nova Scotia Museum, Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, Canada – Challenges and Triumphs in Costuming Historical Sites Challenges

4:10 – 4:30 Sofia Pantouvaki, Ph.D., Scenographer and Professor of Costume Design for Theatre and Film, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland – Performance Costume in the Absence of the Body

4:30 – 4:45 Q & A with speakers

4:45 – 4:55 Farewell and Adjourn Ellen Hlozan and Vicki Berger

4:55 – 5:25 Post-event Tours

 


Leave a comment

Looking forward and back

By Ingrid Mida, Fashion Research Collection Co-ordinator

The halls outside my door are mostly empty. It is the summer term and time to take inventory – literally and metaphorically. I’ll be checking what’s in boxes and on racks against the locator tags on the inventory files. It is tedious and time consuming work, but necessary to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the database, as well as make it easier for me to find artifacts requested for research appointments. I also thought it would be a good time to take stock of all that was accomplished this past year and highlight some of the projects that took place in the Fashion Research Centre.

MA Fashion students at work in the FRC

MA Fashion students at work in the FRC

My primary focus of the year was accessioning and rehousing the nearly 600 artifacts that came to Ryerson from the Cleaver-Suddon Collection. This rich collection, a legacy of the late Alan Suddon that was sustained by Professor Emeritus Katherine Cleaver, has added much depth to our collection, especially in terms of nineteenth century artifacts. The oldest garment dates back to 1815 and is a long sleeved morning gown in a most delicate muslin with embroidered dots. Contemporary pieces include labels like Jenny, Lanvin, Schiaparelli, Pierre Cardin, and Givenchy. For a lovely photo gallery of images, please see the article by Kathleen McGouran in the Ryersonian here. I also wrote a blog post about one of my favourite pieces from that donation here. There are also many photos on my twitter page.

Schiaparelli label inside fuchsia, purple and blue turban ca. 1950s FRC2014.07.148

Schiaparelli label inside fuchsia, purple and blue turban ca. 1950s FRC2014.07.148

As well, we received about 60 artifacts from the National Ballet of Canada including a tutu that dates from one of their earliest performances. I spent some time in the National Ballet archives to understand what material might be available to students who wish to do research on these costumes and have written a paper myself called “Biography of a Tutu” which I’ve submitted for peer review. Hopefully it will serve as an example of how students might approach this type of research.

And of course, we had many visitors to the Fashion Research Centre, including several class groups from Foundation I, Curation, Scenography, and Fashion Theory II. Outside visitors included a group of visiting scholars and curators from the Jackman Humanities Institute Fashion in the Museum Working Group, as well as a group of former CN Tower elevator operators who saw my tweet about the CN tower uniform for 1976 designed by Pat McDonagh.

Ingrid Mida (in blue sweater) with Scenography Class

Ingrid Mida (in blue sweater) with Scenography Class

Graduate student projects included research into menswear tailoring, sustainability in historic terms, Japanese designers, the wardrobe of Barbara Moon, embroidery and beading techniques, pink dresses in history, and corsets.

Embroidery on black crepe evening gown, ca. 1935 FRC2014.07.422

Embroidery on black crepe evening gown, ca. 1935 FRC2014.07.422

In the absence of dedicated exhibition space, I’ve been working on small collaborative projects with other institutions to help extend our reach. A 1860s apple green silk dress ensemble laced with arsenic dye will soon go on exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto to replace the gown currently on display in the Fashion Victims exhibit there.

Apple green silk dress ensemble, ca. 1860s, FRC2014.07.406 A+B+C

Apple green silk dress ensemble, ca. 1860s, FRC2014.07.406 A+B+C

 

Testing for arsenic in the Physics Lab

Testing for arsenic in the Physics Lab

In spite of very limited hours of operation, the Fashion Research Centre was a busy place this past year. I look forward to welcoming more students to the FRC in the fall as the word gets out about the many treasures therein.


2 Comments

Thinking of spring flowers!

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator

The snow is beginning to melt and it seems like spring might be round the corner. Fashion-wise this always makes me think of spring-like colours and floral motifs. Christian Dior once said: “After women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” Here is a small sampling of dresses from the Fashion Research Collection that make me think of spring flowers.

Printed floral silk chiffon dress with tiered handkerchief hem ca. 1929-1932 FRC1989.04.007

Printed floral silk chiffon dress with tiered handkerchief hem ca. 1929-1932 FRC1989.04.007

Pink paisley long-sleeved jersey knit dress with quilted skirt and self-belt, Simpsons The Room, ca.1965-1968. FRC1989.05.086A+B

Pink paisley long-sleeved jersey knit dress with quilted skirt and self-belt, Simpsons The Room, ca.1965-1968. FRC1989.05.086A+B

FRC_2pcEnsembles_1983.08.034_A+B_F34_2pc_Web

Multi-coloured floral print linen shift dress with matching long-sleeved coat, lined in gray silk. Label Jean Pierce. ca., 1962-1965. FRC1983.08.034A+B

Diane von Furstenburg green and white jersey top and skirt ensemble. ca., 1975-1982 FRC1983.08.015A+B

Diane von Furstenburg green and white jersey top and skirt ensemble. ca., 1975-1982 FRC1983.08.015A+B