Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive

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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.


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.


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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?




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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.


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).


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.


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.


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.

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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


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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.


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


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


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In this weather, it is all about the coat!

by Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator

Given that we seem to be stuck with a never-ending winter in Toronto, I decided that it was an ideal time to feature a selection of the contemporary coats from the Designer Archive of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. In Canada, where outerwear is an essential part of coping with the winter, coats make a first impression. There are coat people – those of us who have a different coat for every type of weather – and Kathleen Kubas, who donated the coats shown below, was one of them.

One of my favourite coats in the FRC Designer Archive is this avant-garde coat by Issey Miyake. This coat is made of a combination of brown, black and cream felted wool and is lined in quilted polyester satin. It closes at the shoulder with a toggle button. The textile that makes up this coat is what sets it apart and really deserves a closer look.

Issey Miyake coat, felted wool with silk lining, ca. 2000, FRC2009.01.680.

Issey Miyake coat, felted wool with silk lining, ca. 2000, FRC2009.01.680.

This Jean Paul Gaultier wool blanket coat shown below has no closures other than a tie belt at the waist. The luxury of this coat is not evident to anyone other than the wearer, because the lining for the body of the coat is silk satin printed with Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature. The sleeves are lined in striped cream satin. The label is Jean Paul Gaultier Classique Paris. This style of coat was one of Kathleen Kubas favourite styles. Easy to wear over anything including layers of bulky sweaters, this style of coat wraps the wearer in warmth and comfort.

Jean Paul Gaultier blanket coat, wool with silk satin lining, ca.2005-2008, FRC2009.01.363 A+B

Jean Paul Gaultier blanket coat, wool with silk satin lining, ca.2005-2008, FRC2009.01.363 A+B

Quite a different style of coat is the fitted coat shown below. Its slim fit and narrow armholes would limit what it could be comfortably worn over, but on its own it is a statement. I dare say that the bright fuchsia pink colour would blow the winter blues away in a heartbeat. This wool coat by Gucci opens to reveal a luxurious leopard print lining.

Fuchsia pink wool coat with leopard silk lining, snap closures, GUCCI, FRC2009.01.667

Fuchsia pink wool coat with leopard silk lining, snap closures, GUCCI, FRC2009.01.667

Another lovely coat by Gucci is this cream wool coat with a red fox fur collar shown below. This fitted coat has added warmth with its fur collar.

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

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

Versatile in its shape, the cashmere cape shown below is a piece that could be worn over another coat for a day of extreme cold or on its own in less frigid temps. This luxurious cape shown below is made of black cashmere and is trimmed with chinchilla fur.

Black cashmere cape trimmed with chinchilla fur, Label Holt Renfrew. FRC2009.01.214

Black cashmere cape trimmed with chinchilla fur, Label Holt Renfrew. FRC2009.01.214

All of the featured coats were donated to the collection by the family of the late Kathleen Kubas. The collection also has other coats including coats by Dior, Givenchy, Louis Feraud, Karl Lagerfeld, Valentina  and other designers.