Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive

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Resource List for Canadian Fashion

This resource list was compiled with the hope that it would inspire fashion students and scholars to undertake research into Canada’s fashion history.

Eaton's black silk shirtwaist, c.1900 FRC2008.03.007

Black silk shirtwaist, Label: T.Eaton Co. Ltd., Toronto and Winnipeg, c.1900

For publications prior to 1984, Jacqueline Beaudoin-Ross and Pamela Blackstock compiled a list for the journal Material Culture Review that is accessible here.

FRC_EveDresses_1998.01.002_A+B_F34_Web (1)

Select publications after 1984 are listed below:

Barnwell, S. (1984). Pattern diagrams for three Eighteenth-century Dresses in the Royal Ontario Museum. eds. Mary Holford. Toronto: ROM.

Bates, C. (2013). A Cultural History of the Nurse’s Uniform. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Bates, C. (2001). “Creative Ability and Business Sense: The Millinery Trade in Ontario”. In Framing Our Part: Constructing Canadian Women’s History in the Twentieth Century by S. Cook, L. McLean, and K. O’Rourke (eds.). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. p.348-358.

Beaudoin-Ross, J. (1992). Form and Fashion: Nineteenth-century Montreal Dress. Montreal: McCord Museum.

Careless, V. (1993). Responding to Fashion: The Clothing of the O’Reilly Family. Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum.

Cooper, C. (1997). Magnificent Entertainments: Fancy Dress Balls of Canada’s Governors General, 1876-1898. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions.

Dorosh, M. (1995). Cannuck: Clothing and Equipping the Canadian Soldier: 1939-1945. Missolua: Pictorial Histories Publishers.

Forest, J. (2013) “Dressing Funny: Humour in Canadian Fashion, Humour as an Element of Canadian Design Identity”. Costume Journal 43.1: 12-17.

Kim, A. (2013) “The Courturier and The Maple Leaf”. Costume Journal 43.1: 18-24.

MacKay, E. (2007). Beyond the Silhouette: Fashion and the Women of Historic Kingston. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

MacKay, E. (2013). “How Clothes Make the Seaman: Interpretation of 16th Century Basque Whaling Garments”. Costume Journal 43.2: 14-20.

Mida. I. (2013) “The Re-Collection of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection: Opening the Door to a Canadian Fashion Archive”. Costume Journal 43.2: 4-6

Palmer, A. (2001). Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Palmer, A. (ed). (2004). Fashion: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Pine, J. (2013) On Finding Canada’s Fashionality or Does Canada Have a Fashion Identity? Costume Journal 43.1: 4-6.

Routh, C. (1993). In Style: 100 Years of Canadian Women’s Fashion. Toronto: Stoddart.

Sivil, A. (2013) The Fluidity of Gender in Denis Gagnon’s Spring/Summer 2013 Collection. Costume Journal 43.1: 7-11.

Sleedman, M. (1997). Angels of the Workplace: Women and the Construction of Gender Relations in the Canadian Clothing Industry, 1890-1940. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, R. (2003). A Common Thread: A History of Toronto’s Garment Industry. Toronto: Beth Tzedec Synagogue (Exhibition Pamphlet).

Townsend, E. (2013). “Exploring the Jewellery and Wardrobe Collections of Georgina and Eleanor Luxton: Fashionable Women Can be Fashionable Anywhere.” Costume Journal 43.2: 21-28.

Triemstra-Johnston, J. (2013). “The Language of the Plain Sewing Sampler”. Costume Journal 43.2: 7-13.

Wahl, K. and David, A.M. (2010). “Matthew Cuthbert Insists on Puffed Sleeves: Ambivalence Towards Fashion in Anne of Green Gables”, in Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables by I. Gammel and B. Lefebvre (eds). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p.35-49.

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Tunic-style Evening Gown with Detachable Hood, c.1970 by Marilyn Brooks

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator.


Burgundy velour tunic dress with long sleeves and matching detachable hood. Size 9/10, Label: Marilyn Brooks Made in Canada. FRC1998.01.002A+B

This rich toned burgundy velour tunic dress with long sleeves and matching detachable hood was designed by Marilyn Brooks in the early 1970s.  Highly fashionable for the period, but also washable, it would have been suitable as an evening gown. Hooded gowns were popular during this time, and Margaret Trudeau wore a hooded wedding dress that she designed herself for her wedding to then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau in 1971 (link to image here).

Back of Marilyn Brooks Evening Gown c.1970 FRC1998.01.002A+B

Back of Marilyn Brooks Evening Gown c.1970

Detail of detachable hood by Marilyn Brooks. FRC1998.01.002A+B

Detail of detachable hood by Marilyn Brooks. FRC1998.01.002A+B

The sheen of the fabric is undiminished and the ensemble is in perfect condition.  The shoulder yoke has horizontal tucks that are not readily visible in the photo. The dress closes at the back with a metal zipper. The label reads: “marilyn brooks, size 9/10, Made in/Fabrique au CANADA CA07455”.  Handwritten in script are the words “Betty Sonsfield 1970”.

Label Marilyn Brooks  FRC1998.01.002 A+B

Label Marilyn Brooks
FRC1998.01.002 A+B

Although Marilyn Brooks does not recall designing this specific dress, she wrote in an email to me on November 1, 2013 that: “The fabric was great and it was washable. Somehow I remember the fabric being made in Canada. It was important to always cut the fabric only one way. The feel of the hand going down….never up.” She also recalled that she had designed some medieval inspired gowns for the department store Simpson’s in the 1970s, but that this dress was not part of that series.

The Marilyn Brooks label was an important part of Canadian fashion history (note 1), providing fashionable and innovative designs for more than 40 years. The collection page on her website reads “The women who wore Marilyn’s designs ran the gamut from twenty onwards, but they were all creative, self-confident women with strong personalities who exude warmth and humour. These intelligent women were looking for ease with innovation and function with whimsy, at a price that immediately said good value! Marilyn’s clothes were known for versatility and easily stood up to the rigors of an active and travel oriented lifestyle.”

Marilyn is now retired from fashion and works as an artist. She is also working on her autobiography, and visited the Ryerson campus last fall to speak to students about her experiences as a designer. I recall feeling her warmth and good humour as she told the many anecdotes from her life.

The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection only has only one other garment from the Marilyn Brooks label, a liliac cotton two-piece top and skirt ensemble from the late 1970s and pre-1983 (FRC1983.04.21A+B). The top has a Peter Pan collar with machine embroidery in a floral pattern and a front button closure as well as a shoulder yoke with ruched detail and a drawstring waist. The skirt is gathered at the waist and buttons at the back. We would welcome donations of any other Marilyn Brooks garments in good condition.

Note 1: In the book “In Style: 100 Years of Canadian Fashion”, Caroline Routh mentions Marilyn Brooks as well as Claire Haddad, Pat McDonagh, Edith Strauss, and Winston as among the “important fashion designers in Toronto in the seventies” (152).