Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


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Reading a Cape: Part II

In Part I of this blog post series, I considered the construction of a T. Eaton Company cape (FRC2017.05.004 shown in the photo below) in terms of fabric, surface decoration and function. In this blog post, I undertake a comparative analysis of capes as suggested in the Reflection checklist from The Dress Detective (note 1). 

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T. Eaton Company Cape FRC2017.05.004

A cape from T. Eaton Co. dating to the 1890s and shown below (FRC2014.07.457) is shorter in length than the cape being studied, but the black wool fabrics are very similar. Although this cape would probably not be worn in the middle of a cold Canadian winter, it would still provide some degree of warmth since it is made of wool. This wool has also been woven into a twill weave, similar to FRC2017.05.004. Instead of velvet appliques, this cape features decorative beading and a frilled hem and collar.

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FRC2014.07.457. T. Eaton Co. Cape. Photograph by Millie Yates.

This 1890s cape shown in the photo below (FRC2014.07.160) is about half of the length of the cape being studied and likely made to be worn in the evening. It is made from black velvet with a fur trimmed collar and hook and eye fasteners. The most strikingly similar feature to FRC2017.05.004 is the embellishment of hand-sewn floral braid that spans the entire surface of the cape.

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FRC2014.07.160. Photograph by Victoria Hopgood, 2018

Another evening cape (FRC2014.07.156) from the 1890s is made of black velvet, with a short mandarin collar and a silk tie and lining. Floral cutwork decoration and beading embellish the shell of this cape. Its surface decoration is quite similar to the cape being studied, even though it is much shorter in length. This floral surface decoration on both these evening capes leads me to believe that this was a popular style at the time.

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FRC2014.07.156. Photograph by Victoria Hopgood, 2018.

In considering capes from other collections, I identified two capes with Bertha collars that are similar in styling to the T. Eaton cape that is the focus of my project. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar cape (C.I.41.78.1) that dates back to 1901. Although this garment was made in America, the styles are similar. Made out of a plaid wool, the cape has an identical long Bertha collar in addition to a short turned down collar.

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Cape from the Costume Institute Metropolitan Museum of Art. C.I.41.78.1

The collection of  the Victoria and Albert Museum includes a cape (T.333-1995) that is also similar in styling. Made of a deep, moss green wool, the cape also has a long Bertha collar, similar to the collar of the cape being studied. However, instead of a stand collar, it has a small turned down collar. Dated to 1905 and identified as originating from France, this cape illustrates how fashion is a global phenomenon. 

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Cape from the Victoria & Albert Museum T.333-1995

Capes are one-size fits all garments and especially suitable to wear over the fashions of gigot sleeves in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Gigot sleeves were snug at the elbow and full at the shoulder making them quite large (note 2). Therefore, a fitted coat would not easily fit over the large sleeves, making a cape a more suitable option for the cold weather. Some of the capes considered above would have been worn mainly for warmth and others for style. The T. Eaton cape that is the focus of my study is both stylish and warm and this comparison shows that it fits within the fashions for capes of the time. 

Notes 

­­­­­­­Note 1: Mida, I., & Kim, A. (2015). The Dress Detective: a practical guide to object-based research in Fashion. Bloomsbury Academic.

Note 2: From paris: The gigot sleeve. (1905, Jan 26). Vogue, 25, 123. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/879154695?accountid=13631

Edited by Ingrid Mida.


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Reading a Cape: Part I

Ryerson’s Fashion Research Collection is home to many capes ranging from evening capes to nursing capes, but one in particular caught my eye. This stunning full-length wool cape with velvet appliques and a bear fur collar had me in awe at first glance (FRC2017.05.004). It is bold, striking and emanates a sense of power. Donated by Mary Wyatt, it is believed that this garment was worn by her grandmother who lived in Carleton Place, a small town not too far from Ottawa, Ontario and was dated to the 1900s (note 1).

Intrigued by the beauty of this specific garment, I did a close reading of the garment following the approach outlined by Ingrid Mida and Alexandra Kim in The Dress Detective (note 2). In part I of a series of three blog posts, I will consider the construction of the cape. In Part II, I will compare this cape to others of the same time period. In Part III, I will compare the labels of different T. Eaton Co. garments to more precisely date this garment.

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FRC2017.05.004. Photograph by Victoria Hopgood, 2018

Manufactured by the T. Eaton Company, this cape is made of natural materials – wool, silk and fur. The outer shell is a very fine wool woven into a twill weave producing horizontal ridges. The lining is made of a smooth, black silk which would help to regulate the body temperature and wick away moisture. It is evident that this cape has been worn until no longer possible as the lining is fraying and has shredded beyond repair. After the cape was donated to the FRC, mesh was sewn on to prevent further damage. In between the outer and inner layers, there is an interfacing made of wool felt, which would have provided an extra layer of warmth.

The outer wool layer is constructed of two pieces with a center back seam, whereas the inner lining of silk is made up of four pieces. The flared cape is 40 inches/101 cm long from neckline to hem and would fall to about shin length. The use of machine-stitching is consistent with the dating of this garment to the early 1900s. The machine stitching of the seams is not visible except under the Bertha collar. Hand-stitching is evident in the ruched pocket decoration and in attaching the label.

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FRC2017.05.004. Illustration of Cape Body (excluding collars) by Victoria Hopgood, 2018

The cape has three collars that layer over each other. The first layer is a large stand collar that sits close to the neck. The outer side, facing away from the wearer is decorated with floral velvet appliques. To add warmth and decoration, the inner side of the collar which would touch the neck is lined with bear fur. This is the most striking and unique aspect of the garment. The fur is in immaculate condition with the exception of an area that has become slightly matted from touching the back of the neck. The fur is smooth to the touch and would keep the wearer warm. The second and third collars are considered Bertha collars which drape over the shoulders, almost as if they were short capes. The top Bertha collar is sewn into the neckline with the stand collar and the under-Bertha is attached about 4 inches/10 cm down from there. The left side of the under-Bertha is slightly detached at the centre, likely due to use/wear.

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FRC2017.05.004. Photograph by Victoria Hopgood, 2018

The collars are not the only areas that have been embellished with black velvet appliques. Machine sewn onto the lower half of the cape is a large section of the same appliques that runs around the entire garment. This section is about 10 inches/25 cm wide.

Keeping the cape fastened are seven hook and eye closures, two on the collar and five on the front. They are spaced 3 inches/7.5 cm apart, stopping just under halfway down the bodice. The eye portions are made of metal and wrapped with thread. The first and third eyes are fraying, exposing the metal. The hooks are also made of metal; however, they have been painted black. On the left side of the garment is an extension made of the same wool fabric about 1 inch/2.5 cm wide resting underneath the closures to prevent them from touching the wearer. The eyes have caused fraying and discolouration turning the black wool a rusty yellow-orange colour.

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FRC2017.05.004. Detail of frayed part of extension. Photograph by Victoria Hopgood, 2018

Three pockets are located in the lining of the garment. Two of which are placed vertically on either side of the centre front opening. The pockets are placed towards centre front for easy access. Decorating the 4 inch/10 cm opening, pieces of ruched fabric and bows have been hand sewn on, but are now slightly coming detached due to the delicate nature. The pockets are about 3.5 inches/9 cm wide and are located about 14 inches/35 cm down the centre front. They have been placed here so they could be reached easily by simply bending the arm at the elbow. These pockets are quite small, but would fit small objects like a watch or a key. An additional pocket is located horizontally on the left side of the cape. Its 6 inch/15 cm opening is decorated with the same ruching and bows. This pocket is 7.5 inches/19 cm wide located at about 19 inches/48 cm down centre front and about 7.5 inches/19 cm in. This puts the pocket at about hip level at the side of the body. This larger pocket could be used for objects such as money and gloves. In addition to the wool interfacing and fur collar which would provide warmth, the pockets make this cape even more practical.

The cape includes a manufacturers label that reads “The T. Eaton Co. Limited. 190 Yonge St. Toronto” written in white on a black background. The label is approximately 1 inch/2.5 cm wide by 2 inches/5 cm long. This label will be further examined in Part III to more precisely date this garment.

Given the fabrics used, the number of pockets and the style of the cape, this garment is both beautiful and functional. The hand sewn decorative touches, visible selvedge within the seams and use of high quality materials makes it evident this garment was created with a high degree of care and attention to detail. A garment like this would likely be worn by someone of means. In the next post in the series, I will compare this cape to others manufactured around this time.

Notes

Note 1: Email communication between Ingrid Mida and Mary Wyatt.

Note 2: Mida, I., & Kim, A. (2015). The Dress Detective: A Practical Guide to Object-based Research in Fashion. Bloomsbury Academic. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca

Edited by Ingrid Mida.


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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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Introducing the Special Topics Course Participants for Reproduction of Historic Dress

by Ingrid Mida, Fashion Research Collection Co-ordinator

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I would like to introduce the new special topics course in the School of Fashion called: Reproducing Historic Dress. Designed by me and taught in conjunction with Dr. Lu Ann Lafrenz, this course is intended to provide hands-­‐on   experience  in  reproducing garments  from  historic  dress  artifacts  belonging  to  the  Ryerson   Fashion  Research  Collection.  Students  will  learn techniques  for  researching  historic  dress   and  replicating  historic  garments  from  the  original  artifact.  The  course  will be   supplemented  with  visits  to  other  dress  collections  and  related  topics  from  museology,  such   as  conservation techniques  and  mounting  of  dress.  Students  will  chose  a  historic  garment   from  the  collection  and  replicate  it exactly,  thereby  gaining  knowledge  of  historic   construction  techniques  and  materials. Three students were invited to participate in the inaugural course and are introduced below. Over the coming months, they will be uploading their progress reports as a way of sharing the creative process of their projects. Please join me in welcoming Millie, Jessica and Alys to the blog!

 

 

 

 

Millie Yates

Millie Yates

Millie Yates is a third-year Fashion Design student. She interns for Philip Sparks Tailored Goods and writes for Ryerson fashion blog StyleCircle.org. After completing her degree, she hopes to work in contemporary womenswear. Millie’s interests include pattern-drafting, screen-printing and fashion illustration. She is replicating a wool boucle jacket by Christian Dior for Holt Renfrew from the 1950s (FRC 2013.99.007).

Jessica Oakes

Jessica Oakes

Jessica Oakes is a third-year Fashion Design student and a professed costume fanatic. She has interned with a theatre for children and also in a bridal alterations store. Some day she hopes to either design and make costumes or re-create historical garments like Viking clothing and kimonos. For this course, she is replicating a woman’s purple velvet womenswear military-style jacket with overskirt and tails from the 1880s (FRC 2014.07.198).

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Alys Mak-Pilsworth

Alys Mak-Pilsworth is a fourth-year Fashion Design Student. She has interned for  the Fashion History Museum, and last year worked under my direction in the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection. She has participated in the organizing and running of the student run fashion show Twice. Besides fashion, her interests include film, literature, history, and cooking. As part of the special topics course she is replicating a patterned muslin day dress with long sleeves from the 1860s (FRC 2014.07.409).


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Evening gowns and Canadian Designer Pat McDonagh

By Ingrid Mida

There are many beautiful evening gowns in the Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University, with the oldest gown dating back to c.1860.  Wedding gowns, ball gowns and evening gowns might only be worn once or perhaps only a few times, and then stored for many years before the owner is willing to part with them. Special event clothing often makes up a high proportion of study and museum collections, and that is also true at Ryerson.

I want to feature Canadian designers as much as possible on this blog and I have selected two evening ensembles created by acclaimed Canadian designer Pat McDonagh for this post.

Label: Pat McDonagh FRC2013.99.020

Label: Pat McDonagh
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Pat McDonagh was born in England, studied at Manchester University and the Sorbonne, before coming to Canada in the 1970s. According to her website biography, she is known for her “innovative textile techniques and youthful romanticism” and has designed gowns for celebrities and royalty. She is one of the founding members of the Fashion Design Council of Canada and has had a remarkable career as a Canadian fashion designer with 2010 marking her 40th year in fashion. She has won a number of awards including:

American Legend Fur Award
Five World Bureau Awards, 1975
New York Times award for Design Excellence, 1982
Judy Award for Contribution to the Canadian Fashion Industry, 1992
The Majestic Mink Award, 1994
Bata Shoe Museum Best Shoe Award, 2000
Matinee International Award, 2002
NAFA Fur Award, 2002
FDCC Lifetime Achievement Award, 2003

The two gowns by Pat McDonagh that were photographed for the digitization project include: a gold lame two-piece ensemble (FRC2000.04.002A+B) and a white satin ball gown (FRC2013.99.020).

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Gold lame two-piece evening ensemble (FRC2000.04.002 A+B)
Pat McDonagh, c. 1980s.

This shiny metallic gold lame Edwardian style top with puffed sleeves and ruffles with a matching gold lame long gathered skirt by Pat McDonagh captures the essence of the 1980s evening look, which was a blend of decadence and Hollywood glitz.

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Back view Gold lame two-piece evening ensemble
Pat McDonagh, c.1980s (FRC2000.04.002 A+B)

The metallic finish of the lame and the cascade of ruffles would sparkle in the dimmest light.

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White satin strapless evening gown with black velvet trim and applique. FRC2013.99.020
Pat McDonagh, c.2000s.

The snow-white satin evening gown with black velvet trim at the bust-line and black velvet applique on the skirt  is another statement piece by Pat McDonagh, but in a quieter and more refined way. Undated in the collection, it probably can be situated as having been crafted in the last decade. It is in perfect condition, and perhaps was worn only once as it is unmarked.

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The black velvet applique is reminiscent of the soutache embroidery on white cotton gowns that was so popular in the 1860s. (See for example the White cotton pique day dress embroidered with black soutache from the Costume Institute at the Met. C.I.60.6.11 A+B recently on display alongside a painting by Claude Monet called “Women in the Garden” from 1866 in the exhibition Fashion, Impressionism and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art seen in this installation shot).

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Close up of applique detail on FRC2013.99.020

After writing this post, Pat McDonagh corrected my interpretation and told me that this dress was actually designed for “Canada’s first winner of the Rose of Tralee Festival in Tralee Ireland. Contestants of Irish descent come from all over the world to compete for the title of Irish Rose, the dress was prepared with traditional Irish symbols, it is the biggest pageant festival in the world.” This festival takes its inspiration from a 19th century ballad about a woman called “The Rose of Tralee” because of her beauty.

Both evening gowns featured in this post are finely finished, a hallmark of the Canadian label Pat McDonagh.

The FRC also holds another six garments by Pat McDonagh that were not photographed for the digitization project, including:

Ball gown,  hand-painted yellow silk with full skirt, c.2005-2010. (FRC2013.99.010)

Dress, Green, purple, orange and pink hoizontal striped silk chemise dress with short sleeves and V-neck, c.1970s. (FRC1998.04.003)

Evening gown, black floral printed chiffon spaghetti strap dress with blouson top, gathered waist and panelled overskirt, c. 1976-79. (FRC19888.02.008)

Evening gown, gray one-shoulder knit, beaded. c.2000-2010. (FRC2013.02.005).

Evening gown, grey sequined evening dress with train, spaghetti straps with cross-over back, c.2007-2010. (FRC.2013.99.025)

Skirt, Black lace tiered calf length. c.1980s. (FRC2000.04.003).

Additional References:

About Pat McDonagh”. Pat McDonagh n.d. Web, Jan. 2013.

Routh, Caroline. In Style: 100 Years of Canadian Women’s Fashions. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1993. Print.