Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive


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Drawing Habits: Learning to Look Attentively at Dress

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Workshop participants, Photo by Victoria Hopgood


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?