Twenty years ago I was asked to sit on the founding committee of the Seneca College Fashion Resource Centre by Claire Becker, who was the keenest proponent for the creation of a teaching collection. One time, during a discussion about something or other, I commented that it was too bad there wasn’t a book about Canadian dressmakers and milliners, because, for example, I didn’t know who the milliner ‘Peggy Claire’ was (a hat label I happened to see earlier that day), to which Claire Becker responded ‘that was me!’
The label was the amalgam of two women’s names, Peggy, who taught millinery at Delta Collegiate in Hamilton Ontario, and Claire. They started their millinery business in 1958 and by 1960 had a shop in downtown Hamilton. Some of their early work included making fur hats and bridal headwear on commission for Hamilton area shops.
In 1965 they opened a store in Toronto, with Claire managing the Toronto location and Peggy remaining in Hamilton. Four years later they were invited to rent space in Harridges, a high-end women’s clothier in the Colonnade shopping plaza at the heart of the fashionable Bloor street shopping strip of Toronto. Despite the general abandonment of hats in the late 1960s, ‘Peggy Claire’ did well, but when the lease was up for renewal at double the rent in 1972, Peggy and Claire decided it was time to dissolve the partnership and close up shop. Claire headed off to teach at Seneca College, where twenty-years later she would be busy founding the Seneca College Fashion Resource Centre.