I’m BAAAAACK — not really

It’s been a year since I called it quits on this blog, and I don’t regret it as the museum has been taking up more of my time. However, I am still maintaining the site and answering queries and posting responses to online comments. I am also updating some of the blogs.

There are posts that I did in haste and don’t represent my ‘brand’, for example, film costume reviews are being done by many other bloggers now. However, instead of deleting these blogs, I am replacing them with new content – mostly information about labels, designers, and companies. If you want to see what the most recent additions are – hit the ‘reblogged’ link in the categories list.

Closing a Chapter

I have decided to bring this blog to an end. It has become an expense and chore to keep up, rather than a joyful outlet.

I will be going through this blog and reposting the ‘best of’ posts on the Fashion History Museum’s website blog, so anything with well-researched history or Canadian design info, as well as any popular blogs that spawned great feedback or conversation will be moved to their new home.

I started this blog on October 26, 2008, and after my host accidentally erased the entire site in December 2010 I started over again after retrieving what I could from the ashes of cached articles. I am a big believer in the 12 year cycle, and now, at the age of 60, I feel like I have come to the end of a chapter in my life and the start of a new one. The pandemic has helped all of us take stock of our lives and I am now focussed on, more than anything else, ensuring that the museum’s future is secure beyond my lifetime.

So, thank-you readers, whoever you may be. I was flattered when designers commented on the blogs I wrote about them – and that happened a lot! I am also grateful to those who supplied personal histories about extinct brands or forgotten retailers – you added a lot to this blog. It has been fun but it’s time to go. Thank-you.

a pre-pandemic shot when I could still get a haircut!

Canadian Fashion Connection – Monica Schnarre

Scarborough-raised Monica Schnarre won the Ford “Supermodel of the World” contest at the age of 14, in 1986. Schnarre immediately began working 300 days a year “There were weeks that I was on a plane every night” she recalls in a recent interview.  

Her adventures in modelling took her from Russia in 1987 where she and Christy Turlington were launching a fashion magazine and being followed by the KGB, to Berlin in 1989 where she was one of the last people to go through Checkpoint Charlie on the last day it existed.

Schnarre has been shot by many great photographers: Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, but her favourite photograph was taken by Bill King for French Vogue when she was 15 years old. She also appeared on the cover of American Vogue when she was 15, sharing the title of youngest ever on the cover with Brooke Shields. 

In the 1990s, her modelling career led to some acting work, including playing a supermodel on the soap The Bold and the Beautiful. 

Schnarre turned 50 this past May. When asked for some beauty tips, she said she rinses her mouth with diluted hydrogen peroxide once in a while to keep her teeth white, and to control her weight she makes sure she is hungry between meals and never eats after 7 p.m.

Canadian Fashion Connection – D’Allaird’s

George William D’Allaird was born in Troy New York in 1866. The family name had been changed by his father from Jocco to D’Allaird before George was born, which is probably why George often used a J. initial for his middle name. He married Clara Dufresne in Whitehall, New York in 1898 and the two moved to Montreal where George worked as a cutter at a shirt factory. George struck out on his own in 1914, making shirtwaists and selling them directly to customers which allowed him to offer his blouses for less money than competitors. By 1916 he was advertising his shirtwaists for between 98 cents and $7.98. In 1918, he was operating a four story factory and 14 stores across Canada. That same year his business joined The United Waist League of America – the first Canadian waist manufacturer to join the league.

Advertisement for D’Allaird’s blouses, c. 1920

George is listed in the Montreal businessman’s directory of 1923 as the owner of the D’Allaird Waist Manufacturing Company, president of a homeopathic hospital, member of the Montreal Board of Trade, as well as an avid golfer with membership at two golf clubs. The business survived George’s death in 1924, becoming a chain of 30 stores by 1972 when the English chain Marks and Spencer bought the company. By 2001 D’Allairds had been resold to clothing retailer Comark Inc, and was shut down two years later, after 89 years in business.

Canadian Fashion Connection – Warren K. Cook

Warren K. Cook (1887 – 1972)

The Cook Clothing Company was founded in Toronto in 1920 by Warren K. Cook. He later established an eponymously named high end menswear line in 1935. In 1949 Warren’s son William A. Cook took over the business and officially changed the name of the company to Warren K. Cook Ltd., trademarking a signature label the following year. 

The company produced top-of-the-line suits for menswear shops across the country, but also offered custom work until 1989 when William Cook sold the family business. The new owners were the Hamilton menswear company Coppley that was known for its quality menswear produced under the labels Cambridge and Keithmoor, as well as licensed brands like Ralph Lauren. Coppley continued to produce the Warren K. Cook line, which featured hand set sleeve linings and a signature detail on all Cook jackets – a slightly flared cuff with a single button. This feature that can be seen in films of Oscar Peterson playing the piano in his Cook suits. 

Warren Cook died in 1972, and William Cook died in 2003. Coppley was bought out in 1998 and the Toronto offices for Warren Cook were closed that same year. The new owners of Coppley held the Warren K. Cook trademark until 2009. The trademark was expunged in 2011.

Oscar Peterson wearing a Warren K. Cook jacket (the cuff with a slight flare is typical of Cook jackets)

Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Eldridge Cleaver

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver was born in 1935. By the late 1960s he had become a leading activist in the Black Panther Party, but after mounting an ambush on Oakland police, during which two officers were wounded and a Black Panther member was killed, Eldridge fled to Cuba and later Algeria to avoid prosecution.

In 1972 he moved to Paris where he became a born again Christian and turned his hand to fashion design. In 1975 he released his modern take on the codpiece with his “virility pants”, aka “Cleavers”. He promoted the idea that they would give men “a chance to assert their masculinity” and saw no conflict between the overt sexuality of his pants and his newfound Christianity.

Cleaver returned to the United States in 1977 to face the unresolved attempted murder charge. During the proceedings he incorporated Eldridge Cleaver Ltd. and began manufacturing and selling his “Cleavers”, which he claimed liberated men from “penis binding”. His charge was reduced to assault and he was sentenced to 1,200 hours’ community service, but his pants never found much success. Cleaver eventually joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became a member of the Republican party. He died in 1998.

Lovable Brassiere Co. (c. 1932 – 1998)

Polish-born Frank Gottesman met and married his Austrian-born wife Gussie in New York City, and moved to Atlanta, Georgia where Frank worked in a ladies undergarment factory. In 1926 he bought the factory and by 1932 had renamed and trademarked his company as the Lovable Brassiere Company. 

Frank also fully integrated the work floor and lunchroom – a progressive move for a southern company at the time. The company was also progressive with wages, paying workers $9 per week – well above the national average.

At some point after 1940 Frank changed the family’s last name to the more American-sounding Garson. Although the sewing was eventually sent off-shore, the company remained a family-run business until a deal with Walmart, their biggest buyers, changed the terms of their agreement and forced Lovable to close in 1998. The company’s name was picked up by an Indian company that now makes brassieres under the Lovable brand name.