Canadian Fashion Connection – Stanfield’s

In 1882, Charles Stanfield established the Truro Woollen Mills in Nova Scotia. His sons took over the business in 1896 and developed a patented process for making unshrinkable wool union suits in 1915. Stanfield’s went on to diversify its product line, adding women’s rayon underwear, and men’s cotton undershorts and shirts in the 1920s. The company is still in business.

Stanfield’s in store display, 1920s

Canadian Fashion Connection – C. J. Grenier Ltd.

Jerome Grenier established his corset company in Montreal in 1860. Over the years the company grew to include bras and girdles, stockings, and swimwear – one of their most popular product lines was the Caresse bra. Since the 1990s, it became increasingly difficult for the company to compete with cheaper offshore production and after four generations of family ownership, Grenier closed in 2016.

Advertisement 1999

Canadian Fashion Connection – Galt Knitting Company

View of factory in Galt, c. 1914

Founded in 1881 by Adam Warnock, the Galt Knitting Co. manufactured knitted cotton undergarments as well as knitted shoe and boot linings. The company was renamed Tiger Brand Knitting Company in 1954 after a line of men’s underwear they had been producing with a tiger trademark as early as c. 1914. The company manufactured a variety of knitted cotton garments (mostly fashion sportswear – T-shirts etc.) under the Tiger brand. In the late 1980s they also manufactured a line under the label ‘Non-Fiction’. The company sought bankruptcy protection in late 2004. The business was sold to an offshore numbered company in 2005 and production was moved to China. The old factory seen in the 1914 advertisement above lay empty for a few years before being retrofitted into lofts in 2008.

Canadian Fashion Connection – McGregor Socks

Latex counter model of the maniacal smiling sock - typically found in chain stores that carried Happy Foot McGregor socks in the 1950s

Latex counter model of the maniacal smiling sock found in chain stores that carried ‘Happy Foot’ McGregor socks in the 1950s

McGregor Socks was founded in Toronto in 1928 by brothers Jack and Nathan Lipson and brother-in-law Joseph Doran. Although none had Scottish roots, the name was chosen to capitalize on the stereotype of the frugal Scot.

In the late 1930s the company created a cushion-soled health sock sold under the name ‘Happy Foot’. This became the company’s best known brand, and is still being made today.

By the 1960s the McGregor brand had expanded into women’s and girl’s legwear and today holds licenses for Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Reebok, Chaps and IZOD.

The company is still family owned and head quartered in Toronto, with manufacturing, sales and distribution centres located around the world in 75 countries.

The company has a very informative page on their website that covers everything you could ever want to know about hosiery.

Canadian lingerie designer Claire Haddad 1924-2016 (primarily active 1964-1985)

Claire Haddad receiving her Cody award in 1967

Claire Haddad receiving her Coty award in 1967

Born Claire Margaret Bardwell in Toronto, Claire Haddad was  a pioneer of Canadian designer lingerie. She was born into the fashion trade – her parents, born in Syria and Lebanon, had started Bard’s, a company that made bathrobes and housecoats from terrycloth and Viyella – a cotton/wool blend.  After taking some pattern making and design courses, Claire went into the family business at about the same time she married Albert Haddad in 1944.

Varuchka modelling a Claire Haddad in the April 15 1966 edition of Vogue

Veruschka modelling a Claire Haddad in the April 15 1966 edition of Vogue

In 1964 Claire and Albert launched Claire Haddad Limited, their own lingerie company that specialized in peignoir sets. Their venture was an immediate success. Claire received six Edee (Canadian fashion) awards between 1965 and 1968, and an American Coty award in 1967. Her clothes were often reported in American fashion publications including Women’s Wear Daily and Vogue. Some of Claire’s clients included: Carol Burnett, Cyd Charisse, Arlene Dahl, Dinah Christie, Mary Tyler Moore, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Claire’s business peaked around the time she received an Order of Canada for her contribution to the Canadian fashion industry in 1979. Off-shore manufacturing was creating a competitive market in the early 1980s and obtaining quality materials and workmanship was becoming increasingly difficult. Rather than see the quality of her products suffer, Claire closed her business in 1985. For more information about Claire Haddad visit her website.

Here is a great obit that was published in the Globe and Mail

Albert Haddad predeceased Claire in 2014, Claire passed away May 17, 2016

Bloomerism in Corning New York, 1851

photo 10This past summer we visited the Corning Glass Museum (well worth the visit), where Kenn took a photo of an 1851 painting in their collection depicting the earliest known view of Corning, before the glassworks were built.

photo 8The view of the town depicts a couple taking a stroll with the woman dressed in a Bloomer costume: an outfit named for Amelia Bloomer consisting of loose fitting ‘harem’ trousers, like those worn by women in the Middle East and Central Asia, under a short skirt.

The weight of multiple petticoats required to achieve the full skirt fashionable at the time caused editor Amelia Bloomer to advocate for dress reform in her publication The Lily: “The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.”

Bloomer was not the first to adopt the bifurcated costume. Both New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller and actress Fanny Kemble began wearing what they considered to be the more rational trouser costume during the day. Miller showed her trouser outfit to her cousin Elizabeth Stanton who wore one when she visited Amelia Bloomer. Bloomer immediately took up the fashion and it was her name that became associated with the style. Subjected to ridicule in the press and harassment on the street, Bloomer stopped wearing the fashion named for her in 1859, saying (surprisingly) that the crinoline was a sufficient reform from conventional dress as the crinoline took the place of multiple petticoats.

The bloomer costume survived in the form of bathing and gymnastic sportswear, as well as another name for pantaloons or knickers.

1876 Canadian book railing against corsetry

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Advertisement for ‘Hutch’ a medicine marketed to women with corset-related stomach pains, Toronto Star, January 4, 1901

I am not a follower of the Victorian hysteria over corsetry. When worn responsibly, corsets simply smoothed the figure, slightly slimmed the waist and supported the breasts – however it is the vanity of the wearer that turned these reasonable undergarments into objects of torture. Most of the Victorian anti-corsetry books and articles I have read are by unknown writers using hyperbolic arguments. Although their usual promotion for rational dress is admirable, their arguments rely upon religious reasoning and medical quackery, exaggerated facts and first-hand accounts presented without evidence. Regardless, these documents can be amusing reads and they express a  concern many had over the wearing of corsets and the problem with tight-lacing. Here is a collection of essays I just discovered is available online that I had never heard of: Dress and Health: How to be Strong – A Book for Ladies, published in Montreal in 1876.