Montreal in two days and six exhibitions – Exhibit 1 – Fashioning Expo 67

Canada pulp and paper pavilion uniform by John Warden

Warden’s design for the Pulp and Paper pavilion

When the possibility for a few days away could be pried out of the summer schedule, Montreal came up tops as a destination. I especially wanted to see Fashioning Expo 67 because the FHM had loaned a couple of garments for the show. Also, when I was six I remember feeling deprived when I was informed we were not going to Montreal for Expo because we lived in Vancouver and it was too far — so I wasn’t going to miss this show too! Kenn and I took the scenic route to get there, picking up donations for the museum in Killaloe and checking out the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte where the FHM will be mounting WARdrobe in 2019.

On our first day in Montreal we met up with friends Mary Jane and Ron Enros from the Vintage Fashion Guild who joined us on our visit to the McCord to see Fashioning Expo 67. The exhibition was meticulous. The period-inspired presentation is thoughtful, flawlessly mounted, and the vast amount of information is shared in different ways so you can read or listen to as much as you want. I often don’t like audio guides because they repeat label information, however, in this show the audio guides have some great background stories and first-hand recollections from the hostesses who were there.

Orange suit and dress for the Italian pavilion designed by Sorelle Fontana; Striped dress and suit designed by Roger Nelson for the British pavilion, and the PVC raincoat and white dress with scarf headwrap designed by Bill Blass for the American pavilion.

The first gallery showcased about twenty-five original host and hostess outfits designed by Serge & Real, Michel Robichaud, John Warden, Bill Blass, Sorelle Fontana, and others — all chic, mod dresses and suits in contemporary textiles like polyester/wool blends and corfam that must have been uncomfortable in the hot humid Montreal summer. The hats were largely hated by most of the hostesses, but were designed as part of the uniforms so they could be easily spotted in a crowd. As the fair opened in April 1967, most of the uniforms were designed the previous year and although fashionable, most were not conspicuously edgy in their styling – hemlines hovered just above the knee. The one exception was the British uniform which had the shortest skirts. Apparently once their deportment inspection was complete in the morning, Canadian hostesses would roll the waistband of their skirts to hike up the hemline to try to match the British girls. There were many wonderful stories told in this section – enough to keep us in the first gallery for the best part of an hour.

In the next gallery there were clothes worn by Madame Drapeau, the wife of the mayor of Montreal who entertained various visiting heads of state, including Grace Kelly whose flowered frock is also on display.

The rest of the exhibition looks at the fashions promoted in the pavilions and showcased in lively fashion shows at the fair where models roller-skated and danced down the runway (yes, there is a video of one of the shows!) Some of the garments on display in this section were made by Montreal manufacturers, like the two dresses on loan from the FHM that included a flowered summer outfit consisting of bermuda shorts and top, and a tailored beige wool dress with standing collar that resembles the uniforms worn by the hostesses in the first gallery.

Fashioning Expo 67 is a great show and worth the visit, but hurry, it closes October 1.

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