Canadian Fashion Connection – Sarah Clothes

Red and black caftan, late 1970s

Sarah Pouliot began as a costume cutter at The Stratford Theatre Festival in 1953 but when she and her family moved to Ottawa in 1961 Sarah began her own dressmaking business. By 1967 she had moved her work to a storefront at 46 Elgin street. Tired of the tailored mini dresses she was hired to make, Sarah began to create comfortable kaftans and billowy skirts to sell in the shop. A trip to Thailand in 1972 resulted in her coming home with bolts of fabric, silver jewellery, and raw silk scarves to sell in her shop. In 1975 she discovered India and the nature of her business changed…

Sarah Pouliout at her home in Jaipur

In 1977 Sarah began a wholesaling business designing clothes made in India using natural dyes made from pomegranates, indigo, and saffron, printed in patterns created from wooden blocks cut by hand. Her daughters Andree and Madeleine joined the firm, Andree with designing, and Madeleine with business. Sarah Clothes was soon wholesaling to boutiques across the country, and internationally as well. Around the same time, a branch store was opened in Toronto’s toney Yorkville neighbourhood.

The shops were closed in 1996, although Sarah continues to design from her home in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Her daughter Andree re-established a wholesale line in 2016, that sells similar designs to local boutiques.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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9 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Sarah Clothes

  1. Anne Denoon says:

    Thanks for this fascinating backstory. I well remember Sarah Clothes’ Yorkville shop, especially their long cotton-gauze skirts, which were twisted and knotted while damp to create a DIY, budget Fortuny effect when unrolled. (I think they may also have had a shop on Front Street near St Lawrence Market at some point.)

    • Jonathan says:

      I remember the one in St. Lawrence market in the mid-late 80s, but I didn’t find any reference to it in any of my research – and I DEFINITELY remember the cotton skirts a la Fortuny!

  2. Mary Louise Reilly says:

    I bought beautiful clothes from Sarah Clothes on Elgin Street in Ottawa in the 80’s. I still have a long, vest/coat in hand embroidered green with cinnamon inside that I wear as a work of art and love, on occasion. And many happy memories of her store.

    • Jonathan says:

      That’s the beauty to clothes like hers – they aren’t trendy, so you can wear them for years.

  3. I lived in Ottawa for many years and bought your clothing. I now live in Bradenton FL and could use your fashions and cotton more than ever. How can I get youdierdrer fashions again???

  4. I just want to emphasize you are needed here in Baedebtin st Petersburg and Sarsota area on the Gulf Coast of central Florda
    I can not find anything g compatible anywhere

  5. Hanna says:

    i came to Ottawa in 1982 and Sarah’s clothes were to me, an immigrant mother, a dream… I loved the Bank st store, eventually i bought my most expensive piece of clothing then- a padded kaftan, lovely memory…
    Lively patterns… i missed the stores…

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