This past week the Fashion History Museum received the archives of Ellen Peterson. Born Ellen Tullus in Pärnu Estonia on April 29, 1922, she was the third generation from a family of dressmakers. Her mother had a salon that was closed when the Soviet Union annexed Estonia in June 1940. A year later, when the German army liberated Estonia from the Soviets, Ellen and her mother went to Germany where Ellen married in 1944 and bore two children over the next two years.
In 1947 Ellen was admitted to Germany’s Esslingen Fashion School and upon completing the program opened a dressmaking salon. In 1949 she won first prize from four hundred entries for a one-shouldered dress design she called ‘Diana’, and later the same year registered a patent for a coat design she called ‘Regola’ that could be converted into a jacket via removable coat tails and shoulder cape.
In 1952 Ellen left Germany for Canada and worked as a freelance designer for various sportswear and dress manufacturers before starting up her own salon again. By 1957 Ellen was known for her bridal wear but also evening gowns and elegant daywear. As the fashion world changed in the 1960s, Ellen’s business dwindled, closing to the public in early 1963.
In 1970 Ellen opened a school of fashion design, and received official diploma-granting status as a registered fashion institute in 1978. She closed the school in 1990 and worked as a fashion design teacher in Tallinn, Estonia, and at Sheridan College in Toronto before retiring from the business in 1992.
Ellen Peterson passed away at the age of 96 on October 13, 2018.