Canadian Fashion Connection – Elsie Lexchin

Purple straw hat with purple veil and rose, labelled 'Elsie', c. 1953

Purple straw hat with purple veil and rose, labelled ‘Elsie’, c. 1953

Born in Belarus in 1900, Elsie Lexchin immigrated to Toronto as a child and apprenticed as a milliner in Detroit before returning to Toronto to open her first shop at Bay and College Streets in the early 1940s. In the 1960s ‘Elsie’s Millinery’ moved to 126 Cumberland Avenue, and closed in the early 1980s when Elsie retired. Her business was not a shop, but rather a custom millinery where you came for an appointment – no two women had the same Elsie hat.

Her niece recalled in a 1995 interview that Elsie’s clients were mostly Toronto society women including the Westons, and the wives of E.P Taylor and prime minister John Diefenbaker, and recalled an incident when Mrs. Diefenbaker (Olive) walked out in a huff because Elsie was busy with another client.

Elsie Lexchin died on May 28, 1995

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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11 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Elsie Lexchin

  1. CLAIRE HEWITT says:

    I lived above Elsie’s salon in Cumberland in 1964. What a gracious and kind lady she was. Next door was a fashion designer, any idea who that might have been? Perhaps Marilyn Brooks, thinking she was still on Gerrard. Great that you are such a dedicated archivist.

    • Jonathan says:

      Marilyn Brooks was still on Gerard in 1964. I don’t know who that was but some day will find out! Thanks for your memory of Elsie!

    • Helen Aitkin says:

      Claire, were you still around when Claire Wallace established her travel agency next door? Cumberland was so vibrant those days

  2. Gay Halpenny says:

    I just came across this article …… re Elsie Hats …..
    My mother worked for Elsie for quite a few years in the latter 40s and early 50s.
    Her shop was in a big old house on College just west of Bay St south side.
    As a young girl I would sometimes go to the shop on a Sat am and was taught how to sew sequins on hats.
    I also remember Elsie’s sister Molly.
    Very fond memories …… they were both very good to me.

    • Jonathan says:

      It’s been a long time since there was any houses on College street west of Bay! Thanks for your memories!

  3. Morton Cohen says:

    Great comments regarding my aunt Eksie Lexchin. Some minor corrections. Her shop at Bay and College was on the north west corner. When the corner was designated for a large office building, she moved to the South west corner, on the 2nd floor. She wanted to be near Eatons College street. When that corner was up for redevelopment ,she mOved to Cumberland street on the south side. Again it was up for redevelopment. She then moved to the north side of Cumberland at 126. She had a close relstionship with CrEeds who were located at the south east corner of Bay and Bloor. I heard her mention the name of Eddie Creed many times.

  4. Larry Lexchin says:

    I am a nephew of Elsie Lexchin and I remember as a young child I would go to her shop on Cumberland St and pick up all the straight pins that were left scattered around the shop. I still have the magnet that my aunt gave me to perform this task. I also have a hat that Elsie made for my wife as her going away hat after the marriage ceremony in the original Elsie Hat box. My wife and I plan on donating these items plus others to the museum in the coming months.

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