Patent Fashions – 1912 adjustable dress form

Simplex Adjustable Dress Form, Brooklyn, NY, Pat. Feb 20, 1912.  Patent 1,018,377 is for the adjustable knob on the top that you could dial to your size (arms mechanical push out the bodice sections to give accurate chest, waist and hips measurements.) The patent was applied for by Jacob Satin (a subject of the Czar of Russia according to the American patent form!) living in New York.

12.12.12 – Life in Three Centuries Opens Sept 22

View of dresses from 1812

Yesterday we installed our exhibition 12.12.12 at the Markham Museum. 12.12.12 compares life in 1812, 1912, and 2012 through social and pop history – fashion, transportation, and music. The show debuted in March in Guelph, but has been substantially changed for its current venue. This time the installation features a fashion show of clothes from 2012, a Model T Ford built in the fall of 2012, a coach built in 1810 that plied the route between Pembroke and Ottawa for half a century, and a contemporary electric bicycle.

The featured dresses from 1812 include a Dutch dress made of French fabric (Napoleon required Dutch citizens to buy French fabric), a wedding dress from Quebec, and an American silk plaid dress.

Motoring in fall 1912

Fashions on display from 1912 feature a Parisian pink silk evening gown, a cotton dress embroidered in India, and a black faux fur coat from Northway’s – a popular Toronto clothier at the time. Aside from the parade of 2012 fashions, other features from the current year include a hat designed for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee by Toronto milliner David Dunkley.

The exhibition text recounts the popular culture and news of the day: Every Canadian knows 1812 as the year America invaded Canada but it was also a year of killer earthquakes in Venezuela and Missouri, and when Napoleon began to lose his European empire. 1812 was also the year the Waltz became the latest popular dance, and when ice cream cones, soda-pop, and ketchup became popular.

2012 fashion parade with clothes by Material Girl, Jason Wu, Desigual, Papillon, Joe Fresh, and others

1912 is best remembered as the year the Titanic sank, but it was also the year the last Emperor of China abdicated, Hollywood became a movie-making mecca, Calgary held its first Stampede, and when a new kind of music called ‘Blues’ appeared.

12.12.12 opens at Markham Museum this coming Saturday, September 22, and closes April 30, 2013.

Fashion and Reality – What to wear on the Titanic

red wool sweater, painted scarf, and skirt, c. 1912

Dorothy Gibson wearing the sweater she wore the night of the sinking of the Titanic

This is a bit of coincidence… The colour photograph is of a mannequin we put together for an exhibition at a local museum that was hosting the R.M.S. Titanic travelling exhibition. Just recently I discovered this black and white image of the actress Dorothy Gibson, wearing a nearly identical sweater. Dorothy Gibson was a survivor of the Titanic and this image is from a film about the sinking of the ship, where she wore the same clothes she wore the night of the wreck.

12.12.12 – Life in Three Centuries

The Fashion History Museum’s exhibition ‘12.12.12: Life in Three Centuries’ will open January 21 at the newly renovated Guelph Civic Museum. The exhibition looks at life in 1812, 1912, and 2012 through news headlines, social history, and pop culture: In 1812, U.S. president James Madison was waging an unpopular war, soda-pop was a new drink, and the sexiest man alive was Lord Byron. In 1912, Oreo cookies first appeared on store shelves, the Titanic struck an iceberg, and everyone was keeping up with the Castles — on the dance floor.

A special evening will be held at the museum on Friday, February 24, when we will be on hand for a special tour of the exhibition. 12.12.12. will be at the Guelph Civic Museum until March 10. Its next confirmed booking will be at the Markham Museum starting September 20, 2012.

Who’s that girl with my grandfather?

I recently inherited a photo album that had belonged to my mother’s father after he moved to Vancouver B.C. in 1911, well before he met and married my grandmother in 1927. My grandfather looked nothing like me – he was short, had a wirey, lean build, sharp features, grey-blue eyes and a receding hairline by the age of 20. I never met him, he died  several years before I was born, but I have been told by relatives who did know him that he was athletic, had a keen wit, could hold his liquor, sing like an Irishman, and  ‘ladies found him very charming…’

I remember seeing this album when I was a kid and asking my mother who the lady was with all the clothes. Nobody knew for sure but the family legend was that she was a member of the Spencer family of Spencer’s Department Store  (the high-end department store in Vancouver from 1907 until 1948 – I’ll blog about that store in a few days.)

I thought I would post some of the pictures of this mystery fashionista on the slight chance somebody might recognize her or the buildings in the background. None of the images have any identifying marks or writing and none of the buildings have addresses. What I do know is that judging by the fashions, he must have known the mystery woman from about 1912 – 1915.

The Shape of Things to Come? I need your thoughts…

The Fashion History Museum will soon be launching “12.12.12: Life in Three Centuries” An exhibition that will explore the history of 1812, 1912, and 2012 through contemporary styles of social media journalism: top ten lists, what’s hot – what’s not, who wore it better, etc.

Capitalizing on two major historic events: the bicentennial of the War of 1812, and the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, this exhibition will look at the similarities and differences of living in three different centuries through pop and high culture, current events, and everyday life.

In 1812, Lord Byron was a hottie, Pride and Prejudice was a best seller, and ice cream cones were the summer treat. In 1912, you could buy Oreos and Life Savers for the first time, Ragtime and cubism were new, and the hobble skirt debuted. But what about 2012?

Tell me your predictions for the fashion, fads and famous people of 2012. Does your vision of next year include Lady Gaga, Goji berries, Justin Beiber, longer hemlines, a pregnant Duchess of Cambridge? Tell me what you think!