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.

Canadian Fashion Connection – Centennial Costumes

Costumes worn July 1, 1967 for centennial celebrations in Alma, Ontario

Perhaps the first preparation to commemorate the  American Civil War (1860 – 1865) centennial began with the publishing of McCall’s pattern #1759 in 1952 – identified as a “Centennial Costume”. More patterns followed throughout the 1950s and early 1960s from the ‘Big Three’ pattern publishers: McCall’s, Simplicity, Butterick. All the patterns produced were very loosely based recreations – I have yet to see one 1960s Centennial dress that has made me look twice to consider if it might be a real dress from the 1860s. The centennial patterns were created to suit modern figures with ‘lift and separate’ brassieres and uncorseted waists. The resulting dresses were also invariably run up on a machine and made from poly-cotton, rayon satin, or nylon taffeta. Virtually all American Civil War Centennial costumes were made from one of these patterns, as well as Canada’s 1967 Centennial costumes (with the addition of one pattern produced by McCall’s specifically for Canada’s Centennial that featured a late 1860s silhouette.)

Centennial costume party in Marmora, Ontario

As celebrations geared up in Canada throughout 1967, newspapers featured front cover photographs of community elders and school children dressed in these inauthentic costume creations, often accessorized with vintage muffs or parasols, collars and hats found in attic trunks and dress-up boxes. I don’t know how many of these costumes I scornfully flipped through on racks at garage sales and thrift stores in the 1980s and 1990s, but by the time I realized I should acquire an example or two for the collection, they had all disappeared.

Fortunately, in 2013 I found two, advertised on Kijiji that had been worn on July 1, 1967 for celebrations in Alma, Ontario. The mother/daughter dresses in red gingham and mauve, were even featured on the front cover of the July 1 local paper.

As Seen In – Op Art knit dress

Advertisement from 1967 Fall/Winter Eaton’s catalogue

Black and white Op Art knit dress, unlabelled, c. 1966 – 1967







Although I found this dress in the U.S., the advertisement for its nearly identical twin (the  patterned mid-section is narrower) is from the 1967 Fall/Winter catalogue of Eaton’s Canada. I suspect the American dress is a season or two earlier, as the longer patterned section  makes the dress longer – more typical of 1966 hem lengths.

As Seen In – 1967 Paper Dress by Ruth Dukas

Paper evening gown made by Toronto fashion designer Ruth Dukas in 1967 for a gala event in support of the National Ballet of Canada.

Right: The dress now resides in the Royal Ontario Museum’s collection.

Left: A black and white photo of a model wearing the dress appeared in the Toronto Telegram November 16, 1967.

Fadshions – 1967 Psychedelic Tarzan bathing suit

I was browsing Etsy a few weeks back and came across this great psychedelic flower-power print panel that looks like a miniskirt, but it’s actually a man’s bikini bathing suit with front and back panels to make it look like a Tarzan-style loincloth. I haven’t seen one before and its not normally the sort of thing I collect for the museum but it had a lot of bells and whistles – unusual garment, great print, label… So I bookmark it and go off to think… I didn’t forgot about it, but it wasn’t a priority…

A couple of weeks pass and I run across a casual reference in an article from 1967 about ‘loincloth’ bathing suits for men – surely this is what they are talking about. And then, not an hour later, I come across this image by Henry Diltz of Hippies in New York painting their faces before heading off to a ‘be-in’ in Central Park. Sure enough, the guy in the picture is wearing a shirt in the identical print.

So I decide, yes, I have to get the suit for the museum, but he who hesitates – loses. The bathing suit was gone…

Basic Black – 1967

If you have never seen this video and you are are into fashion, it’s required viewing… It was created in early 1967 by William Claxton, Peggy Moffit, and Rudi Gernreich. Claxton later wrote: “In 1967 Peggy and I had just returned from ‘swinging London’ and Paris to work in New York. We were commissioned by a small commercial production company to come up with something which would serve as my ‘reel’ in order to get hired to direct TV commercials. While sitting on our bed at the Algonquin Hotel, we collaborated in writing a shooting script that would show fashion, makeup, and hair on three beautiful models wearing the fashion designs of avant-garde Rudi Gernreich’s collection for that fall. We shot the film on a weekend, had original music composed for the sound track and ‘Basic Black’ was born. It was very well received, won several awards and has been referred to as the first fashion video.”