A couple of years ago I came across a stack of photographs from the mid 1960s in a junk shop. Two of the photographs had writing on the reverse that identified the people in the photograph as Elsa Jenkins with a model and Guy Laroche in Paris in one photo, and at Lanvin in Paris in the other photo. After a bit of sleuthing I managed to find out a bit more about Elsa Jenkins.
Elsa was working as a fashion editor for McLean’s publishing in Toronto in 1952 when she became the director of the Women’s Division of the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNE). The purpose of the Women’s Division was to promote women’s interests at the annual fair, particularly in the presentation of kitchen theatres, home furnishing exhibits, school displays, and fashion shows at both the Better Living Centre and the Women’s Building (after it opened in 1957).
I barely remember when there was still palpable excitement over fairs and exhibitions like the CNE where you could see the latest model cars, taste foreign foods, walk through a model house of the future, and marvel at modern gadgets. Fashion was a part of these fairs, where everything from haute couture to novelty space age outfits made of plastics could be seen live.
Although not a journalist, Elsa Jenkins contributed to the field of fashion in Canada for 28 years through the production of shows and exhibitions of fashion. She remained at the CNE until 1980 when her position was dissolved and its functions distributed amongst other departments within the CNE.