Monday, 9 January 2017

Canadian Costume, Sesquicentenary Project

It all started when I stumbled across this picture and rare reference to Canada in Punch Magazine from 1883.

Lord Lansdowne in 1883.

First, I noticed the coat was similar to Canadian blanket coats that you see in reference to fur-trade, and early Canadian winter carnivals. Then I noticed the caption, "Lord Lansdowne: in his Canadian Costume specially adapted to remaining some time out in the cold".

I found it interesting that they referred to this as 'Canadian Costume'. I was curious to know whether they thought this was a Canadian national costume, and if it reflected a Canadian stereotype of the time. I began to think that this may be the outfit for me to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.

I went looking in my other Punch Magazines for cartoons depicting the same outfit and I found another from 1862.

"CAPTION FROM PUNCH" - Photo to be added soon!

This cartoon referred to this style of outfit as 'Canadian dress'. After seeing both outfits, I was  convinced that I was looking at a Canadian stereotype of the time. With this knowledge in hand, I began scouring the internet for more references to this style of clothing, using search terms such as "Canadian Blanket Coat 1880s" and "Canadian Costume 1880s".

My searches came up with several extraordinary results from the McCord Museum, which happens to have several original Canadian blanket coats of the 1880s.

                    Source                                                                         Source

With more searching on the museum webpage, I discovered a collection of William Notman Photographs. William Notman (1826-1891) was a Montreal photographer famous for his winter scenes. Within his photographs, there are nearly a hundred that depict Canadians in this style of dress engaging in various winter activities, such as tobogganing and snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing and tobogganing. Source

After seeing Notman's stunning photographs, I knew I had to make one of these outfits (being a Canadian, of course), even though I live in Vancouver, the one part of Canada that rarely gets snow.

The other major incentive for making this outfit was that I wanted to create an outfit specifically for the Sesquicentenary (150th) anniversary of Canada's Confederation.  This outfit is perfect as many of Notman's photographs of this style of dress date from 1867, which is the year of Canadian Confederation.

I religiously started collecting photos and prints to my Pinterest as reference materials.

Happily, a book I had received years ago as a gift, entitled "Canada - 1892: Portrait of a Promised Land" contains some of the same images I was now collecting.

During the course of my investigations, I discovered that people of the time most commonly referred to this outfit as a "Snowshoeing Costume". This style of outfit was used by the Montreal Snowshoeing Club as their official club uniform.

The Montreal Snowshoeing Club. Source

I also found a book called "Fashion - a Canadian Perspective" which included a full chapter on these Snowshoeing Costumes. This book gave me a lot of information on the history of the blanket coat and its impact on Canada. The chapter explores this uniquely Canadian outfit and its use within the sport of snowshoeing. There's no way I could summarize the sheer amount of information I found on the subject of the Canadian Costume.

Armed with the reference material, I was ready to begin planning the outfit!

(All McCord images can be found on their website.)

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Canadas Sesquicentenary

Canada has entered it's 150th Year since confederation in 1867. I've been looking forward to this for some time now and I'm thrilled it's finally here! I'm currently working on some special projects for this year.

One of the projects I already finished with the exception of a few details is my Canadian Costume.

This Punch Magazine portrait is my original inspiration. After finding this outfit I had to make my own, I am Canadian after all.

Here I am wearing my new Canadian Costume on new years day. I finished the outfit the day before especially so I could wear it on the first day of Canada's 150th year,

And in colour though I prefer the black and white.

A woman I met in the park wanted her dog to get a photo with me, and she sent me the photo.
I think it's a great photo.

I will be posting more about the research and making of my Canadian Costume.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy

This week I came across a book on Pinterest, The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy, by a Lounger at the Clubs, 1876.

While I have found books on the patterns, construction techniques and the styles of mens 19th century clothing, it's been much harder to find books about how they wore and cared for their clothing.

Etiquette books of the period don't often mention mens clothing or wardrobe and when they do usually only give a few pages on the subject. The Gentleman's Art of Dressing is an entire book on mens wardrobe. In this book, the author mentions how and where a gentleman should buy his clothes, what clothing he needs and how to care for his clothing. I've gained many useful bits of information on shirts, coats, boots, waistcoats, and trousers from this book.

It's very interesting to see a 19th century gentleman's opinion of the clothing of his time. I'm curious how much of the book is the general opinion of how a gentleman should dress and how much is the author's personal opinion.

In the book, I was happy to run across a reference to Punch magazine. I'm a big fan of Punch. I've always thought that Punch show's a very accurate depiction of clothing and fashion of the time. So when I read the footnote that I've quoted below, I was very pleased to have my opinion of Punch confirmed by a gentleman of the 1870s
* "Mentioning "Punch" reminds me to remark that if you have been absent from the world of fashion for a time, and wish to know the style of dress in vogue, you cannot do better than consult the pages of our ficetious old friend. Therein you will see the exact costume of the day, in all detail, from hat down to the very boots. There is no more truthful indicator of fashion published; and when Mr. Punch's artists depict a gentleman of the period, you will not be wrong in following suit.

Here's a link to the Google book copy The Gentleman's Art of Dressing with Economy, by a Lounger at the Clubs.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Couple of Boxes

For my friends birthday I got him a retro LEGO set as he never had one. I always wrap gifts in brown paper and string. For this one I thought an old LEGO label would a good addition. I hand painted this one I'm very pleased with the outcome.

The Salvation Army were recently giving out these repro match boxes in remembrance of the match girls. The match box will be great as a period pocket filler for some of my 1880s-1900s outfits.

Here's a brief history of the match girls from the card that came with the matches.

"In 1888, women working at match factories in the UK were experiencing severe health complications, such as phossy jaw, from the use of white phosphorus on matches. They also experienced 14 hour work days, poor pay and fines.
After learning of the situation, The Salvation Army opened its own match factory, using less toxic red phosphorus and paying better wages. Part of the impetus behind this  match factory  was the desire to improve the conditions of home workers, including children, who  dipped white phosphorus-based matches at home. Several children died from eating these matches. Once other factories stopped using white phosphorus, The Salvation Army closed it's match factory.
in 1908 the British House of Commons passed an Act prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in matches" The Salvation Army

The Great War Uniform: part 3

Here's what I've gathered for my uniform so far. I hope to get started on making the jacket soon.

Sam Browne belt
Sword frog
Pistol holster
Khaki-coloured wool tie
1910s military style walking stick
Original officers shirt
Original WWI puttees
Clothes brushes
Collar bar cufflinks and shirt studs

Close up of the collar bar cufflinks and shirt studs. 

Every thing packed away in to my military hat tin.

Jacket materials

Khaki whipcord
Pocket lining
Collar canvas
Stay tape
Sleeve lining

Cloth for the officers jacket and cap.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Acquisitions: Shooting Umbrella

This week it rained, so I was able to use my recently repaired umbrella. I bought this 1930s shooting stick umbrella at a local monthly antique show.

A shooting stick umbrella is an umbrella that has a handle that unfolds into a seat. There are also shooting sticks which don't have an umbrella. I'm very lucky to have got one with an umbrella as they're much less common.

It is called a shooting stick because they were used by gentlemen when they went shooting game on the moors. They were also used for hiking and and long walks in the country.

shooting stick umbrella

When I bought the umbrella the canopy was in shreds, so I recovered it in a similar silk. It was quite the learning experience recovering the umbrella as it's very tricky the get the tension right.

To sit on a shooting stick you unscrew the metal disc from the handle and screw it on the spike on the end. You then stick it in the ground and open the handle into a seat.

Open umbrella. 


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Acquisitions: Machines!

This week I got a couple of new machines. The first piece of machinery I got is a 1938 typewriter, from a very kind person I met at the park who thought I looked like someone that needed typewriter.

The typewriter Is a 1938 Remington Noiseless Model 10 manufactured within the british empire.

The other piece of machinery is a 1888 singer sewing machine I bought at an antiques fair. I was lucky enough to fined the manual for it online


I've been thinking I could take it to Brigade Days at Fort Langley, though it might not be appropriate for me to bring it for few reasons. First Fort Langley is 1858 and the sewing machine is 1888, which is a 30 year gap. However, the machine doesn't look entirely out of place for 1858. It is much closer than my 1917 Phaff sewing machine.

The more major thing is whether there were sewing machines in, or near the Fort. I know there were sewing machines in New Westminster and Fort Victoria by 1858. It would be a nice thing to be able to sew a shirt or something during brigade days.