Saturday, 18 February 2017

Fur Waistcoat

I was recently looking though the online William Notman collection of photos. I came across two photos showing unusual waistcoats. Both photos are from Montreal, Canada in 1868-69.

J. Notman, Montreal, QC, 1868-69

William Webb, Montreal, QC, 1868-69

I recognized the material of the waistcoats as a very distinctive fur called persian lamb

While persian lamb waistcoats were unknown to me, persian lamb was very fashionable in the 19th century. I've seen many examples of persian lamb coats, hats and capes so a fur waistcoat doesn't seem unreasonable, especially in the Canadian winter.

Closeup of fur waistcoat.

I have seen reference to fur and leather waistcoats for extra warmth. I also came across the photo below of a fur waistcoat a year ago on Pinterest. Unfortunately the source website is not in english, so the only info I have in a date of ca 1880s. It looks like the waistcoat might be made from seal or beaver fur.

As I happen to have some persian lamb, I think a winter waistcoat would be a good use. Though maybe for next winter since spring is already on the horizon.

Left: Two gentlemen wearing persian lamb coats and caps, Montreal Canada 1876.

Right: 1880s fur waistcoat found on Pinterest.

Mr. Butler & Mr. Hosmer, composite, Montreal, QC, 1876

Fur waistcoat 1880s


Monday, 9 January 2017

Canadian Costume ~ Part 1: Research

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.

"Oh, it's all very well to laugh! but it was too bad of Little Binks
to come in his Canadian Dress and Snow-shoes to our Fancy Ball." 1862.

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

Happy New Year!

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.


"To one and all who ever may hear I wish them a Happy New Year!"

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