Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hidden Treasures

How many of us have a special dress or gown hanging in the back of our closet? For me, those dresses or pieces embody a story of a significant event in my life. And perhaps the material or label makes it impossible to put that item in the bin or donate it to a thrift shop. I'm sure many of you can relate. At last, there is a home for such treasures.

The Seneca Fashion Resource Centre is a research facility that accepts donations of dresses, suits, corsets, accessories - basically everything from pantsuits to petticoats. Built solely through donations, the collection now houses approximately 10,000 items which cover the period 1840 to the present. Canadian labels include Vivienne Poy (a Seneca alumnae), Wayne Clark, Lida Baday, Arnold Scassi. International labels include Dior, Chanel, Calvin Klein, Pucci, Schiaparelli, Valentino and many others.

The mandate of the Centre is "to collect, preserve and study what Canadians have worn". But this is not a museum where one can only look but not touch. While respecting the need for conservation, the collection is actively used by students and faculty to learn about costume history, textiles, embellishments, techniques of design and construction, and techniques of display.

I could have happily spent hours and hours among the racks finding hidden treasures. As I marveled at the many lovely gowns, I wondered about the many stories and memories encapsulated in those beautiful garments. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new project for me....

The Centre is run by Professor Dale Peers who acts as the coordinator for donations. It is clear that Dale loves her job and takes pride in being able to let her students see garments from a particular time period when studying costume history (which is far superior to seeing it on a screen). She even was kind enough to pull out a collapsible bustle for me to examine (as I continue in my attempt to create the panniers for that 18th century dress sculpture.)

The collection is comprehensive but is always looking for more donations. In particular, their wish list includes:
A pair of short Go Go boots
Items from 1990 to present day
Work by Canadian designers
Anything by style icons such as Poiret, Fortuny, Vionnet, Schiaparelli and Chanel

If you have an item that you are willing to donate, please contact Dale Peers at 416-491-5050 ext 2578 or  Not only will your donation help students and researchers, you will make room in your closet for some beautiful new frocks (and memories)!

Seneca College Fashion Resource Centre
1750 Finch Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
By Appointment Only     416-491-5050 ext 2578