Thursday, April 29, 2010

Last Chance to View this Pair of Italian Chopines from 1590-1600

Photo credit: Photograph © Fototeca dei Musei Civici Fiorentini

There are literally only a few days left to see these Italian chopines from 1590-1600 at the Bata Shoe Museum exhibition On a Pedestal. Having been conserved especially for this exhibition, they will be returned to  Museo Stefano Bardini, Florence, Italy next week. The last day to see these particular shoes is May 5, 2010.  They are so fragile that they will NEVER again be displayed. Don't miss the opportunity to see this extraordinary example of tall chopines which literally put women on pedestals!

Bata Shoe Museum
327 Bloor Street West
Friday - Saturday 10 am - 5 pm
Sunday 12 - 5 pm
Monday  - Wednesday 10 am - 5 pm

Monday, April 26, 2010

Opera Atelier and the Marriage of Figaro

Photo: Bruce Zinger / Artists: Phillip Addis, Wallis Giunta, Carla Huhtanen, Patrick Jang, Peggy Kriha Dye, Curtis Sullivan and Cavell Wood

If you have an affinity for Marie Antoinette or the 17th and 18th centuries, you will take great delight in seeing a performance of Opera Atelier. This Toronto-based company brings the 17th and 18th centuries to life on the stage by producing opera, ballet and drama from those centuries. Drawing on the aesthetics of that time and reinterpreting the experience for modern audiences, the company also makes the period more accessible to audiences by performing their operas in English.

Photo: Bruce Zinger / Artists: Phillip Addis, Carla Huhtanen and Patrick Jang
The Opera Atelier is currently performing Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the restored Elgin Theatre in Toronto. This enchanting comedy was first performed at the private home of Joseph Hyacinthe Vaudreuil prior to its official debut in Paris at the Comedie Francaise in 1784. Although I've seen this opera several times before, it wasn't until I saw the Opera Atelier's version that I appreciated the subtle nuances of the repartee between the main characters. Although some opera fans might disparage an English interpretation, I loved it, especially as it sparked new ideas for my Revolutionary Fashion series of textile works.  Plus there is much eye candy on display, including exquisite sets by one of my favourite Toronto artists Gerard Gauci, divine period costumes from the talented Martha Mann, and some very handsome actors wearing snug velvet breeches!

Photo: Bruce Zinger / Artists: Phillip Addis  and Peggy Kriha Dye
There are only four performances left on the schedule this week: April 27, April 28, April 30 and May 1st. If you don't live in Toronto, watch for Opera Atelier on tour as the company has been to New York, Houston, Stuttgart, Bremen, London, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and Chateau de Versailles in France.

Opera Atelier
416-703-3767 ext. 22

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hand and Lock Embroidery

As usual, I'm playing catch-up on my blog posts. It was a month ago that I attended the Toronto stop on an international lecture tour given by Alaistar Macleod, CEO of Hand and Lock Embroidery. Hosted by Seneca College's Fashion Department, those who braved the driving cold rain were entertained by this charismatic champion of embroidery.

The lecture began with a quote by Francois Lesage who once said To embroider is to dream. Macleod then went on to define embroidery as "the art of decorative design to fabric by hand or machine". He stipulated the requirements for embroidery include determination, focus, concentration, patience, time,  good eyesight PLUS passion and love!!

Hand and Lock is an embroidery company that is a fusion of two long-established ateliers. Hand has its roots in military braids and embellishments and goes back as far as 1767. Lock harkens back to 1898 and has worked with such designers as Christian Dior, Norman Hartnell and Hardy Ames. In 2001, the two companies were merged into Hand and Lock and in 2003, MBA Costumes was added to the group. Currently based in London, the company will add a New York outpost in the fall.

Macleod enchanted the audience of students, faculty, and members of the Costume Society of Ontario with tales about everything from Cornely Machines (a machine invented in 1860 which automates satin stitches) to a Spanish flamenco dancer wearing gelatin sequins. His passion for embroidery was infectious and he encouraged those in attendance to enter Hand and Lock's International Embroidery Competition with prizes totalling $30,000 and for which the deadline has been extended to May 14th, 2010. Macleod said that the things that he likes the most about embroidery is "that which delights the eye!".

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Revolutionary Fashion Installation

Revolutionary Fashion Series by Ingrid Mida 2010

What Lies Beneath, 18th century chemise, corset and pockets in mesh
on a vintage mannequin, by Ingrid Mida 2010

In the series Revolutionary Fashion, digitally altered images of upper class eighteenth century women are layered over traditional French toile de jouy fabrics, which are then embroidered or altered to bring attention to certain areas. This is my attempt to create a whimsical warning against fashionable decadence and the folly of extravagant fashion trends. 

In my related sculpture, What Lies Beneath, I have created the underpinnings for an 18th century gown out of mesh. Displayed on an antique mannequin are a mesh chemise, pockets (which hung beneath a gown before purses existed), and a corset. I have yet to finish the panniers which will give support to the exaggerated hip lines of the gowns from that time period. The translucency of mesh creates a mystery and a ghost-like quality to the sculpture. 

Much to my delight, Christopher Wood of LA Design asked if I'd like to display this dress sculpture and my Balenciaga-inspired mesh dress sculpture in the windows of his chic furniture shop LA Design at 788 King Street West. Of course I said yes!! So instead of lolling about eating bon bons this week in a post-show funk, I will get back to work pronto to finish the panniers!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Map of A Life Dress

Map of A Life Dress by Ingrid Mida 2010
Vintage Maps, Thread, Glue, Mannequin

This dress was constructed out of maps collected by my mother on her travels around the world. I styled it after her favourite A-line cut of dress to fit her measurements. It really should have had a ruffle into the V-neck but the maps were so fragile that I could not manipulate them easily and feared having the whole thing fall apart.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Tear Bottle

Installation Photo by Ingrid Mida 2010

A Tear Bottle

Glass, wherein a Greek girl's tears
Once were gathered as they fell,
After these two thousand years
Is there still no tale to tell?

Buried with her, in her mound
She is dust long since, but you
Only yesterday were found
Iridescent as the dew.

Fashioned faultlessly, a form
Graceful as was hers whose cheek
Once against you made you warm
While you heard her sorrow speak.

At your lips I listen long
For some whispered word of her,
For some ghostly strain of song
In your haunted heart to stir.

But your crystal lips are dumb,
Hushed the music in your heart:
Ah, if she could only come
Back again and bid it start!

Long is Art, but Life so brief!
And the end seems so unjust:
This companion of her grief
Here to-day, while she is dust!

Frank Dempster Sherman 1896

Installation Notes:
In this installation inspired by the Victorian mourning ritual and poem above, I have captured bits of ephemera from both my mother's life and my artwork in Mason jars, encapsulating her life and my sorrow in parallel. The photos shown above were digitally restored and printed onto organza creating a ghost like illusion when back-lit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion

I am continually playing catch-up on my blog. There are so many things that I'd like to write about (lectures, exhibitions and books), but there never seems to be enough time for it all. There are only a few days left to see the American Beauty, Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion  exhibit at the Museum at FIT in New York which will close this Sunday, April 10, 2010.

I had the pleasure of hearing the curator of the exhibition, Patricia Mears, speak at the American Beauty Symposium. She talked about the groundbreaking work of such American fashion designers as Charles James, Claire McCardell and others chosen to represent the interdependence of technical aspects of dressmaking and the American aesthetic of beauty. The display was organized according to the specific methods of construction including the use of geometric forms, dressmaking, tailoring, highly structured or engineered eveningwear, and embroidery and other surface embellishment.  In Patricia’s words, “impeccable design is – and always has been – at the core of innovative American fashion”. 

For me, the highlight of this exhibition was an exquisite Charles James Tree evening gown in pink silk taffeta from 1966. The body of work by this American designer is small, because he was a "relentless perfectionist" and continually revised his previously finished garments. In absence of the labels, I would have guessed that the gowns with magnificent tailoring,  heavy voluminous skirts and rigid under-structures were engineered by Christian Dior. To those in the know, Charles James is considered "America's greatest couturier."

Museum at FIT
Seventh Avenue at 27th Street
New York City

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What's on the Calendar in April?

Spring is upon us and there are a myriad of fabulous and fashionable shows to see around the world. Here are some that are on my radar.

Ongoing      The Bata Shoe Museum   On a Pedestal: From Renaissance Chopines to Baroque Heels
The Bata Shoe Museum is one of Toronto's jewels and I've been meaning to pop into this exhibition since it opened in November. On a Pedestal explores two of the most extreme forms of footwear ever worn in Western fashion, the platform chopine and the high heel. This exhibition presents some rare examples of Renaissance and Baroque footwear on loan from museums around the world as well as shoes from the museum's own collection. The exhibition runs to September 20, 2010.

Photo credit: Bata Shoe Museum 2009

April 9          Textile Museum of Canada: Lia Cook, David Harper and Stephen Schofield
Lia Cook's exhibition at the Textile Museum in Toronto is called Faces and Mazes and features her most recent series of weavings. Cook uses an electronic Jacquard hand loom to weave faces that dissolve into continuously changing maze-like patterns. As the faces fragment, a perceptual shift occurs, moving through a place of transition and ambiguity to reveal the physical, tactile nature of the constructed image. Drawing on familiar and childhood sources, Cook uses a detail, often re-photographed, layered and re-woven in oversized scale, to intensify an emotional and/or sensual encounter.

Photo credit: Textile Museum of Canada

David R. Harper embroiders portraits of people on animal skins, playing with the traditional roles of portraiture to immortalize and elevate the subject through artistic representation – just as the trophy from a hunting excursion might be a bear skin rug or a rack of antlers. These images of anonymous, Victorian-era men and women imply an emotional distance that allows the artist to poke at the slippery slope where nature and culture meet.

Photo credit: Textile Museum of Canada

Montreal artist Stephen Schofield’s one-and-a-half life-sized sculptures are intensely sensual. His patchwork figures, based on Pliny the Elder’s tale of Dibutade recounting the origin of drawing, are mapped from the male body and then expertly tailored out of old clothes. Soaked in sugar water and then inflated, the cloth becomes a taut skin that contains the human forms that hover between a highly spirited/spiritual realm and a dream world filled with personal reverie.

Photo credit: Textile Museum of Canada

April 10      Last day to see the American Beauty Exhibition at FIT in New York
I saw this exhibition in New York not long after it opened and never got around to posting about it. It is worth a trip because American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion examines the relationship between the “philosophy of beauty” and the technical craft of dressmaking in the United States. Curated by deputy director Patricia Mears, the exhibition features approximately 80 garments by about 25 designers, including Halston, Claire McCardell, and Charles James, as well as some not as well known.

Photo credit of Halston gown from FIT website

If you live in NYC, this would be a lovely prelude to the upcoming exhibition on American Women: Fashioning a National Identity set to open at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of New York on May 5, 2010.

The spectacular wardrobe of Grace Kelly will be on display from April 17 to September 26, 2010. Tracing the evolution of her style from her days as one of Hollywoods most popular actresses in the 1950s and as Princess Grace of Monaco, the display will present over fifty of Grace Kelly's outfits together with hats, jewellery and the original Herm├Ęs Kelly bag. Dresses from her films, including High Society, will be shown as well as the gown she wore to accept her Oscar award in 1955. These will be accompanied by film clips and posters, photographs and her Oscar statuette. The display will also include the lace ensemble worn by Grace Kelly for her civil marriage ceremony to Prince Rainier in 1956 and 35 haute couture gowns from the 1960s and 70s by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Yves St Laurent.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Interview with Fashion Designer Angela Chen

Photo credit: Ingrid Mida 2010

After seeing Angela Chen's collection at Toronto's LG Fashion Week, I had lots of questions for this talented designer. Although she probably has not yet caught up on her sleep after such a hectic week, she kindly agreed to be interviewed.

Ingrid: How would you describe the woman who is the target customer for the Orange collection?
Angela: I want all women to feel confident, comfortable and stylish in my clothes. They are timeless pieces for every woman’s closet.

Ingrid: How do you begin your design process? Do you sketch out your collection first or work directly from fabric and a mannequin?
Angela: Each season is different. I may begin a season by drawing inspiration from things around me and then incorporating these ideas into sketches. Another season I may draw inspiration from fabrics.

Ingrid: What was your inspiration for this collection? Was there a particular mood or feeling you wanted to invoke?
Angela: This season’s collection is titled Contrast. It’s very much East Coast meets West Coast as I have lived in New York for the past seven years and I just recently decided to live bi-coastally between New York and Vancouver. My FW2010 collection reflects the hard, sophistication of New York and the soft, organic feel of the West Coast.

Ingrid: What was your favourite piece in the collection?
Angela: It’s really tough to pick a personal favourite as I have been looking at them all for so long. They all are like my babies! They are all my creations. But if I had to pick one, perhaps it would be the hand-knit chunky sweaters because they are so cozy and warm.

Ingrid: Are the knits a new exploration? Do you knit? 
Angela: Actually I hand-knit all the chunky sweaters myself! I always admired the art of knitting and the cosiness of knitted wear. I thought warm, cozy kits would be ideal for the Fall collection.

Ingrid: The softly draped skirt like pocket on the pant was a detail that I especially enjoyed since I often wear dresses over pants. Do you think this type of garment would work on all figure types?
Angela:  This collection was designed with classic silhouettes meant to make all women feel confident and beautiful. I think if you exuberate confidence and wear the clothing and not let the clothing wear you, then any type of garment will work for you.

Ingrid: The two embellished pieces in the collection (skirt and dress) seemed to be new elements in your work. I could not tell how this was done. What type of fabric did you use for these pieces and/or were the embellishments added afterwards?
Angela: The embellishments were hand-knit from shiny yarn mixed with sequence yarn.

Ingrid: If you could model your career after any designer, whose career path would you like to follow?
Angela: I love Givenchy for the classic elegance, and the fact that nothing extra is added for no reason. Stella McCartney’s clothes are so polished, and she has great attention to detail. She mixes soft and hard aspects the same way I do. And Sonia Rykiel always shows beautiful textures, she plays with volume. She is the Queen of Knits!

Ingrid: If your dreams come true, where will you be in ten years?
Angela: I hope to have the Orange by Angela Chen brand internationally recognized and hope to own an Orange flagship store in major cities all over the world.  

Ingrid: Where can the FW 2010 collection be purchased?
Angela: Check out my website.