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Made in France: The Toronto Edition

Let's prance! However, don't forget to gaze up at the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Let’s prance! However, don’t forget to gaze up at the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Pack your binoculars! September Issue featuring Christian Dior at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack's Collection)

Pack your binoculars! September Issue featuring Christian Dior at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack’s Collection)

By Princess Theadora

Bonjour! Bonne Année!

Rocking a New Me for the New Year—this week, I’m taking you to the 70th anniversary Christian Dior exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. That’s right, we’re going slink along the icy Mink Mile (faux, please) in the breath-taking Queen City. So grab my pearl-studded mitten. Grab your girdle, too!

Curated by Dr. Alexandra Palmer, the show shines a bright spotlight on 38 wasp-waisted wonders, advertisements, sketches, and photographs, along with endless catwalk clips from Paris and Toronto fashion shows. After a few spins around the rebelliously boned and flared showstoppers, I could hardly breathe from excitement.

“Give me your A, H, and Y-shaped silhouettes, Monsieur Dior! Tulip, too! Bring it!” I squeaked, suddenly feeling the polyester seams in my own nipped-waist blazer by Zara working overtime.

The mind reels! Whilst imagining the logistics of the tight maneuvering, rib-popping squeeze into one of the vintage Christian Dior numbers, then and there I pledged to self never, ever to feast on another half-dozen cookies, or at least not in one sitting. But luckily for all the bakers in world, my one-hour resolution was just a passing fancy. #Gottobeme

Does your eye spy the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor?  ( Postcard: T. Brack’s collection, 1950s)

Does your eye spy the Holt Renfrew store on Bloor?  ( Postcard: T. Brack’s collection, 1950s)

More squeal

Most of the “New Look” Dior dresses in the exhibition were donated by Toronto socialites, and scored at the Holt Renfrew department store during the 1950s.

At the time, the shop president Alvin J. Walker had not only just signed a five-year license for the exclusive rights to sell Dior in Canada, but he also got the Botanist Couturier to pop by Holt Renfrew at the launch of the new flagship on Bloor Street with romp and circumstance. No expense was too great. Models from Paris were even flown in for the extra-extravaganza.

“Christian Dior is NOW in Canada, ONLY at Holt Renfrew!” roared the headlines.

Wings of Desire: Silk organza two-piece garden party dress with silk satin sash: Avril from the Ailée Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1955 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Wings of Desire: Silk organza two-piece garden party dress with silk satin sash: Avril from the Ailée Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1955 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

New Look: Ligne Parfaite

The fashion forward executive also sent his fleet of buyers to the City of Light’s fashion weeks throughout the year to scoop up haute couture goodies by Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, and Jacques Griffe. Front row seating, no doubt. During the nifty fifties, Holt Renfrew was a Paradise Found for any Toronto-based Francophile.

What’s so funny about global love, peace, and passion for fashion? Absolutely nothing. In fact, France showed its appreciation for their mutual cooperation in 1963 by making Alvin J. Walker a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur. It was an international win-grin.

A Celanese acetate satin showstopper: Palmyre from the Profilée Autumn-Winter Collection by Christian Dior, 1952 (the Duchess of Windsor wore a similar design, Photograph by Theadora Brack)

A Celanese acetate satin showstopper: Palmyre from the Profilée Autumn-Winter Collection by Christian Dior, 1952 (the Duchess of Windsor wore a similar design, Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Visiting Toronto?

The Christian Dior exhibition is scheduled to run through the 18th of March 2018. Don’t miss it.

Because, as the late, great designer Dior himself once put it, “In this machine age, which esteems convention and uniformity, fashion is the ultimate refuge of the human, the personal, and the inimitable. Even the most outrageous innovations should be welcomed, if only because they shield us against the shabby and the humdrum!”

I completely agree. And the more outrageous, the better. So wear your heart on both puffy sleeves. #Beextra #Bekindtoo

Now, let’s take a gander at a few of my favorites among the fancy dresses.

Bonne Année!

(I dedicate this post to my two Toronto WordPress friends, Virginia and Alexander.)

Fire up the grill, sparky! Silk organza Avril is the perfect garb for a shindig in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, in my book (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Fire up the grill, sparky! Silk organza Avril is the perfect garb for a shindig in the winter, spring, summer, or fall, in my book (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Swinging from the chandelier: Blue velvet is always a great idea, especially whilst rocking sequins and opera length gloves, 1950s, (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Swinging from the chandelier: Blue velvet is always a great idea, especially whilst rocking sequins and opera length gloves, 1950s, (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Flying High: Silk pékin formal evening dress: Isabelle from the Envol Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1948 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

Flying High: Silk pékin formal evening dress: Isabelle from the Envol Spring-Summer Collection by Christian Dior, 1948 (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

This is how you make an entrance: Back in the day, Christian Dior embroidered dresses typically took 100 to 150 hours to complete, 1950s (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

This is how you make an entrance: Back in the day, Christian Dior embroidered dresses typically took 100 to 150 hours to complete, 1950s (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

"I want to make women not only beautiful but also happier!" Monsieur Dior liked to say. Mission accomplished is what I say! (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

“I want to make women not only beautiful but also happier!” Monsieur Dior liked to say. Mission accomplished is what I say! (Photograph by Theadora Brack)

And speaking of happiness! Give up cookies? I don't think so! Luckily for all the bakers in the Toronto, my resolution was just a passing fancy. #Gottobeme (Photo by Theadora Brack)

And speaking of happiness! Give up cookies? I don’t think so! Luckily for all the bakers in the Toronto, my resolution was just a passing fancy. #Gottobeme (Photo by Theadora Brack)

September Issue: Paris Collections celebrating Dior's arrival at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack's Collection)

September Issue: Paris Collections celebrating Dior’s arrival at Holt Renfrew, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack’s Collection)

Holt Renfrew ad featuring Christian Dior, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack's Collection)

Holt Renfrew ad featuring Christian Dior, 1951 (Vogue, Theadora Brack’s Collection)

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Made in France: The Toronto Edition

  1. Theadora, thank you very much. I appreciate. Now I do not have any choice but go and see this show. I cannot miss it.
    Holt Renfrew on Bloor is the wonderful store. We have few of them in Toronto however that one is the most famous. Couple years ago I was looking for the perfume “Love in Black” and Holt Renfrew on Bloor was the only store carried it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Love in Black? What a GREAT name, Alexander! So you were able to score at Holt Renfrew? Yes, I agree. It’s a fabulous department store, yesterday and today.

      I’ve also been researching the old Simpson’s (Simpsons) department store. I was able to find a few old brochures from the 1950s. What a gorgeous place. I got lost! It was fun shooting the holiday vitrines. Cold, though!

      Yes, do make time to see the Dior show. I also enjoyed the Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). It was packed! I think it closed at the beginning of the month.

      Enjoy the day!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

    • Merci! I tumbled flat. I’m now head-over-heels in love with Toronto. So many wonderful museums! I also spent time the Textile Museum of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Good. Golly. The BATA shoe museum, too.

      Enjoy the weekend!
      Theadora

      Liked by 2 people

      • Toronto is a beautiful city. Come on over to Vancouver and you will fall in love all over again. Looking forward to your next post. Life is so good when travelling with kindred spirits.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Adding Vancouver to my must-see list. I’d love to participate in the Polar Bear event. Since the 1920s?! What fun.

        So much to see in this world. YES. Keep on traveling!
        T.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Exciting dresses indeed, Theodora! It reminds me of a current exhibit in Houston at the Museum of Fine Arts, “The Glamour of Oscar de la Renta.” Miss Virginia will simply swoon over it. Amazing close-ups. Glad you did not have to give up cookies! Cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you! The galleries were packed. Very popular show! I think the blue velvet dress is my favorite. The black and white number is also pretty darn fetching!

      So many choices for dreamtime!
      Theadora

      Like

    • Thanks, Karen! Yes, the Christian Dior exhibition was worth the trek and the peek. It was also fun to watch the footage of the Paris fashion shows. So many smokers on the front row!

      Happy New Year!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Joy. Oh Happiness. I live on the West Coast but my heart is in Toronto and my fav store – Holts. The Dior creations are magnificent. I remember when the “new look” made fashion headlines in the 50’s. The nipped in waist, the skirts that swished and swayed around you. You didn’t just come through a door or walk down a flight of stairs – you made an entrance! Gone was the frugality of the war years. Dior gave us romance, mystery, intrigue. Everything the fashion conscious maven desired. Merci Miss Theadora, Merci.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I completely agree, Virginia! I also love the absolutely fabulous garb that swishes and sways around you. I just scored a pair of black trousers with three layers of fringe. My pony pants, I call them.

      The exhibition was wonderful. Apparently, Dior helped launch the department store on Bloor. I’ve been trying to track down photographs . . .

      I completely fell in love with the city. Whilst riding the streetcar up and down Queen Street West, I spotted the old Candy factory. That’s where I’d live, I do believe. I love the oversized windows.

      My little Toronto apartment!
      Theadora

      (Happy New Year!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Miss Theadora of course the Candy Factory would be the residence of choice. Your little Toronto apartment. It was also our choice if we were to buy second home (to be near to our daughter). We loved the windows, The shape and breadth of them. The original floors, the old bricks – just everything. XX OO Virginia

        Liked by 2 people

      • I agree, Virginia. The interiors look pretty darn spiffy. I also spied the Chocolate Co. Lofts (former Patterson Chocolate Company digs). The 1920s Patterson ads with the flappers are great fun!
        T.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been to the Montreal, also the Canadian Falls at Niagara, but have yet to visit Toronto (and Quebec) both will be stamps on our passports soon … Thanks for the tour, and look at Dior’s creations – charming indeed!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, Niagara Falls is also worth the trek! On my way to Toronto, I spent some time on both sides of the falls. Gorgeous, scary, and cold! It was impossible to snapping the pics.

      My frozen fingers were not happy campers!
      Theadora

      (Where did you stay? The Oakes has a great view of the falls. So pretty at night with the lightshow.)

      Like

      • First time was years ago, maybe 1981, we stayed at the Sheraton Foxhead Inn. What a gorgeous hotel. It is still there as the Sheraton on the Falls. Maid of the Mist, Cave of the Winds, Ripleys Believe it or not. There’s a statue / memorial to Nikola Tesla on the American side. Have to see it in winter though, frostbite is worth the sight, and you in summer, rainbows and moonbows !

        Like

    • It’s absolutely fabulous to hear from you! By the way, a few fragrance bottles were featured in the Dior exhibition. And now, I am off to board Le Train Bleu! Packing my suitcase now. Yes! I just spied your post. Reading your prose is the perfect way to launch the week!

      Happy New Year!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A perfect tribute to the elegance of that era. Elegance that went in every detail. I distinctly remember, when Kennedy was assassinated, all the ladies at the American Embassy went to the tailor, in the following days to order a black dress in sign of mourning. But those locally African-tailor-made black dresses could have been worn by Audrey Hepburn.
    Thanks for the memories

    Liked by 1 person

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