Paper Dolls: Evolution of Women’s Fashion

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photo from The Museum of Costume and Textile of Québec

You plan. You do research. You expend energy, to go to just the exhibit or gallery show you know you need to see.

But sometimes serendipity steps in and you just happen to be in an unexpected place, to see an unexpected display of something wonderful.

We were in Bonsecours Market in Montreal in September. We never go to Bonsecours Market, with its trendy, expensive shops—a bit much for our tastes.

But that day we did, and we saw this wonderful, understated exhibit that captured changing trends in women’s fashion, “DE LA BELLE ÉPOQUE AU PRÊT-À-PORTER.”

The exhibit was presented by The Museum of Costume and Textile of Québec, to illustrate the evolution of women’s fashion in the province of Quebec between 1880 and 1930. The five dress reproductions were made entirely of paper by costume maker Michael Slack.

Because the dresses were all made of simple paper, the focus was on style, not on fabric textures or colors or prints. The degree of evolution, from voluminous and fussy to body revealing and sleek, was highlighted . . . and dramatic.

Lessons learned–keep your eyes open and your camera at hand. Serendipity rules!

To Market, To Market . . . Jean-Talon in Montreal

IMG_9005Where summers are short, we must celebrate them intensely!

Montreal knows this, and her people glory in markets and street life, exploding with fresh flavors and colors. I’ve taken you along, in an earlier post, to Atwater Market. Today, we visit Marche Jean-Talon, with a stop in Vieux Montreal.

Whatever season currently prevails where you live, immerse yourself for a few moments in summer!

 

To Market, To Market . . . Atwater in Montreal

250px-AtwaterMarketIs there anything better than a farmer’s market on a perfect autumn day?

Maybe the only improvement would be to visit one in a setting a little different than the ones you normally frequent, with some exotic choices mixed in with the usual favorites.

We spent yesterday at Atwater Market in Montreal. The market is set in and around an Art Deco building and opened in 1933. It has interior space with stalls that feature meats and cheeses and baked goods; during the summer, outdoor stalls overflow with beautiful produce and flowers.

Shopping in a country other than your own always brings discoveries and surprises. We bought ground cherries, which we’d never heard of but are obviously related to Chinese lantern plants; these are meant to be eaten instead of displayed. We got chocolate-covered brandied cherries and chocolate gianduja bars. A cheddar made with Guinness beer, heirloom tomatoes, salt and pepper cashews, fresh croissants . . .

I have two regrets. We didn’t have a car so we couldn’t really dive in. And we didn’t buy the maple and bacon-flavored potato chips. Time to start planning the next visit!

Why Vintage? Reason #2

re-use-6A few days ago I began what will be a short series by asking, “Why vintage?” What is it about clothing and home décor and cars of decades past that appeals to people?

The first reason I discussed was the fashion appeal of vintage design. Today I’ll talk about impulse to buy and use vintage because of a sense of ethics.

2) It’s a choice motivated by a sense of ethics

What’s so ethical about vintage? Well, when you start to think about it, quite a lot.

In a world with a lot of huge landfills, full of throwaways and discards, the idea of using what we already have appeals to a lot of people.

One of my favorite blogs is Garbage Finds. The author is spending several months picking through garbage, full-time, in Montreal. He is going through garbage bags, looking for the usable and sellable, and chronicling his use and his sales. It’s fascinating! The author explains the ethical stance on the re-use of used and vintage items much better than I can:

I want to change the way people look at the ‘things’ in their life and get them thinking about how to reduce waste. I hope to raise awareness about the value that even broken possessions may still have and show that there are people out there who can make good use of ‘garbage.’ This increased awareness serves to reduce the amount of waste our society creates, which has many different benefits. Reducing waste is great for the environment. It means we have to mine less, manufacture less, grow less, and put less in landfills.

The blog chronicles his finds, and their value, both in monetary term and in terms of the ways he and others make use of what someone else considered trash. Go look—you’ll be amazed at what he’s found! And it’ll make you wonder about what you’ve thrown away!

Lots of people are recycling, repurposing, upcycling, just not to this extreme. And at least some of that behavior has encouraged a new look at vintage items that are perfectly good (and, in some cases, much better than we can buy now . . .but we’ll get to that later).

You don’t have to open trash bags by the side of the road! I challenge you to go out to a few garage sales. Many of the garage sales you’ll go to will have full sets of dishes–some gorgeous china, some for everyday, all inexpensive. Every sale will have glassware. Pyrex dishes. Silverware. Salad spinners. And that’s just the kitchen stuff.

When you think about it, doing a little home furnishing using vintage finds is the same impulse as adopting a pet from the SPCA, instead of going to a puppy mill. Many people say why not save a life?

I’m one of these people. I’ve said that I don’t choose vintage because it’s fashionable but I do like the idea of using vintage as a way to reduce waste when old stuff will serve me well.

But, don’t get me wrong—I like nice things! I get an enormous kick out of walking around my house and identifying the really nice furniture, and quality house wares, and gorgeous linens that came from garage sales and flea markets. Why would I use paper napkins (and throw them away), when I have dozens of elegant cloth napkins that can be re-used? And look good at the same time!

And, like many others who are into vintage re-use, I “upcycle.” That’s an awkward new verb that means to take something old and turn it into something new, and maybe better. I think it’s a fun challenge to see what I can do with damaged vintage items, rather than throw them away.

The curtains used to be a tablecloth with a BIG hole.

The curtains used to be a tablecloth with a BIG hole.

A cedar sachet, made with scraps of old dish towels.

A cedar sachet, made with scraps of old dish towels.

Not to waste a bit of a great towel, I covered buttons with more scraps!

Not to waste a bit of a great towel, I covered buttons with more scraps!

Now, of course, right at this moment in time, it’s fashionable to recycle and upcycle and go green, so the lines get blurred between my reasons 1 and 2. In our next installment, we’ll talk about how people also save money AND get great quality by buying vintage.

In the meantime, ask yourself—are there ways you can (or already do) achieve the look you want while maintaining a commitment to wasting less and recycling more?