Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fashion, Fusion & Fiesta

Simon Fraser University's Diamond Club on Burnaby Mountain provided a beautiful, natural setting for an Ivan Sayers' Fashion Show in support of Breast Cancer Research, February 6, 2009.

This brief bio about Sayers is in the program brochure: "An avid women's period clothing collector since the age of 13, Sayers is nationally know for his love of women's fashions and his detailed knowledge of why women wore what they wore throughout history. A graduate of Classical Studies at the university of B.C. and the Vancouver Museum's curator of history from 1971-1991, Sayers has become legendary among fashion aficionados for his lively and humorous analysis analysis of ho fashion has reflected the objectification and liberation of women through the ages. Sayers stages fashion shows for non-profit associations, medical charities, craft associations, museums, universities, colleges and schools." This is the third show I have been lucky enough to see, and at each one I notice how patient he is with people's questions and how attentive he is to what people are wearing. He compliments them on any special items they might have brought or are wearing!

The schedule for this fabulous event was: Cocktails and Buffet, Speakers: Allan Maynard, President, SFU Alumni Association, Nick Locke, Senior VP of Development at the BC Cancer Foundation, Dr. Connie Eaves, VP of Research at the BC Cancer Agency and Dr. Stephen Chia, Associate Professor - Medicine, Chair BC Breast Tumor Group - BC Cancer Agency. Ivan Sayers', Dr. Tim Beischlag, Associate Professor, SFU Faculty of Health Sciences. Fashion Show, Door Prizes and Silent Auction.

This whole evening was in support of and a celebration of women - their strength, their beauty and their powerful role. It was also a meeting of many who have experience with Breast Cancer and a 'coming together' to learn about the latest research and the need to fund it so that as Dr. Chia said, "...we catch up to the technology that is already there..." Nick Locke noted the very positive gains we have made since 1935, when BC had one of the lowest rates of Breast Cancer survival. Now we have one of the highest survival rates. Dr. Connie Eaves said that scientists, (those extraordinary people) are just like any other individual and it is the individual, in Science and in everyday life, working together that make a difference.

Ivan Sayers has had Breast Cancer in his family and in his community. He says the more people know about it, the more they want to help. He especially thanked Fanny Keefer and Cheryl McKay of North By Northwest (CBC) for support for his programs to fund raise for Breast Cancer Research. Tonight was the 40Th anniversary of his first fashion show at University of British Columbia's Fine Arts Gallery. The show was very positively reviewed: "The future of fashion in Vancouver in insured by this inspiration." At the same time, Sayers was informed by someone else that "fashion is not art".

The first costume was that of Prairie Belle - Canadian Pioneer. This 1860's shirt and skirt emphasized fashion in the frontier community. The skirt was actually pants, allowing women to ride side saddle and freeing them from the hoop skirt, bustles and petticoats, if only temporarily. The fringed jacket, which Sayers found in St. Vincent DePaul's thrift store in Northern Alberta, was purchased for fifteen dollars. It had puffed sleeves and was embroidered by Plains. The gauntlet gloves were made of hide and featured glass bead designs.

1910-1912 women wore only one or two petticoats made to show a small waist and to hide 'the nether regions' -the legs. Women had faces, busts and waists but everything else was hidden. The hats got bigger to emphasize the face. Hats were 18-36 inches across and were luxurious. Some were made of beaver and fur, which were exported to Europe and China. The principal ornaments were ostrich and other feathers and plumes. the plumes were $100. each.

Expensive Edwardian coats were versions of high priests' coats and were indicators of the individual's position within the community. The tassels and fringes and embroidery were supposed to look Persian. The lower part of the figure was again de-emphasized and the blouse or upper part of the coat was emphasized. The age between 35-45 is when a woman was at her most attractive, mainly because at that time, that is the age when men were apt to have become 'successful'. Ivan found this coat in Victoria. Can you imagine finding anything like this in your thrifting travels? Yes, that is why we keep treasure hunting, isn't it?

The high collared dress preserved the illusion of perfection. It framed the neck and face. A parasol, closed, created a long line which made women looked taller.

In 1848 the sewing machine was made available to the public. Technology was there earlier than we think. Fashion was influenced by the Japanese. The shoulder of the dress was softer and coats curved under at the back, like a kimono. It was also tubular and women had to take small steps like a Japanese Geisha. Men needed to feel strong. Hats got smaller and toques and turbans became popular. Peking glass jewelry and beaded small purses were supposed to look oriental. The colours for clothing also were more exotic: ochres, teals, blues, ..) High waisted dresses were fashionable and wrap around skirts continued to hobble steps. The Mata Harri look, the spy look of intrigue, was popular during the war years - 1915-1918. There was a lot of black and Obi sashes. The vest, and the suit were an important part of women's wardrobes. Often decorated in fur, they were supposed to have a Slavic look. The underskirt of this one was embroidered cabbage roses, a Russian touch. Russian aristocrats moved to Paris and re-established themselves as embroiderers. Their handiwork was individually handcrafted and beautifully done.

Skirts became shorter, during the war years; this saved on materials and helped women as they worked. Hats were woven and made of simpler materials; they were modest because there was a war on. Stoles were made of feathers; they only looked like fur.

In 1922 King Tut's tomb was discovered and fashion, as always was a reaction to that. Long ropes of beads and slender, mummy like dresses were featured. Feet were seen but not the skin. It was covered in opaque stockings. Everything had a 'magical' cast. Hair was short and dresses were beautiful, rich earth colours. Skirts were shorter. The 1920's Flapper was world weary. Her stocking were coloured to match her dress. White fox summer furs were worn more to make everyone jealous rather than because they were particularly special. Hats were worn low on the head to look like little girls dressing in mom's clothes. Handbags were made of synthetics and celluloid, which was invented in 1969. Everything was coordinated and organized.

Saris from Pakistan became popular. They were evening dresses and featured long trains. Typical of 1930's ballroom dresses, the hems cleared the ground for dancing. Dresses were cut on the bias and clung to the body, opposite to the 20's when the figure was invisible.

Manilla shawls were made in the Philippines by Chinese designers. The shawls were then sent to Spain to be embroidered. Embroidery was exquisite - no knots showed. They were meant to be worn over one should and one elbow - like a Spanish dancer's.

In the 1930's, the skirts were shorter and wider. There was a Hungarian influence. Stockings were transparent and had seams. Shoes were high heeled with open toes. Handbags had a Czech influence - made of wooden beads. This handbag was featured in an Eaton's Catalogue and the big hat was from a Kerrisdale rummage sale. Ivan Sayers paid $2. for a collection of 8 hats just like this one.

Colours were yellow, orange, blood red and dark greens. The A line skirts with apron ties at the back meant that they could be adjusted to fit any size, and thus, expensive tailoring could be eliminated.

1946 - African influence on fashion. Turbans were popular. Padded shoulders and puffed sleeves were prominent. Everyone was expected to participate in the war. Women were seen as strong and competent. Fashions featured exaggerated shoulders and small waists.

This 1940's dress came from a Movie Industry costume collection and was a two piece design by Ray Hildebrandt. It features a print of the head of a woman going to a carnival.

In 1935, women got to vote - a revolutionary change!! Clothing became over sized and the body disappeared. Everything was 'behind a window'. The Cape became fashionable; Sayers got one from the UBC Freddy Wood Theater collection. It had a fox fur collar. Dresses were closer fitting and chests were flatter, waistlines natural; clothing enveloped the woman, making males feel they have to look after her. The Egyptian Princess look was popular, featuring soft, filmy, clingy material. Gold beading and large flowers were again, a Japanese influence. Also, yellow was popular , being the imperial colour of old China. Ostrich feather fans were popular accessories.

Christian Dior's work featured more fabric, and was super feminine. Wide sloping shoulders indicated the return of the kimono sleeve and a more 'rounded' look. Dresses had pleated fronts and were cut on the bias. in 1947, Dior's mannequins were pelted with stones by women who couldn't afford the material. The German made versions of French style and like today, were efficient producers of beautiful, affordable, ready to wear clothing.

1954 Chong Sam - this had first appeared in Chinese Women's fashion. They were originally Scholars' gowns. The 1950's were the beginning of longer skirts and clothing was designed for all shapes and sizes. Hair Ornaments included chopsticks. Again, everything was co-ordinated and gloves and shoes matched. Shoes were created for a long, slim foot and toes were pointed. Hair was bouffant and Barbie and Liz Taylor were icons. Over sized handbags made women look cute. The bigger the head, the tinier and more juvenile women looked.

1970's Guatemala influenced pantsuit was fashionable rather than just occupational. Ethnic traditions are evident. Designs are individually handcrafted and embroidered. Platform boots are popular.

1980's saw shoulder pads, (Joan Collins) and lots of ready to war. Production moved from Hong Kong to India. Inexpensive but high quality mass production.

Ivan Sayers fashion show featured many fabulous outfits that were expertly displayed by six models. Their make-up and hair complimented each one. He is a fantastic, captivating speaker whose knowledge and style educate, entertain and make us feel glamorous and strong. We were there to support a cause and to enjoy an evening of fashion and fusion. And ... we did!

You should be able to find other photos here shortly, so keep your eye out for them!
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