Canadian Costume

In my reproduction of nineteenth-century clothing for daily wear and reenactment, I set out to replicate a snowshoe costume as a wearable example of authentic Canadian fashion in the Victorian period. These were often worn by members of snowshoeing clubs and consisted of a blanket coat tied with a long sash, with a wool toque, breeches, and moccasins. This outfit is a composite of borrowed cultural motifs; the moccasins copied from aboriginal cultures, the sash was a French-Canadian ceinture flechée, the toque was favored by generations of canoe-traveling voyageurs, the breeches resemble those the British wore for sport. The blanket coat was normal garb for a man working in the forests of Quebec or Ontario.

Lord Landsdowne

The project inspiration was an 1883 Punch cartoon of Canadian Governor-General Lord Lansdowne1 in a “Canadian Costume”. Searching led to the McCord Museum collection of William Notman2 photographs. Notman was a prolific photographer of the nineteenth century and many examples of his work depict Montrealers dressed for vigorous winter sports.

 

Construction research was based primarily on photographs of three extant snowshoe costumes in the McCord collection3. Patterns were drafted for the coat and accessories based on my experience with tailoring systems from period tailoring manuals. Wool blankets were sourced for the coat and breeches. Construction used a combination of historical techniques including machine and hand sewing. Accessories were based on a variety of examples shown in the Notman photographs. The waistcoat, gauntlets, and cap are constructed primarily of astrakhan.

Canadian Snowshoe Costume - Mont Royal. Photo credit: Les Amies de Mont Royal.
Canadian Snowshoe Costume - Mont Royal. Photo credit: Les Amies de Mont Royal.

Through the construction of this outfit, I learned specific blanket coat construction techniques, as well as the social context of the Canadian costume. In wearing the costume I gained an understanding of the physical experience of wearing and moving in an outfit designed for winter activities in the Canadian outdoors. As a part of my daily nineteenth-century wardrobe and historical reenactment activities, this outfit gives me a costume that reflects a rare example of Canadian fashion and cultural identity.

 

1 Sambourne, Linley. "Punch's Fancy Portraits - No. 138 Lord Landsdowne." Cartoon. In Punch, Or The London Charival. June 2 ed. Vol. LXXXIV. London, 1883. 262.

 

2 Wm. Notman & Son. Archives, McCord Museum, Montreal, Québec. http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/fr/clefs/collections/ (Accessed Sept. 15, 2016)

 

3 McCord Museum, Montreal, Québec. Snowshoe costumes. (M967.16.26.2, M20807.1-3, M2006.68.2) http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/fr/clefs/collections/ (Accessed Sept. 15, 2016)

 

Vincent, W. D .F. The Cutter's Practical Guide to Jacket Cutting & Making.... London: John Williamson Company Limited.

Williamson, John. Garment Making: A Treatise, Embracing the Whole Subject of Practical Tailoring... London: J. Williamson.

 

 

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