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Posted by: Gala Milne on June 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm

ART DECO CHIC FASHION CHALLENGE WINNERS

Congratulations to Elisa Medina, Lisa Ngo, and Dianna Drahanchuk, winners of the Art Deco Chic Fashion Challenge! Over the summer, these three designers will be hard at work transforming these designs into garments for display at the MOV September 1-23 alongside Art Deco Chic. Read on to find how Vancouver and Art Deco inspired their designs.

ELISA MEDINA | GEOMETRIC REVERIE
Bachelor of Design, Fashion & Technology | Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Art Deco Chic challenge winner Elisa MedinaWhich art deco era/ garment/ or design concept inspired the creation of your garment?

Art Deco existed between modernity and exoticism, creating fashion that was intellectually eclectic and seductively elegant. The influence of architecture, art movements like Cubism and Fauvism, as well as the Jazz Age’s rhythm and movement had a strong presence on the exhibition’s early 20’s garments, which in turn inspired my designs’ repeating geometric shapes, unexpected embroidery, and saturated colour palette.

Tell us your story about deciding to become a fashion designer.

My path to fashion design was carved by a love for painting and drawing in the picturesque Quito, Ecuador. I started to draw at an early age and was eventually introduced to fashion illustration. From then, I Elisa Medinagradually cultivated my eye for design through sketching models in the pages of Vogue. I also started to appropriate my fine arts training to develop an aesthetic rooted in painterly compositions of colours and fabrics as well as mixed cultural and historical references. Moving to Canada in 2008 allowed me to pursue a career in fashion, as there are more educational and professional opportunities in this field. I am currently developing my technical skills at Kwantlen University both in women’s and menswear, as I go into my third year of studies.  

Where else do you draw inspiration from in your work?

Art, music, and culture are a constant source of inspiration as I design.

What changed for your conception of the garment design in knowing that you were creating for a museum exhibit as opposed to a fashion runway?

Designing garments for a museum exhibit requires a special attention to detail, as the garments remain static, becoming subjects to a closer view from the audience. It was therefore important to offer a dynamic experience for the viewer through different textures and shapes.  

How does living in Vancouver shape your design process?

Vancouver offers wonderful exposure to art and nature. This has encouraged me to be curious of my surroundings and look for inspiration wherever I go. All I need is a sketchbook in hand. In addition, our city’s “green culture” has also influenced me to become a responsible designer, keeping the people and the environment in mind during the design process.

***

DIANNA DRAHANCHUK | ARGYLE REVIVAL
Fashion Merchandising | Blanche MacDonald

Art Deco Chic challenge winner Dianna DrahanchukWhich art deco era/ garment/ or design concept inspired the creation of your garment?

The primary inspiration for this dress was the striking evening dress made in France for Bullocks in1929 – 1930.  The transparent black-layered silk georgette with dramatic crisscross shiny black machine beading I translated into an inner dress with sequins and transparent over dress with bead crisscross pattern applied to the outer layer.  The top of the under dress mimics the diamond shaped pattern while the over dress scoop neck with wider shoulder strap is typical of dress style of the 20’s.  The bead pattern creates an argyle pattern, made popular in the 20’s and is reminiscent of the long strands of beads that were all the rage during the jazz age.

Tell us your story about deciding to become a fashion designer.

Fashion Design was something I wanted to take up in high school but Horse Hill High School wasn’t able to advise me on available fashion Dianna Drahanchukschools. However, after retiring from my interior design career and realizing that the desire to engage in fashion design was still there, I decided to attend the Blanche Macdonald Fashion Merchandising program, even just for fun.  

Where else do you draw inspiration from in your work?

There is not one place that that my inspiration comes from.  I rarely buy fashion magazines but I travel a lot observing things that are not available here and in my mind's eye try to figure out how that particular item could be made/adapted in my world. 

What changed for your conception of the garment design in knowing that you were creating for a museum exhibit as opposed to a fashion runway?

I've never created a piece for a fashion runway so my only point of reference was the museum exhibit.

How does living in Vancouver shape your design process?

Availability of resources is key.  To enter a competition such as this would have been much more difficult, say in Victoria or Edmonton where I lived most of my life.  Having resources at hand allows for greater creativity.

***

LISA NGO | CRYSTALS OF THE SKY
Fashion Arts | Vancouver Community College

Which art deco era/ Art Deco Chic challenge winner Lisa Ngogarment/ or design concept inspired the creation of your garment?

The art deco garment that most inspired or more so caught my eye was the satin dress that had its hem ingeniously twisted  across the bust and thrown over the shoulder as an interesting design detail.

 

 

Tell us your story about deciding to become a fashion designer.

Well first of all, I never had a clear decision, when I was young, that I wanted to truly be a fashion designer. At a young age I was exposed to watching a lot of cartoon television shows like Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Card Captors and more. I really loved the illustrations drawn of the cartoon characters so I decided drawing them and wanted to create a character of my own. After creating my cartoon character's appearance, I said to myself,Lisa Ngo “I need to put some clothes on this girl” so I did. Still I was oblivious that drawing clothes on this girl was “designing” and dressed her like a doll, but on paper. Years after that, I trailed off from the design, I still immersed myself in art, but I was far from the path of a fashion designer. I still thought of having a career in designing clothes, but I forced myself to different areas of interests. It was until one day I realized during my last year of secondary education that I had to choose a career path to prepare for. I looked back and thought “What the heck did you even prepare yourself for?” I thought about my education, my passion and interests and throughout my life the only thing I've really enjoyed was styling my barbie in her clothes, caring about how I looked and dressed during school, overall just admiring cute dresses, and drawing clothes on my characters. So where does that lead me? Boom. Here I am at VCC and in this competition. Holy cow.

Where else do you draw inspiration from in your work?

Definitely Madeleine Vionnet as an haute couture designer. There is a picture of here sitting down and creating her draft on a doll. Looking at the picture, to me, I feel that she had a great passion and love for what she was doing. It seems as though she is in her own world and so immersed in what she is doing and that inspired me to try to re-create that mood in the dress in the picture. I also researched some art deco artists and the one that stood out was no other than Erte. I love his illustrations and designs. Very elaborate, dramatic, creative and just good.

What changed for your conception of the garment design in knowing that you were creating for a museum exhibit as opposed to a fashion runway?

As soon as I found that it would just be in an exhibit, it could be fragile. Very fragile. I figured that if the dress I designed was for the runway, It would totally get caught and torn in a painful, heart-wrenching way. The care and handling that I saw in the exhibition from Ivan Sayers, Claus Jahnke and his team insured that I could sacrifice some functionality, so I had the nylon thread be the support between the two pieces of fabric while holding some crystals at the same time. Sorry thread. Hopefully, I would love to see a real model at least walking slowly in the dress.

How does living in Vancouver shape your design process?

Other than the mountainous backdrop view, cultural diversity, and ecstatic rainy days, overall Vancouver just feels like a breath of fresh air. Whenever I think of Vancouver overall, I just feel very natural and free of any limitations and that is what I want to try to do when I design. I was born here and I still don't know Vancouver as much as I thought I did. I currently work for Erin Templeton (one of my role models!) and after meeting her I just found about this world of local designers and workers that either have this close net or some type of connection and support to one another and that just warms my heart.

Posted by: Guest Author on May 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

By guest author Tyaka Graves, High Tea @ MOV organizer

With the High Tea @ MOV fast approaching, we decided to touch base with Anita Suri the Marketing Manager from Herbal Republic Fine Tea Corp to find out a little more about the official tea sponsor for the High Tea @ MOV and how we can all ‘sip to save the planet’.

To start, tell me a bit about Herbal Republic and what you do?

Herbal Republic has been in the business of fine teas for over 15 years. Originally located on West Broadway in Vancouver, five years ago we merged the Herbal Republic brand with our TEAZ Tea Boutique location on Granville Street. Our objective is to offer the best quality of whole leaf at reasonable prices. We have always sourced and blended, using the very best ingredients with the quality teas from around the world.

Apart from our retail location on Granville Street, we recently launched products under our ‘sip to save the planet’ initiative, for the wholesale and food service market. Our objective is to ensure that all our products are the best quality and also meet our environment mandate to ensure that we can give back to the planet as well as our industry. My role in the business is focused on marketing, business development, and assisting in creating new products.

Herbal Republic tea farmers

What is your favorite Herbal Republic tea and why?

My favourite Herbal Republic tea is the Ambassador Tea which is our house specialty English breakfast house blend. This was conceived and blended after I lost my father and in his memory we created a blend to reflect his favourite tea region of the world. He was an Ambassador, a diplomat in the Foreign Service, and had travelled the world extensively.

Tell me about the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), and what this means for Herbal Republic and your customers?

The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) is an organization based in the UK with a primary mandate of ensuring that the tea producing estates meet all of the standards commonly associated with the symbol fair trade. Together we ensure that the workers get a fair wage, their working conditions are improved and finally their estates meet standards of sustainability.

We are also members of the Rainforest Alliance and buy tea from estates monitored by the Rainforest Alliance and in the future will be using their logo on our packaging. Finally, we are also supported by the Green Table for launching products that are sensitive to the environment, biodegradable, and compostable.

What are your suggestions for storing tea to ensure freshness?

To maintain freshness, we recommend that you buy tea in smaller quantities and store the tea in an air tight container away from light. Most teas should not be exposed to light for continued lengths of time.

Now summer is approaching, what refreshing tea would you recommend for a hot summers day?

You can use all of our teas at TEAZ Tea Boutique for making ice tea.

We are launching and sampling healthy ice tea smoothie and ice tea mixes where you can add whatever you wish to the base. It is a tea leaf product allowing you to make ice tea instantly. Of course, you may add whatever you wish to the tea. We are offering the instant leaf to get you started. It is a great product and we definitely enjoyed developing it.

What is the most interesting ‘old wives tale’ you have heard about making the perfect cup of tea?

I don’t think I have ever heard any old wives tales about how to brew tea. We offer instructions to our customers based on our expertise and experience. There is one brewing instruction which we find most people are unaware of. Green and white teas require little infusion time with water temperatures  between 80–90 degrees Celsius. We find that most people are completely unaware of this. You can find detailed instructions on how to brew all our teas on our Herbal Republic website.

Posted by: Guest Author on April 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm

High Tea at Museum of VancouverBy Tyaka Graves, High Tea @ MOV organizer

Lucky guests joining us for the High Tea @ MOV will be delighted to hear our guest speaker Brendan Waye provide insights on the traditions and rituals of high tea culture over time.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to interview Brendan, better known as the ‘The Tea Guy’, he is an Accredited Tea Sommelier (TAC), Certified Tea Specialist (STI), and Happy Tea Sipper. In other words, Brendan is a local tea connoisseur and will leave you with a whole new appreciation for tea.

To start, tell me a bit about The Tea Guy, and what you do?

Theteaguy.com was registered as a domain name in 2002 after I had opened a series of teahouse’s called Steeps Tea in Alberta and BC. People called me “the tea guy” so I thought I would make it official by setting up a website dedicated to disseminating correct and accurate information on the tea business and  all the aspects of drinking loose leaf tea.

What inspired you to become an accredited tea sommelier (TAC)?

It started with my love of the leaf and then progressed into a desire to get as educated I could on all aspects of the tea industry. I have always been an information sponge and the more knowledge about tea  I acquire, the more I realize how little I actually know. Learning about tea is not a destination one arrives at, but a life long journey of exploration and tasting.

How and where do you source the teas that you distribute?

I work with blenders and importers who have been in the business a very long time. A few teas I get directly from the source when I have the connection, but most I get from a select few blenders and producers who have quality, organic, and fair trade principal as the central thrust of their own tea procurement. I create the recipe, make it in a small sample batch, and then outsource the concoction to a large blender who can make it in large volume for me.

Describe the best cup of tea you have ever had, and what made it so amazing?

There are too many great cups of tea to narrow it down into one type. Recently though, I acquired a rare Phoenix Mountain Oolong from Guangdong province in China. It was picked from a single trunk rare 100-year-old tea tree. The pickers must climb 30 feet up these ladders to harvest the fresh new leaves off the top canopy of the tea tree. The long slender leaves then go through a very elaborate series of hand twisting, drying, and fermenting to create an unbelievable cup of tea. It is unlike anything that I have ever had from an oolong tea.

What is your number one tip for making the perfect cup of tea?

There is no one great tip really except don’t buy it from a grocery store, find a boutique tea shop instead. When making the tea, you have to take into account at least three variables to get the perfect cup of tea. They are:

  1. Fresh boiled water at the right temperature
  2. Fresh tea leaves that are not from a supermarket
  3. Correct steep time of the leaves

If you can nail down these three variables for each type of tea, then you will be blown away by how great tea can taste.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on April 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

It’s Museum Monday!  This week we’re celebrating the historic art deco landmark which connects Kitsilano (and the MOV) to the heart of Vancouver’s downtown: the Burrard Street Bridge.

The Burrard Bridge opened ‘with a snip of golden scissors’ on Canada Day, July 1, 1932. The MOV has several items which capture this opening day, including theBurrard Bridge Rose Bowl presented to assistant City Engineer William Brand Young in 1932. No pictures are posted yet, but you can just imagine its shining splendor: Victorian, silver plate, decorated with an ornate fruit and vine border and finely engraved with “Souvenir of the Opening of the Burrard Bridge July 1st 1932”.

I love this photo from the Vancouver Archives, which seems to capture the excitement of the day – a gathering throng out to test the new bridge and parade their Sunday best. Gentlemen in suits, caps, and fedoras; Ladies in frocks and cloche hats; Couples arm in arm; A lad on his bike…perhaps one of the first cyclist to cross?
 
Head engineer John R. Grant and Architect George Lister Thornton Sharp designed the bridge so that boats could get through safely while cars passed overhead. Preserving an unobstructed view was another key concern. According to the Burrard Bridge Heritage Study (Donald Luxton, 2001), the handrails were structured so that vehicles driving between 40 and 64 kilometers an hour could still enjoy the beautiful bay thanks to a “stroboscopic” visual effect.

The decorative bridge towers have inspired speculation and urban myth over the years. Is there a hidden gallery or office space up there in the middle of the bridge? What about the mysterious spaces arching in between the towers and those small windows peering onto the traffic below? It’s tempting to imagine…but apparently nothing much is going on there. In fact, it’s an elegant way to conceal some necessary steel support structures.

Photo by cmh2315fl on Flickr

Those special art deco details on the surface do have a story to tell. The boats jutting out at each side are crowned with the busts of Captain George Vancouver and Sir Harry Burrard. The large pylons at each entrance emulate a flaming torch. Bridge engineer John Grant designed these torches as a tribute to Canadian prisoners of war (from World War I), imagining them huddled around open fires in their prison camps.

Thanks to an avid Vancouver collector (Doreen Margaret “Peggy” Imredy), MOV hosts a fascinating assortment of over 3,500 pieces relating to Stanley Park. This extensive collection includes post card views of the Burrard Bridge from 1932, 1978, and 1999. By comparing these images, you can see how our natural and urban landscapes have changed. It’s also striking to see how camera technology and visual taste trends have changed. Today you can catch an almost live view of bridge and sea (updated every 5 minutes) on the Katcam.

Follow the Bright Burrard Banners to MOV! If you’re a Kits commuter, you’ll notice new MOV street banners decorating your route from the Burrard Bridge south to Broadway. Why not take a refreshing pause and follow that trail to the MOV? We’re in the distinctive ‘building that looks like a spaceship / Haida hat’ [find it in the images to the right] with the famous crab fountain out front.

We’re also right in the midst of beautiful Vanier Park, so you can make a day of it… Fly a kite, plan a picnic or just enjoy the city views and sea breeze. Then pop into MOV for a fun event or peruse our Art Deco Chic exhibition and see if you can appreciate the stunning links between art deco fashion and architecture.
 

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on April 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

art deco evening gown with trojan soldiersApril Fools!  Do you know the Tale of the Trojan Horse?  It has been said that this ruse ended an epic war. Legend has it that the Greeks were able to gain entry to the city of Troy by hiding their best soldiers in a giant wooden horse — offered as a ‘gift’ to their unsuspecting rivals. 

In the spirit of one of history’s biggest ‘April Fools’ pranks, our Museum Monday feature for this week is a glamorous evening gown circa 1938 (also now on display in our Art Deco Chic exhibition).  This red silk and gold lamé dress is tailored to accentuate curves and adorned with Trojan soldiers and chariots.  I wonder about the woman who might have worn this. Was she one of those ‘modern women’ of the 1930s era — an emerging presence in the workforce perhaps?   Did she take inspiration from famous starlets, and disarm every gaze as she entered a room?  I’m not sure, but this is a pretty confident ‘power suit’ of a gown.

Come see this beautiful gown for yourself during this Thursday’s Talk & Tour with Ivan Sayers (April 5 - limited space, so please RSVP or purchase your tickets ahead of time).  Fashionistas and design aficionados will enjoy this unique opportunity to delve into vintage garment construction techniques.

If you’re an emerging fashion designer, we also encourage you to enter the Art Deco Chic Design Challenge!  Deco is a delicious inspiration and it’s hot all over again on the runways for 2012. Winning Vancouver originals will be showcased by MOV in September.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on March 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Commodore Ballroom flapper dressWith so many folks lined up for a 'night on the town' this Patty's Day weekend, I thought it was time to highlight a party dress! Worn to opening of the Commodore Cabaret (now Ballroom) in 1929, this twinkling 'little black dress' marks the birth of a legendary Vancouver venue.

One look at the ornate intricacy of the frock, and I’m sure the opening must have been an exciting and much anticipated evening! The sides are elaborately embroidered with an undulating line of flower, berry, and tendril patterns. From waist to hip, vertical lines of sequins drip with layers of beaded fringe tailor made for movement. Falling about knee length, with bare arms, and a deep V, this 'saucy little number' was on trend with the more daring flapper style. Indeed, this classic Art Deco design seems custom cut for a fun night of dancing with legendary big bands and a deluxe dance floor.

As musician Dal Richards remembers, the Commodore was advertised as having "the biggest dance floor in Canada, and the only sprung floor – a floor designed with embedded horse hair to 'put spring in every dancer’s step'. Though the old floor has since been replaced, a piece of the original preserved for posterity in the MOV’s collection (photo still to come).

According to one Georgia Straight Article, the Commodore's bright and hopeful opening was quickly followed by a rough patch.

"... Designed and built at the height of North America's fascination with art deco, the room opened in December 1929. Four months later, the stock market crashed, the Dirty Thirties were officially under way, and the Commodore was one of the city's first high-profile casualties. What was supposed to have lured customers away from the Hotel Vancouver and its booming ballroom business ended up sitting dark for half a year. In November 1930, local nightclub pioneers Nick Kogas and Johnny Dillias became convinced they could make a go of it, reopening the club and officially beginning its run as a live venue with dinner and dancing every Saturday. Over the next seven decades management of the Commodore periodically changed hands, but the venue's ability to draw top talent remained the same. The list of acts that have graced the room's stage over the years is truly staggering..."

In the Big Band days, international legends like Sammy Davis Junior, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey played the commodore. Local jazz aficionado Dave Dixon notes that the Commodore was also home for local swing legends, including groups led by Bob Lyon, Ole Olson, and, later, Fraser MacPherson, Dave Robbins, and Bobby Hales.

The fabulous Commodore Ballroom has survived and thrived through decades, becoming an important part of our cultural character. In 2011, Billboard Magazine even selected the Commodore as one of North America’s 10 most influential clubs. Placed in the company of legendary venues like New York’s Bowery Ballroom and San Francisco’s Fillmore, the Commodore was the only club in Canada to make the list for being “influential, a career building block or just plain cool.”  Yes, Vancouver . . . it's true: We’re just plain cool. 

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on March 8, 2012 at 3:24 pm

We kicked off our newest special exhibition, Art Deco Chic, with an opening party last night. We welcomed about 500 people, including Members and special guests. Everyone came dressed to the nines and it was a fabulous time, with live music provided and a performance of the charleston by Rhythm City Productions.

After a short introduction to the exhibition by curators Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke, the MOV's Director of Development announced that we have upgraded our system to take contributions towards our textile collection. If you love what you see here, you can help us conserve the garments by donating [simply drop down in the donation section to choose "textile collection"].

And last but not least, we pulled back the curtain and let people take in the fabulous exhibition! Our photographers snapped some shots of the crowd and the fabulous outfits that were worn.

 

MOV's Executive Director, Nancy Noble, introduces co-curator Ivan Sayers.

Party guests enter the exhibition.

The "Desert Sand" accessory box has accessories inspired by the finding of King Tut's tomb

 

Gowns from the late 1930s make use of colour blocking and geometric cutouts.

 

 

Dancers from Rhythm City Productions perform the charleston for the crowd.

Art Deco Chic co-curators Claus Jahnke and Ivan Sayers smile as the wonderful evening comes to a close.

For images of all the wonderful outfits, visit our Flickr page!

If you're looking for an excuse to dress up again, or you missed out on the opening, there are three more opportunities to get your deco on before Art Deco Chic comes to a close!

  • High Tea @ MOV - Saturday, May 12, 2pm
  • Dapper & Flapper formal - Friday, June 8
  • Pop-up Speakeasy - August, date TBA

Keep an eye on our events calendar for details!

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on February 27, 2012 at 9:38 am

It’s Museum Monday!  There’s a crispy chill in the air and the thought of cherry blossoms to come . . . It makes me yearn for a sweet rose cloche like this lovely Vancouver-made millinery from the 1920s MOV collection. Want to stay ‘jazz hot’ and flapper fabulous? Learn to flirt in a ‘peek-a-boo’ cap or test your Charleston at a “Rhythm City Strut” - who's dancers will be performing at the opening night for “Art Deco Chic” (Opening March 8, 2012)…Then come celebrate your vintage swagger with us at the MOV. 

If you're interested in learning even more about the upcoming exhibition, then check out this great video with Art Deco Chic curators Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on February 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Roll out the red carpet and get your glam on… Art Deco Chic is coming to the MOV (March 8 through September 23).    

Art Deco Chic:  Extravagant Glamour Between the Wars features more than 60 women’s garments from the 1920s and 30s. Handpicked for their decadent beauty and exquisite craftsmanship, many of these garments boast couture labels like Chanel, Vionnet, Patou and Schiaparelli

Commodore Ballroom opening night gownNotable Vancouver treasures include this black gown (right), worn to the opening of the Commodore ‘Cabaret’ in 1929.  Handbags, hats, shoes, jewelry and dresses (like this golden sunburst flapper shift (below) illustrate the distinctive, sleek geometry of the Art Deco period. 

Art deco flapper dressIf you just can’t wait to see what else we have in store, you can immerse yourself on a glittering night on the town here at the MOV for the Art Deco Chic Opening Night  on Wednesday, March 7. [Note: The opening night is primarily for Members and VIPs, so a limited number of tickets are available for purchase, and must be bought online beforehand!].

Dress Code?  Vintage glam of course! We’ll all be reveling in the sassy spirit of these roaring ‘boom and bust’ eras so this is your big chance to float into the room like a tall glass of champagne!

 

 

Hot vintage styling tips to get you ‘the deco look’

Attitudes & Inspirations…Think of rebellious young flappers…The exuberant movement of Josephine Baker…Sweet cinema darlings like Mary Pickford or Clara Bow  (the original ‘it girl’)…The confident modernism of the Empire State Building…The bright lights of Broadway…The streamlined  elegance of  Coco Chanel  and vintage Vogue couture …Mae West in all of her cheeky swagger…Jean Harlow dripping in long, cream satin and bombshell shine…Marlene Dietrich smoking in a tailored tux…Smoldering Greta Garbo or those famous Betty Davis eyes. 

For a little extra inspiration, you can also check out these videos on 1930s hair and makeup.

And if you’re now day dreaming about the perfect outfit, you could always take a trip out on the town and do a little vintage shopping at some of these great local stores:

If you read this after the event has already happened, we hope you’ll join us for some upcoming events that celebrate this Art Deco Era!

Posted by: Joan Seidl on February 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Down in the basement of MOV, we’ve been assembling a strange collection of female forms. These mannequins and body forms will wear glamorous garments in the upcoming Art Deco Chic exhibition opening March 8, 2012. However, in the meantime they are naked and exposed in all their bodily eccentricities.

MOV staff repairs mannequins for the Art Deco Chic exhibitionWe’ve been challenged to find mannequins that are the right size and shape to wear clothing from the 1920s and 1930s. Luckily, guest curators Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke collect vintage mannequins along with vintage clothing. Ivan’s 1920s mannequin was made by the firm of Pierre Imans of Paris. She has a beautifully modeled wax face, while her torso is wrapped in coarse muslin. You would not mistake her for a man, but possibly for a thirteen-year old girl. Her breasts are barely there, her waist minimal, and hips very slim. Her straight up and down figure was the ideal 1920s female body, designed to fit the era’s straight-cut, sack-like garments (more noted for their surface decoration than for their shaping).

Claus has a lovely mannequin from the late 1930s made by Fery-Boudrot of Paris (we’ve taken to calling her “the blonde”). She will wear an elegant outfit made in Germany or Austria, the areas in which Claus specializes. Many of the 1930s evening dresses depend for effect on flowing drapery and scarves. The backs of the dresses were especially elaborate so that the wearer looked good on the dance floor. We look forward to posing the blonde and her companions to show off these late 1930s garments to best advantage.

We turned to Kevin Smith from Arm & a Leg Mannequins Rental to help make up the numbers for the exhibit (which will have between 66 and 71 garments — the debates are still raging). Kevin provided a group of Rootstein figures from the 1990s with strongly modeled faces and moulded hair. First we tried evening dresses from the 1930s on the Rootsteins, but the dresses only came down to their shins. At 6’ tall, the Rootsteins are all leg. This led us to try garments from the late 1920s. By the late 1920s, the idea was to abbreviate the garment and show lots of leg. The classic flapper-style garments look great on these elegant Amazons.

The non-vintage mannequins will be painted a neutral colour (the exhibition designers, Matt Heximer and Sue Lepard from 10four Design Group, choose Benjamin Moore’s “Mannequin Cream”). Right now a crew headed by museum fabrication coordinator Dave Winstanley are sanding, priming, and spray painting the contemporary mannequins. We have to wind our way through a maze of bodies to have a word with Dave these days. He appears unimpressed by his female companions, and as he carefully sprays a selection of female arms dangling from the painting rack he points out the nearby “hand rail”, a long board that holds a hands upright for easy spraying.

If all goes well, our meticulous prep work will be invisible to visitors once the exhibition opens to the public on March 8. The point is to focus you on the amazing clothes, while the armature of display fades into the background.