As of April 2013, Montréal’s Old Port gained a new fashion museum that exhibits dress, costume, and textile artefacts from a vast collection of over 8000 clothes, from the mid-19th century to today, that have been worn, collected, and donated by Québecers. The Musée du Costume et du Textile du Québec (MCTQ) was originally established in 1979 in the greater Montréal area as Musée Marcil in Saint Lambert, and relocated into the Marché Bonsecours, which until recently used to host Montréal Fashion Week.
The current exhibition, entitled “Tapis Rouge: La Mode au Musée” (Red Carpet: Fashion at the Museum), conceptualized by the former General Director Suzanne Chabot, will be on display between April 19 and October 6, 2013.
The exhibition features vintage pieces by international and local designers, such as Elsa Schiapparelli, Jean Patou, Thierry Mugler, Arnold Scaasi, Christian Dior, and demonstrates Montréal women’s attention to elegance and style.
It also showcases recent work of contemporary Montréal-based designers, such as Christian Chenail, Michel Desjardins, Valérie Dumaine, Ying Gao, Joseph Helmer, Jocelyn Picard, Marie Saint Pierre, and Tavan & Mitto. Their creations range from haute couture to experimental and technologically-innovative design.
Why dresses? Its five letters contain an entire universe of fashion. The dress has undeniable symbolic power and has been a consistent element of fashion history and fashion vocabulary. Already in the 1920s, Coco Chanel and Jean Patou recognized the power of the little black dress, innovating both the aesthetics and function of the dress, and simultaneously creating a vocabulary of timeless chic. As Karl Lagerfeld noted, “One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress.”
When Christian Dior launched his New Look in 1947, he not only revolutionized fashion after WWII, but also introduced a new type of dress into the universal dress vocabulary: the cocktail dress.
Casual, yet chic, the cocktail dress was suitable for every kind of gathering and had the unprecedented effect of making older women look younger, and younger women look more sophisticated. Because it combined a low-cut neckline or bare shoulders of an evening dress with a medium-length hemline of a day dress, it helped women to fully express their femininity.
“Black is where everything begins; the fulcrum, the sketch, the container, and the contents. Without its darkness, contrast and support, the other colours could not exist. A little splash of black is all density and sensuality; it contains an entire universe.” (Christian Lacroix)
The exhibition brings together major highlights from fashion history and present-day innovations and creativity in the world of Montréal fashion. By displaying the gradual evolution of the vocabulary of fashion through the multiple examples of dresses from the museum’s collection, the exhibition illustrates what Karl Lagerfeld meant when he noted that “Fashion is a language that creates itself in clothes to interpret reality.”