150 PLUS moves from the forests and fields and into the city. Pre Canada had fashion in it’s few urban centres and although much of it was imported, some was being made locally. The outerlayers were still predominantly being made at home, or nearby, by a dressmakers hand, but undergarments had begun to lead the way into a world of machine made production clothing.
I first encountered the Grenier Lingerie Company at the Musee de la Mode, in Montreal, being celebrated in the museums “Canada 150” showcase “Established in Montreal”, which runs through until December 30th and is a show worth seeing if you are interested in the story of Canadian Fashion’s evolution.
Corset ca 1890
Bra ca 1950
Musee de la Mode
Grenier’s story spans, from pre confederation through the 20th century and into the second decade of the 21st, over 150 years! Jerome Grenier established C.J. Grenier Lingerie, his luxury corset store, in Montreal, in 1860. He was a Quebec fashion industry pioneer. The company would see 4 generations of the Grenier family at its helm; each one progressing the company through time. It was Jerome’s son Edouard who moved the corset company towards other underwear items, as the corset slowly faded from fashion business. A line of accessories, including seamed silk stockings, was later added to the mix and in the 1930’s, in the middle of the Depression, knowing that women always needed a little something special, especially when the economy soured, that the company created the Caresse bra. In the 1970’s, as stockings became pantyhose, bathing suits were added to fill the void. Understanding that the constant evolution of product, to meet their customers ever changing needs, saw them move proficiently through more than 15 decades, through to their final days in 2016, where it appears, as with so many Canadian companies, that offshore competition could not be kept up with. From 2000 to 2012, the market share of Quebec manufacturers for clothing sold in Canada increased from nearly 25% to less than 5%. Meanwhile, China’s market share increased from 61% to 93%*…
*from a report produced in 2013 by the Fashion & Apparel group for the Government of Quebec.