The stories of Clothing and Canada and Fashion are intrinsically linked.
Our aboriginal people are assumed to have been here for several thousand years and they had been wearing some type of body covering for a lot of them. I am calling this our “first wave” of national dress.
“At the end of sixteenth century, a change in European fashion created a rage for the broad-brimmed beaver hat.” http://digital.library.mcgill.ca/nwc/history/01.htm
This would lead the British and the French further than they had previously gone in their explorations of northern North America, as they discovered it was a prime source for the beaver skin. They also discovered how to get these skins by trading with those who had been here for centuries.
“Because of its importance in the founding of the first colonies in Canada and in the expansion of the country through the fur trade, the rodent (Castor Canadensis) early became a favoured local and national symbol. In 1621, Sir William Alexander, who was granted title to Nova Scotia, was the first to include the beaver in a coat of arms. The Hudson’s Bay Company honoured the animal by putting it on the shield of its coat of arms in 1678. Also in 1678, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, Governor of New France, suggested the beaver as a suitable emblem for the colony. In 1690, in honor of France’s defense of QuÃ©bec against a British invasion, a medal was struck showing a seated woman, representing France, with a beaver at her feet, representing Canada. In later times, the beaver was enshrined in the crest of the NWC and on the personal arms of many Nor’Westers. It was also the favorite animal for medallions and brooches traded to Indians. Members of the exclusive Beaver Club of Montreal had it engraved on their gold medals. Also, the governor lived in Montreal’s Beaver Hall and the NWC issued Beaver coinage. In 1833, the beaver was included in the armorial bearings of the City of Montreal. Since 1867, the beaver has appeared on the official coat of arms of the Canadian Government. In 1937, Canada introduced new coinage designs. To this day the reverse of the 5-cent piece bears a beaver on a rock-studded mound of earth rising out of the water. The beaver acquired official status as an emblem of Canada in March 1974 when an act to provide for its recognition as a symbol of the country’s sovereignty received royal approval”
In 1670 The British established the Hudsons Bay Trading Company and traded blankets for beaver pelts, and in the cold north the blanket made a most suitable cloth for coats, for native and newcomer alike, and the blending of Native and European people and their clothing created the “second wave” of national dress.
I realize some of my predecessors, in creating a biography of Canadian “fashion” did not see it quite this way, Katharine B. Brett states in the cataloque to “Modesty to Mod, Dress and Underdress in Canada 1780 – 1967;
“We are part of western civilization and our clothing is that of the western world. Our history began too late for a regional costume to develop; its decline in Europe had already begun.”
3. Modesty to Mod Dress and Underdress in Canada 1780 -1967 Catalogue of 100 Items in the exhibition @ Royal OntarioMuseum
It is not too late. Our history begins before 1867, and we have, historically and contemporarily, created clothing and fashions that are shining examples of our Canadian heritage and lifestyle and are recognized by others outside of our country and it is time that we should see and appreciate these here in Canada!