The city is flushed with pink and buzzing for joy over sunshine, blue skies, birdsong, and cherry trees!
This Museum Monday, the 6th annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (on now to April 28) compels me to share a soft petal pink, evening gown (pictured right and now on display at our popular Art Deco Chic exhibition, part of Ivan Sayers’ collection). This early 1920s shift falls loosely from bare shoulders to dainty feet in cascades of shimmering, velvety rose. The subtle pattern resembles a bundle of plush blossoms.
If you have a spring-time frock you’ve been dying to wear, put it on for our special High Tea @MOV fundraiser on Mother’s Day Weekend. Spoil mom or simply come to savor fine teas, sweet treats, and art deco fashions. And if you’re craving a bit of lively jubilation, claim your tickets now for our Dapper & Flapper Formal.
Pictured here in a postcard (circa 1942), cherry blossoms adorn the path to a Japanese memorial in Stanley Park. These cherry trees were donated in the 1930s, and again in 1958, to honour Japanese Canadians who served in WW1.
This is just one of the many distinctive stories our trees have to tell. For more Vancouver Cherry Blossom history, consider taking a Tree Talk & Walk Tour with the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, or search for more cherry tree paraphernalia on OpenMOV.
Scout out the best cherry trees using this list of favourite locations for blossom viewing and an interactive Google map which shows where the cherry trees are blooming right now. We're a little biased, but we personally recommend coming to Kits Point, where the scent of cherry blossoms is quite remarkable this month!
“I believe in the power of blossoms. It’s appreciating the beauty in life that makes life worth living. In our universal response to their beauty, we are united . . . The ephemeral nature of the blossoms reminds us to seize the moment and celebrate life now.”
- Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Founder and Director, Linda Poole
A view from the MOV Studio. Photo by Maurice Li.
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 the “Burrard 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.
April 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.
With 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.
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!
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.
Notable 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.
If 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:
- Deluxe Junk: Vancouver Vintage since 1973. (Pictured right, the lovely Rod from Deluxe Junk digging through the storage room and showing off some 1930s casual frocks)
- Woo Vintage
- Burcus Angels
- John Fluevog: Scan these originals for vintage inspired looks like the Bellevue Etta Place, Pearl Heart, Operetta Brightman, Gertrude.
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!
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.
We’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.