The myth and reality of haute couture : consumption, social function and taste in Toronto, 1945 - 1963.
This thesis investigates the multi-faceted use of haute couture in Toronto as a
symbol of English-Canadian women's postwar cultural identity. European and
Canadian couture are related to their socio-economic use in the wardrobes of elite
Toronto women whose needs and taste directly reflected etiquette codes, the
expanding social season, and the requirements for functioning within it. Couture is
contextualized beyond a status symbol, and seen to be a necessity in the
performance of women's social roles and volunteer work in establishing arts and
charitable organizations. It was vital in creating a national sartorial taste for
English-Canadian women, and in defining their social and cultural identity during
the postwar years. Further, it examines and analyzes the systems of buying and
distributing European couture by Canadian retailers, then explores the relevance of
these imports for Toronto's department stores, boutiques and their customers.
Integral to this documentation and analysis, is the use of a multidisciplinary
methodology that weds material culture with oral history, film and printed archival
research. This has made it possible to document the movement and the function of
couture from production, distribution and consumption, to its use and meaning in
the context of postwar Toronto. By examining couture consuniption in terms of its
cultural and economic meaning this study touches upon and informs several
academic fields; it contributes to the scant research on twentieth century couture,
especially on Canadian dress, as well as to Canadian women's social history.