Posted by: Zaena Campbell on April 30, 2012 at 10:23 am

Regent tailors neon signThis Museum Monday we’re basking in the glow of this iconic Regent Tailors sign (circa 1946 to 1975). Today, the sign hangs in the MOV's Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver exhibition, but it was originally located at 324 West Hastings, it hung across from another famous neon display (at “the Sally Shop”). The Regent Tailors Sign was installed in 1946 — the early beginning of the 1950s neon boom in Vancouver.

You’ll find several smaller treasures in our OpenMOV Collection related to Regent Tailors. These include technical drawings, a business card circa 1950-70, and a couple of charming items collected by Ivan Sayers (of “Art Deco Chic” fame).

One such item is a “Tailors box” (circa 1945-1959). It’s decorated with a quaint picture of a ‘tailor at work’ alongside a snappy blue slogan, “Regent Tailors Ltd. Where Smart Styles Originate”. The strangest find of all? A branded pocket knife (circa 1925-45). Emblazoned with “Regent Tailors Vancouver BC” on its plastic handle, this promotional pocket knife was probably given away with a newly tailored suit. What an odd marketing choice! “Like your suit? We’ll here’s a trusty knife for you…”

The sign itself, was designed and manufactured by the Neon Products Company of Vancouver (located at 1885 Clark Drive). Other custom creations to their credit include the whimsical Artistocrat Restaurant sign and that monolithic beacon for the BOW MAC car dealership. Established in 1928, the Neon Products Company was the earliest and most prolific manufacturer of neon signs in Western Canada.  It is now the largest company of its kind in the world, putting Vancouver squarely on the ‘neon map’ despite local city bi-laws which today strictly limit installations here at home. Ralf Kelman, an artist and self described ‘lighting activist’, collected signs from the Neon Products scrap yard. In 1977 he sold part of his collection to the Museum of Vancouver. As they say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” (or perhaps as museums would say: one man’s “I just don’t possibly have any place to store this old thing anymore” become museological points of interest).

The MOV’s neon collection is still buzzing in the electric glow of our Neon Vancouver/Ugly Vancouver exhibition (which runs through to August 12). The latest news? The Green Couch Sessions and rising indie songbird Adaline came to MOV for a live video shoot in the Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver Exhibition. The humming sound created by the signs was a perfect fit for her song “The Noise”.


This video features Adaline on an analogue keyboard/drum machine with Adrian Glynn on acoustic guitar. I especially love this ‘paired down’ production which shows off Adaline’s sweet vocal tone and blends seamlessly into the neon hum. Adaline’s black and silver sequined outfit picks up on the neon scene –shimmering like puddles on a cool midnight street.

Not only did we rock out in the Neon room but we got to explore the vintage clothing exhibit happening in the gallery next door. It was one of the best Monday mornings the Green Couch has ever had…” - Green Couch Sessions

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on April 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

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 nowWe'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.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on April 9, 2012 at 12:00 am

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 theBurrard 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.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on April 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

art deco evening gown with trojan soldiersApril 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.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on March 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Commodore Ballroom flapper dressWith 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. 

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on March 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm

It’s Museum Monday! Have you ever looked down a bustling street and wondered what sort of shops lived there years before? Have you discovered a great local fashion designer…a Vancouver original, who could proudly represent our signature style 80-100 years ago or years from now?

In celebration of Vancouver fashion, this week we’re shining a spotlight on this cute and sporty navy polka dot dress –a darling example of local Art Deco Chic straight out of the MOV Collection. Typical of the1920s era silhouette, the garment fits loosely, with a bias cut and a drop waist. It has me picturing a vintage Vogue Magazine Illustration…A sporty young gal at the beach with a sunny cloche and a butter silk scarf blowing in the breeze…Maybe calling out “Tennis anyone?” Cut from a sheer cotton toile, this airy frock might have been paired with a slip. In fact, it was most likely a manufacturer’s sample and never worn...A lucky find for Vancouver textile historians? It seems so!

Made by the Aurora Dress Company of Vancouver around 1927, this ‘sweet little number’ is a sampling from Vancouver’s own Art Deco era garment industry. The “Aurora Silk Company” was established in 1923 by Ken V. Lopatecki at 318 Homer Street. By 1930, the shop became known as the “Aurora Dress & Silk Company” and moved to a new suite in the same building. The last listing for the shop in the city directories was in 1933. Sadly, the company went out of business during the depression (as part of the falling stock for ‘Rand's Dry Goods’). Through the mid to late 1930s, former Aurora Company founder, Lopatecki, continued on as a salesman for “Pacific Maid Dress”. By 1940, he became President of “Queen Bess Dress”. Affectionately nicknamed after Queen Elizabeth, “Queen Bess Dress” was located in the ever fashionable area of 3740 Main Street,

Some truly stunning haute couture creations are now on display in our “Art Deco Chic” exhibit. These ultra-deluxe threads offer instant delight. They seem to ‘wink at you from across the room’…Then quickly envelope you in all of their bold, sleek, sparkling beauty…Meanwhile, this relatively unassuming little polka dot shift reminds us of those extra ‘hidden treasures’ that await the most curious MOV visitors…More fascinating stories ready to unfurl!

To learn more about the ‘fables behind our fashions’, follow our MOVblog or join us for a Curator’s Talk and Tour!

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on February 27, 2012 at 9:38 am

It’s Museum Monday!  There’s a crispy chill in the air and the thought of cherry blossoms to come . . . It makes me yearn for a sweet rose cloche like this lovely Vancouver-made millinery from the 1920s MOV collection. Want to stay ‘jazz hot’ and flapper fabulous? Learn to flirt in a ‘peek-a-boo’ cap or test your Charleston at a “Rhythm City Strut” - who's dancers will be performing at the opening night for “Art Deco Chic” (Opening March 8, 2012)…Then come celebrate your vintage swagger with us at the MOV. 

If you're interested in learning even more about the upcoming exhibition, then check out this great video with Art Deco Chic curators Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke.

Posted by: Zaena Campbell on February 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm

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

Commodore Ballroom opening night gownNotable 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. 

Art deco flapper dressIf 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:

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!

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