It took a while, but I finally visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see the lovely exhibition 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group.

What an inspiration – on female artists and their intimate vision, on the modernism of the jazz age and on fashion.

What struck me was how we no longer dress up: athleisure is the ruling trend of the day, where casual morphs into careless.

Detail from Adrien Hébert

Detail from Adrien Hébert’s Rue Saint-Denis (1927) Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

Of course, winter in Montreal has a lot to do with it.

I wear black most of the time, and ignore my wonderful collection of coats. I picked a detail from Adrien Hébert’s Rue Saint-Denis (1927), showing a woman in a red coat and cloche (now my screen saver!). The coat could be wool, alpaca or fur – although it’s unlikely or perhaps impossible that fur was dyed red in that day. I have a coat in just that cranberry shade, in alpaca, which I never wear.

Why?

Well, we’ve become used to the comfort and warmth of parkas, even on a mild winter day.

Other fashion standouts in the collection include Prudence Heward’s At the Theatre (1928), showing the scooped-back frocks of two women. How lovely and elegant, and how unusual it is for theatre-goers to make the effort to dress for the occasion today.

Prudence Heward (1896-1947) At the Theatre (1928) Oil on canvas 101.6 x 101.6 cm MMFA, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest Photo MMFA, Christine Guest

Prudence Heward (1896-1947)
At the Theatre (1928) Oil on canvas
101.6 x 101.6 cm
MMFA, purchase, Horsley and Annie Townsend Bequest
Photo MMFA, Christine Guest

And then there is the magnificent portrait of Miss Mary Macintosh by Randolph S. Hewton. The confidence, the presence, the elegance, the fur!!!!

One more note: modernism is key and any of these outfits would stand up today, with the slight exception of some of the headgear. The oversize white fur, in fact, is quite similar to the fuzzy, shaggy, big furs that are on trend this winter.

You have just a few more days to view the show. The exhibition closes Jan. 31.

 

Randolph S. Hewton (1888-1960) Miss Mary Macintosh 1924 or earlier Oil on canvas 101.6 x 86.3 cm Peter Dobell Photo David Barbour

Randolph S. Hewton (1888-1960)  Miss Mary Macintosh (1924 or earlier) Oil on canvas 101.6 x 86.3 cm Peter Dobell Photo David Barbour