Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century
Fashion Victims explores two sides of nineteenth-century fashion: the beautiful clothing and shoes worn by the fashionable men and women of the period and the processes and chemicals that made those same fashions potentially deadly. Toxic dyes – most famously arsenic green – and processing chemicals, as well as difficult working conditions, were the unseen story of nineteenth-century dress. This exhibition includes François Pinet’s opulently embroidered and labour intensive footwear, beaver felt top hats processed with mercury, and Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s extraordinarily narrow and constricting boots and gloves. Each object illustrates the exhibition's central thesis that fashion could be a dangerous business both to make and to wear.
Origin designed the exhibition using visual contrasting spaces to illustrate the dual nature of nineteenth-century fashion. The public face is warm and inviting, slightly luxurious, and invokes the era through the repetition of distinctive decorative forms and visual culture. The production story, on the other hand, is presented through stark and restrained exhibitry, physically separate from the luxurious presentation of public fashion, and includes the tools of the trades as well as relatively unglamorous worker’s shoes.
Origin Studios worked with the Bata Shoe Museum’s curatorial staff through the entire project, from schematic design to final design, and provided final drawings to the exhibition fabricator. The 3,200 square feet temporary exhibition opened at the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, in June 2014.
The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, ON, 2014
Exhibit Space: 3,200 sq. ft.
Anne Kingston, "Deadly Victorian Fashions," Maclean's (9 June 2014), available at macleans.ca.
Nichole Jankowski, "Toxic Dyes and Mercury-Laced Hats: Exhibit Looks at the Dark Side of Fashion," The Globe and Mail (11 June 2014), available at globeandmail.com.
Karen von Hahn, "Bata Museum Exhibition Shows Pleasures and Peril of Fashion," Toronto Star (18 June 2014), available at thestar.com.