Patterns for All Bodies:
The Pilot

3 October 2023

Patterns for All Bodies (PfAB) re-patterns garments from the Dress Collection for digital download, with instructions for how to adjust and construct. In doing so, PfAB not only brings to life the historical process of dress construction to honour the hands that originally made the garments, but also makes their patterns available so that any body can make the clothes, or have the clothes made, for their own body.

Dress is performative; and the historical Dress Collection at Agnes has its own origins in theatrical performance and fashion pageantry. It began as costumes for the Drama department at Queen’s University in the 1940s. As Kingstonians donated heirloom clothing, costumer-turned-curator Margaret Angus designated some as museum quality and preserved them in a collection, which was sometimes featured in historical pageants. By the 1970s, that collection fell under the care of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. We continue to find ways of growing it mindfully and making it accessible.

As part of the pilot, local drag artists Dare de LaFemme, Tyffanie Morgan and Rowena Whey are invited to re-inhabit the garments. Working with local dress historians, makers and conservators, the drag artists choose their own fabrics and embellishments and determined how they would like to wear, accessorize, and perform the garments made for them.

Carolyn Dowdell, Rowena and Dare de LaFemme look at fabric and pictures of their garments at the cutting table.

Shopping for fabric, with Carolyn Dowdell, Rowena Whey and Dare de LaFemme. Photo: Alicia Boutilier

At the store, Marissa Monette holds blue polka dot tulle, Carolyn Dowdell holds a blue delft patterned fabric. Tyffanie Morgan smiles in the middle.

Shopping for fabric, with Tyffanie Morgan, Marissa Monette and Carolyn Dowdell. Photo: Alicia Boutilier

From community to museum, and now museum back to community, Agnes’s Dress Collection sashays out into the world in ways not previously imagined with museum collections. The first patterns will be launched for free download in a new online exhibition on Digital Agnes in January 2024, with plans for new patterns, performances and resources to be added over the coming years.

Artists: Dare de LaFemme, Tyffanie Morgan, Rowena Whey
Curator: Alicia Boutilier

Conservator: Marissa Monette
Digital Development Coordinator: Danuta Sierhuis
Dress Historians/Patternmakers: Carolyn Dowdell (@modernmantuamaker), Elaine MacKay
Dressmakers: Jess Dykins (@jessicadykinsdesigner), Julia Popsin-Gomes (@juliapopsin)
Photographer: Bernard Clark
Videographer: Jay Middaugh

Supported by Bader Philanthropies Inc.

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