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Doll’s Red River Outfit

Curated Submission
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1945 - 1950
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
20 x 15
Materials & techniques
Wool; Knitted, plain woven, hand-sewn, machine-sewn
Gift of Margaret A. Johnson
Textile Museum of Canada T2007.40.1a-f

The Red River outfit was a common winter costume worn by Quebec children from the 1900s to the 1950s. Rooted in Canadian history, it was developed out of trade relations between First Nations people and European traders. French sailors who came on trade missions wore capotes, hooded coats. First Nations people fashioned their own capotes from blankets they received through trade with the French. Over time, the coats changed, influenced by available materials and changing styles. By the mid-19th century, these coats became popular in Montreal among the wealthier population, and by the 20th century they were ubiquitous as children’s wear in Quebec and Ontario – a “Canadian favourite.”
Anna McLeod Gilmor, the maker of this doll’s Red River outfit, was born in 1875 in Seaford, Ontario. Like other women of that generation, she was a wonderful seamstress and applied her talents to make clothes, lamps, lampshades, draperies and, later in her life, clothing for her grandchildren’s dolls. Each Christmas, from 1945 to 1950, she would make a doll’s dress as a present for her granddaughter Margaret. Gilmor cut and hand-stitched the coat from dark blue wool, lined it with red wool, and embellished the sleeves, back seam, and shoulders with red piping. She also hand-stitched buttonholes for tiny black buttons, and knitted leggings, mittens, a toque, and a sash worn either around the waist or the neck and face in freezing weather. Tiny as it is, this costume speaks of Canadian history, outdoor recreation in the snowy winters, and children’s fashion in the 20th century.

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