Images from the Library
Supportive fraternal organizations such as the Freemasons and the Protestant Orange Order attracted many Canadian men. During meetings, they wore ceremonial clothing, which helped to create the aura of a secret society, and to reaffirm their organizational identity and status.
The most distinctive ceremonial garment of the Freemasons was the apron, which was based on the apron worn by medieval stonemasons as a functional garment. Distinctions of rank, as seen in the blue ribbon and rosettes, were of symbolic and ritual importance. John Milton Shaw, a Freemason living in Regina, Saskatchewan, wore other important forms of regalia, including a cane and cufflinks, which incorporated engravings of traditional Masonic symbols such as the compass and square.
The Orange Order in Canada had its own ceremonial garments, such as the ceremonial sash worn by the first Grand Master of Upper Canada, Ogle Gowan, in 1838. The sash is decorated with the thistle, rose and clover — symbols of the British Empire — richly embroidered with metallic thread, the height of the Victorian aesthetic.