Crossroads of Culture 200 Years of Canadian Immigration (1800-2000)
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Clothing and Adornment

The circumstances under which immigrants depart from their home country are reflected in the garments they bring to Canada.

People who emigrated from France in the 1600s were well informed and prepared for the climates of Acadia and Quebec. As peasants, their clothing consisted mainly of homespun woolen trousers, skirts, jackets, stockings and coats. Underclothing and blouses were made of linen. Soldiers, priests, nuns and artisans dressed like this, too. Footwear consisted of wooden clogs and leather boots. Scarves, shawls, furs, and even rags, gave further protection from wind, rain, snow or sun - as did headwear, usually made from straw, wool, fur or leather.

As pre-industrial folk, most British North Americans had similar wardrobes, but with more tailored fur, linen and wool.

Europeans who arrived after 1890 basically dressed the same as Canada's rural and urban inhabitants. There were slight variations in pattern or colour, particularly among Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans. Asian immigrants, such as Chinese railway workers or Sikh labourers, who entered Canada before 1910 wore national costumes, looking exotic in the new land. Overall, though, the way people dressed after being here a few years was usually determined by their social class.

From 1830 when the cotton mills of England and the U.S.A. began producing gingham and other fabrics, both outerwear and underclothes underwent radical changes in style and use. A century and a half later, synthetic fabrics - nylon, rayon, polyesters - had as great an impact upon everyday clothes.

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