We know from looking at paintings and banknotes what the Fathers of Confederation wore in 1867: top hats, long coats, bow ties and, sometimes, furry beards. But what about the women of that period?
Last night, the home of Nova Scotia's lieutenant-governor, Government House, took a journey back in time, hosting a fashion show that featured historical designs by 16 fourth-year costume studies students from Dalhousie University.
The department does a historical reproduction project every year. This year, 1867 seemed the obvious choice in honor of Canada 150.
Tiana Kira, one of the students in the program, said there was a "chorus of excited sounds" when the class professor mentioned the idea. She said she loves the style and cut of women's clothing from that time.
"There's a lot of straight cuts that come from the waist, but there's a lot of pouf still from the previous years," she told CBC's Mainstreet. "It's sort of a segue time."
The students have been working on their projects since September 2016. The dresses themselves took about two months to make, but since they had to make every layer from scratch — chemise, corset, crinoline and petticoat — they needed the full seven months.
While trying on their creations, some students became aware that beauty and comfort don't always go together.
"There are societal implications to how restrictive [the dresses] were," said Abigail Kennedy.
In their studies, they learned that restrictiveness was often a status symbol for the 19th-century woman, said Kennedy: "The less movements she could do, the more money she had."
"If you're wearing it correctly, you can't lift your arms above your shoulder," said Kira. "There's no playing beach volleyball in these dresses."
The dress patterns are recreated from authentic 19th-century designs found in museum catalogues. Many of them are British or French rather than local, but as the students learned in class, transatlantic trade would have helped Canadian women keep up to date with European trends.
What Kira is most proud of, she said, is the amount of detail that went into her dress: an ivory silk wedding gown with crystal beading on the bodice and hidden buttons in the sleeves that, when closed, reveal hand-sewn lace and bead decorations.
Kennedy said her favorite part is "the pure size … very Gone With The Wind, large and full. I mean, I can't get through door frames with it on!"
Her ball gown has a 5½-metre circumference and contains 12 metres of silk.
They chose Government House as a venue, they said, because its antique architecture and furniture complement the dresses so well.
Also, it has double doors.