I LOVED the dress our new Canadian Governor General wore when she was sworn into office on July 26th.
The navy dress was designed by Victoria Okpik, originally from Quaqtaq, Nunavik, in northern Quebec. Victoria was the first Inuk graduate in fashion design from Montreal’s LaSalle College and has more than twenty years of experience as both a seamstress and designer. When Mary Simon requested that Victoria make her dress for the swearing-in she had just twenty days to complete the task. Lots of e-mails with measurements, designs, and colors flew back and forth between Mary and Victoria as the dress took shape.
The beading on the dress was done by Julie Grenier who comes from the same small community as Mary Simon. She created a motif with flowers she used to pick as a child and colors that reminded her of Mary’s character and personality.
Julie and Victoria said it was a great honor to work on the dress. Since they had such a short time to make it both women put in long hours to get the dress ready on time. Julie and Victoria represent a long tradition of Inuk fashion creators.
Inuit fashion is not something new as I learned when I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and we had an exhibit called Our Land which featured all kinds of remarkable fashion items made by Inuk women. Everything from unique jewelry to stylish headgear to gorgeous parkas also called amautis.
During another exhibit in 2018 called SakKijâjuk, I was privileged to listen to a talk by some of the Inuk women who were preserving the art of making kamik. Check out the use of floral beading on the kamik like the beading on Mary Simon’s dress.
Mary Simon paid tribute to a long tradition of fashion in her culture when she invited two Inuk designers to create the dress for her swearing-in ceremony as Governor-General.
The dress she had designed for her investiture into office as Governor-General is the first thing I love about Mary Simon. Check out my blog post tomorrow to find out what the second thing is that I love about Mary Simon.