CNE Fashion – From Elegant Tea Dresses to Funky Go-Go Boots

1971 - Fun at the CNE and Princes' Gates
1971 – Fun at the CNE and Princes’ Gates (CNE Archives)

While many of us headed to the Canadian National Exhibition for tradition, fun and food, let’s take a look at how fashion at the CNE changed throughout the years.

What were people wearing at the Canadian National Exhibition?

1910’s: It was the Edwardian era so in the summer, women wore tea dresses made of white/cream lace along with an elaborate hat. Men wore 3-piece suits with ankle cuffs and topped off their attire with a straw Boater hat.

1920’s: During the Roaring 20’s, women’s summer wear included a no-waist sheath dress with a sash tied at the hips, T-strap or Mary Jane shoes and cloche hat. Men’s suit attire was fashioned around the Jazz Age but this time with softer collars and fabrics.

1930 - Ladies in beach pajamas on the CNE Midway
1930 – Ladies in beach pajamas on the CNE Midway (CNE Archives)

1930’s: The midway bathing beauties graced the shores of Lake Ontario and Toronto pool sides in a garment called Beach Pajamas. The summer leisurewear had a palazzo-style pant with an attached sleeveless top featuring bold prints and extremely wide legs. For men, pants with non-matching sports coats were considered semi-formal attire.

1940’s: At The Ex, men looked sharp in an informal summer suit with a white double-breasted dinner jacket, white shirt, black pants and bow tie. Ladies looked sophisticated in dresses with defined waists and calf-length hemlines. Fur coats and vests were fashionable at the time and accessories included a hat and high ankle strap shoes.

1950’s: Fashion had shifted to a more formal look when it came to going out. Women wore dresses that had soft shoulders, accentuated their waist with a skirt that billowed out. It was important to match your hat, belt, purse and shoes. Men were still wearing suits but with fedora hats.

1960's - Model looking glamorous in a white dress with large angel sleeves at a CNE furniture exhibit
1960’s – Model looking glamorous in a white dress with large angel sleeves at a CNE furniture exhibit (CNE Archives)

1960’s: Fashion in the 60’s changed dramatically over the decade. In the early to mid 60’s, women were wearing Jackie-O style attire with tailored skirts/dresses and jackets with hats. Other fashion included swanky, flowing dresses made of luxury fabric. Men were wearing slim-fitted pants and button-downs or polo shirts (the Ivy League Look).

In the middle of the decade, Go-Go boots made their first appearance on the scene. By the end of the decade, fashion was once again transitioning. Clothing like mini skirts with simple mock/turtleneck tops, Windsor glasses and ankle boots were in, as well as over-the-top Flower Power outfits. When it came to men’s fashion in the late 60’s, Britain had a great influence. Outfits were showy with bright colours and bold patterns.

1970’s: In the early 70’s, Go-Go boots were still in along with the short skirts and hippie dresses. T-shirts, short-shorts, bell-bottom jeans and plaid pants were in-style for both women and men. There were really no rules when it came to 70’s fashion. It was pretty much anything goes, especially when it came to men’s shirts. There were a huge variety of styles from flashy disco to cowboy and everything in between.

CNE Fashion Photos

1911 - A couple enjoying a day out at the Canadian National Exhibition - the woman is wearing a tea dress and fancy hat while the man is in a 3-peice suit wearing a straw boater hat
1911 – A couple enjoying a day out at the Canadian National Exhibition – the woman is wearing a tea dress and fancy hat while the man is in a 3-peice suit wearing a straw boater hat (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1876)
1910 - Ladies in tea dresses and elaborate hats at a reception on Exhibition grounds for Sir Henry and Lady Pellatt
1910 – Ladies in tea dresses and elaborate hats at a reception on Exhibition grounds for Sir Henry and Lady Pellatt (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 555)
1913 - CNE's President Noel Marshall and a group of women looking proper in mid 1910's attire
1913 – CNE’s President Noel Marshall and a group of women looking proper in mid 1910’s attire (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1384)
1920 - Fancy 2-piece bathing costumes with head attire, rolled stockings and beach slippers
1920 – Fancy 2-piece bathing costumes with head attire, rolled stockings and beach slippers (CNE Archives)
1928 - Two models - one wearing a pink silk dress and the other a blue taffeta dress at the CNE
1928 – Two models – one wearing a pink silk dress and the other a blue taffeta dress at the CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 14768)
1926 - Two models - one wearing a red satin dress and the other a black taffeta dress at the CNE
1926 – Two models – one wearing a red satin dress and the other a black taffeta dress at the CNE (City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 14767)
1930 - Prime Minister RB Bennett and group wearing top hats and 3-peice suits with long jackets
1930 – Prime Minister RB Bennett and group wearing top hats and 3-peice suits with long jackets (CNE Archives)
1930 - Ladies in beach pajamas on the CNE Midway
1930 – Ladies in beach pajamas on the CNE Midway (CNE Archives)
1935 - Front program cover for the Canadian National Exhibition fashion show
1935 – Front program cover for the Canadian National Exhibition fashion show (CNE Archives)
1940 - Models at the CNE wearing classic wartime attire that was both flattering to the silhouette yet featured masculine details
1940 – Models at the CNE wearing classic wartime attire that was both flattering to the silhouette yet featured masculine details (CNE Archives)
1940 - A dapper looking man sporting a white double-breasted jacket, black pants and bow tie while the woman is wearing a calf-length dress and a fur vest for an evening out at the Canadian National Exhibition
1940 – A dapper looking man sporting a white double-breasted jacket, black pants and bow tie while the woman is wearing a calf-length dress and a fur vest for an evening out at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE Archives)
1940 - Model wearing a Kitten Mills sweater
1940 – Model wearing a Kitten Mills sweater (CNE Archives)
1960's - Model wearing a matching skirt, short waist jacket and snood in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre lobby at the Exhibition
1960’s – Model wearing a matching skirt, short waist jacket and snood in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre lobby at the Exhibition (CNE Archives)
1960's - Model looking glamorous in a white dress with large angel sleeves at a CNE furniture exhibit
1960’s – Model looking glamorous in a white dress with large angel sleeves at a CNE furniture exhibit (CNE Archives)
1960's - Kitten Sweaters brand worn by models standing on ladders at The Ex
1960’s – Kitten Sweaters brand worn by models standing on ladders at The Ex (CNE Archives)
1965 - Miss Hawaii Bonnie Conlan looking polished in a pencil skirt and matching short jacket
1965 – Miss Hawaii Bonnie Conlan looking polished in a pencil skirt and matching short jacket (CNE Archives)
1966 - Model on the CNE fashion show runway wearing a funky purple mini-skirt, pink mock neck top, boots, long beaded necklace and tiny sunglasses
1966 – Model on the CNE fashion show runway wearing a funky purple mini-skirt, pink mock neck top, boots, long beaded necklace and tiny sunglasses (CNE Archives)
1960's - Psychedelic, over-the-top, flower-power patterned crop-top with ultra wide leg pants
1960’s – Psychedelic, over-the-top, flower-power patterned crop-top with ultra wide leg pants (CNE Archives)
1966 - Model wearing a long coat on the runway at a CNE fashion show
1966 – Model wearing a long coat on the runway at a CNE fashion show (CNE Archives)
1967 - Fun on The Midway in classic, mid 60's attire
1967 – Fun on The Midway in classic, mid 60’s attire (CNE Archives)
1967 - Five young men in retro mid 60's clothing, posing on a vintage tractor at The Ex
1967 – Five young men in retro mid 60’s clothing, posing on a vintage tractor at The Ex (CNE Archives)
1967 - A couple looking stylish by the Princess Margaret Fountain
1967 – A couple looking stylish by the Princess Margaret Fountain (CNE Archives)
1968 - White pants, a bold print blouse and 50¢ body painting
1968 – White pants, a bold print blouse and 50¢ body painting (CNE Archives)
1969 - Model at the CNE with a fancy updo
1969 – Model at the CNE with a fancy updo (CNE Archives)
1969 - Prime Minister PE Trudeau in classic late 60's attire
1969 – Prime Minister PE Trudeau in classic late 60’s attire (CNE Archives)
1970 - T-shirts, short-shorts and striped tube socks
1970 – T-shirts, short-shorts and striped tube socks (CNE Archives)
1970's - Jean cut-offs, plaid pants, cotton candy and sno cones on The Midway
1970’s – Jean cut-offs, plaid pants, cotton candy and sno cones on The Midway (CNE Archives)
1971 - Fun at the CNE and Princes' Gates
1971 – Fun at the CNE and Princes’ Gates (CNE Archives)
1970's - CHUM Wild Cat ride
1970’s – CHUM Wild Cat ride (CNE Archives)
1920/1960’s - Fun and fashion at the EX
1920/1960’s – Fun and fashion at the EX (CNE Archives)
1911/1970 - Fun and fashion at the EX
1911/1970 – Fun and fashion at the EX (CNE Archives)
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