II-60125.1 | Miss Allan and friend as "Tennis" and "Winter", Montreal, QC, 1881

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Miss Allan and friend as "Tennis" and "Winter", Montreal, QC, 1881
Notman & Sandham
1881, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
14 x 10 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

In the late 19th century, fancy dress representing a concept like a game or a season was common, especially for women. The costumes were typically based on a fashionable dress style embellished with trims and small objects that alluded to the concept.

May Allan's unusual "Tennis" costume includes a racket and balls on her head, and a net draped around her navy blue skirt. Her older sister, Maud, in a white dress trimmed with snowshoes and a real stuffed snowbird, portrayed "Winter," a very popular character, especially at skating carnivals. The rectangular pieces at her neckline and waistline are meant to be icicles.

Another popular emblematic costume was "Night," a dress of black tulle covered with gold stars worn with a crescent moon on the head. "The Press" was often portrayed in garments entirely covered with newspapers.

Ottawa Free Press, 1 February 1881.

  • What

    Maud Allan, on the right, wore a "dark green petticoat covered with hemlock; white . . . flannel overdress trimmed with swansdown and icicles; tiny snowshoes fastened in the hat and belt and a snowbird perched on the shoulder."

  • Where

    The skating carnival attended by these two young women took place in Ottawa, at the Royal Rink. The McCord Museum has a few individual portraits of guests.

  • When

    The young women posed for this photograph in February 1881, immediately following the fancy dress skating carnival at the Royal Rink in Ottawa, under the patronage of the Governor General, Lord Lorne.

  • Who

    The Misses Allan were the daughters of the Hon G. W. Allan of Toronto, Speaker of the Senate, and thus were part of the very select viceregal party accompanying Lord Lorne.