Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

ROM goes ‘BIG’ with newest exhibit

December 3rd, 2012 · No Comments

The Royal Ontario Museum opens new textile showcase

By Katie O’Connor

When the Royal Ontario Museum commissioned a haute-couture dress from fashion house Christian Dior, they had little idea how big its significance would become.

One month after the deep red dramatic coat dress was revealed to the world, its Dior designer John Galliano, was arrested and subsequently fired for making anti-Semitic remarks.

The dress, which is not only big in scandal, but in price ($100,000) and time (it took 500 hours to make), is the centrepiece of the ROM’s newest exhibit “BIG”.

Located on the fourth floor in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume, the display features textiles from across the world that are in some way or another, big – big in size, big names, big ideas, big historical significance, even big in price.

“‘BIG’ is not just about size, “ said Dr. Alexandra Palmer, senior curator of textiles and costume. “Even the smallest textile can have big personal, social and cultural value that shift according to context.”

The exhibit features 40 items and draws from the ROM’s collection of nearly 50,000 costumes and textiles.

The centrepiece of the BIG exhibit, a dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior.

In addition to the Christian Dior dress, items on display included a centuries old Peruvian macaw feather tunic preserved in coastal Peru for over 600 years, Chinese shoes for bound feet, 7.5 cm long from around 1910 to 1915, American fibreglass textiles, and evening gowns designed by Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford and Vivienne Tam.

To accompany the exhibit, the ROM will also run a series of symposiums and lectures throughout the year, dealing with a variety of issues in fashion, from the John Galliano scandal, to fur and body size.

Dr. Sarah Fee, associate curator of Eastern Hemisphere Textiles and Costume, said they hope to use the exhibit to invite people to think about fashion on a larger scale, and to tackles its issues face on.

“That’s part of what informs what we do,” she said. “These things are a big part of the story, and need to be brought forward.”

BIG runs from Nov. 3, 2012 until Fall 2013. For more information visit

Tags: Annex · Arts