Ryerson’s Fashion Department: Growing Opportunities for Women


Ryerson’s downtown location, Yonge-Dundas, gives their students many opportunities that would not be possible elsewhere. Yonge-Dundas has been a highly commercialized area since the mid 19th century. Although the area is most known for the location of the Eaton Centre today, it originated by the department store Eaton’s in 1869. The department store gave women a public space in  the downtown core where they could interact with others over a common interest: shopping. Opportunities for women quickly grew from here as women started studying and working in the fashion industry.

Ryerson’s fashion program has truly come to life since the 1950s. Over the last 60 years, Ryerson’s fashion program has become one of the most comprehensive in Canada. What truly marked their place in Toronto’s fashion world was their first fashion show in 1956. This fashion show was such a success it became an annual event known today as Mass Exodus. Over the years Mass Exodus has become Canada’s largest student produced fashion show. Owing to their success was the co-operation and support the 1956 class recieved from Eaton’s.

Ryerson’s 1956 Yearbook: The Fashion Department’s Page

By World War II, Eaton’s was the largest retailer in the British Empire and was Canada’s third largest employer. Ryerson’s proximity to Eaton’s allowed a partnership to be formed with the school of fashion. Many students were offered jobs at Eaton’s upon graduation. One of these students was Sandra Burt, who graduated from Ryerson in 1963.

                                                                                        Ryerson’s Fashion Page: 1963 Yearbook

Over the four year program at Ryerson, students got to experience all aspects of the fashion world. From attending events and learning how to network to creating their own fashion shows, students at Ryerson continue to receive unique opportunities that other universities cannot offer.

One of Ryerson’s fashion alumni, Sarah Lian, said this about her experience:

“Ryerson is located in the heart of Toronto, and anything remotely fashion related would always trickle into our school. We’d be at every event; volunteering, representing, and most of all learning. If anything, it was hard NOT to be part of the fashion scene in Toronto.” Read more…

Although Eaton’s closed in 1999, some of the companies that sponsor Exodus include Aritzia, M.A.C Cosmetics, Le Chateau and Danier, which are located inside the Eaton Centre. Ryerson’s downtown location has given Ryerson students many unique opportunities and as the university moves on to Yonge Street the possibilities are limitless.


About Ryerson On Yonge

A course in the Faculty of Arts, we have been studying the history of the neighbourhood around Yonge and Dundas, and Ryerson campus, in order to consider the social context and cultural importance of the new Student Learning Centre, which will occupy 341 through 355 Yonge Street. This blog is not an official Ryerson publication, and is a student-composed analysis of campus and its neighbourhood.
This entry was posted in Coming Together at Yonge and Dundas: Liberation, Subcultures and Media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ryerson’s Fashion Department: Growing Opportunities for Women

  1. Pingback: Coming Together at Yonge and Dundas: Liberation, Subcultures, and Their Products | Ryerson On Yonge

  2. Pingback: Coming Together at Yonge and Dundas: Liberation, Subcultures, and Media. | Ryerson On Yonge

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