Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Expo 67 - A Mod Utopia


This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, Canada, better known as Expo 67. As a Montreal native that was born just a few years after 1967, I'm acutely aware of the impact Expo 67 had on my city.

But the reaches of this International Exposition goes far beyond the borders of my city or my country for that matter. Expo 67 was the most successful World's Fair of the 20th century. It was the single most important event, with the 1976 Olympics, that catapulted Montreal on the world stage.

You might wonder why this subject would be brought up on a blog about Mod culture. This is the reason why. Expo 67 has opened the door to the "modern era". Design, fashion, music, art, culture and architecture was on the cutting edge. In other words, it was a Mod utopia.


To give you a brief idea, check out this video from the National Film Board of Canada. I not only recommend it for the images but for the soundtrack as well. At the 2 minute mark you'll hear a perfect slice of Mod Jazz that is very similar to Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs. My favorite track starts at 4:40. It's a very obscure, out of this world instrumental by local band Les Pharaons called La Marche des Martiens (March of the Martians). The 45 is rather rare and has been on my wish list for quite a while.


Many seminal musical acts converged on the city during Expo 67. Take this 1967 Soul classic by Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye for instance. This footage of Ain't No Mountain High Enough was shot on the Expo site. The single was released on April 20th, just a week before the world exhibit opened its doors.


Another track that might be of interest to all you Mods out there is this rocksteady groover by The Melodians. Last Train To Expo 67 has all the makings of a classic 60s Jamaican track we are used to sway to.


I'm sure I will write other posts about the Expo in the upcoming months but for this one, I wanted to narrow our focus on the fashion surrounding the event. The world was right in the middle of the miniskirt craze and go-go boots.

Venezuela pavilion - Photo by Helmut Newton 

Here's a video of a Canadian Fashion Industry showcase that was held near the Canadian pavilion. Like any fashion show, some choices are questionable while others are reminders of what came out of Carnaby Street.


Always  the perfect example of poise, grace and style, Jackie Kennedy visited the sites.

[Photographer unknown]
Last weekend I had the chance to visit the Fashioning Expo 67 exhibit at the McCord Museum. You had prime examples of many pavilion hostess uniforms. No less then 62 nations were represented at the World Fair. That makes for some interesting and avant-garde styles. Unfortunately, men's fashion was practically non-existant. A sign of the times, I guess.

Uniforms from the Italian and UK pavilions.

My favorite had to be the USA uniform. The Mod appeal is undeniable. It might be a bit too bold to be worn today but I admire women that have the confidence to wear something audacious.


"The hostess in blue was an Expo icon, providing information and assistance everywhere on the site. To convey a professional image, a conservative knee-skimmimg skirt, common to many other Expo uniforms, was favoured over the more fashionable mini lenght." Designed by Michel Robichaud.
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Some of the Canadian provinces had their own pavilion and the uniforms that came with it. Here's the Quebec one.

The Western Canada Pavilion dressed 16 of its hostesses in this vibrant dress and matching coat designed by the John Crowley Company.


Even the Canadian Pulp and Paper pavilion had their own uniforms. 


Many sketches look like they came straight from Mary Quant's draft book.

Uniform from the Canadian Railway Pavilion

This was the entry submitted by Rita Simard for the Master Furriers Association of Quebec design competition.
Some of the outfits seen at the exhibit were not necessarily worm by employees but instead by the public. Here are fine examples.

Label: Pauli
Designer: Helen Harper




Of course, if you're going to visit such an exhibit, you have to dress the part. Daniel and Charlie look like they could have walked out of any of the Expo pavilions. Notice the authentic Expo hostess broach on Charlie's dress.


I might be a tad prejudiced but I'm convinced that my lovely wife would have made a great hostess.


The exhibit will run until October 1st 2017 at the McCord Museum . If you're in the Montreal area, don't miss it.

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