Upon taking office Her Honour designed, at her own cost, a viceregal uniform appropriate for a woman and reflective of the character of British Columbia. The midnight blue military doeskin jacket and ankle-length skirt was produced by Claymore Clothes of Vancouver. Milliner Alfreda Chick designed a matching bowler-style hat for use when reviewing Honour Guards.
As “a daughter of this magnificent land” Her Honour selected silver to represent the moon, a female symbol. The stand collar and the cuff designs are botanical samples of Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), used in First Nations houses, canoes and clothing. An embroidered yoke represents the provincial flower, the Pacific Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) whose flowers also represent the province’s many peoples.
The jacket displays symbolically two First Nations gifts of names given previously to Her Honour. Saan aag X’wha (Person Who Sits High) given by Chief Skidegate, Clarence Collinson of the Haida Nation, is represented by Bill Reid’s Haida Eagle design. The name Notz-whe-Neah (Mother of the Big Fin), given by Chief Haq be quot’o, Kenneth Harris of the Tsimshian Nation, is represented by a Skeena River Killer Whale design of Tsimshian / Haida artist Roy Henry Vickers.
Cultural, personal and ecological symbols blend within the symbolic language of this uniform of office, now a twenty-first century treasure of the Royal British Columbia Museum’s collection.
It will be on display in Victoria in the RBCM exhibit Free Spirit: Stories of You, Me and BC, celebrating the last 150 years of the people of British Columbia, from March 13, 2008 through January 4, 2009.
Dr. Lorne F. Hammond is curator of History at the Royal BC Museum.