ROM Governors

Passion for Fashion

Passion for Fashion

“It’s a day I will always remember,” says Patricia Harris. “The Dior dress was nestled in folds of tissue paper and it was a gorgeous rich red. Inside another box was a sky-high pair of black heels and a matching red belt. The dress took over 500 hours to make and you could see the exquisite workmanship in the sewing, beading and pleating.” 

This stunning Christian Dior couture gown is part of the ROM’s BIG exhibition. It was acquired by the Louise Hawley Stone Trust, which generates over $2 million annually for the Museum to purchase new acquisitions and produce publications.

As one of the top volunteers and supporters of the Museum’s textiles and costume collection, Patricia was invited to the ROM for a behind-the-scenes unveiling of the Dior dress with Dr. Alexandra Palmer, Senior Curator of Textiles & Costume.  

Patricia’s passion for sewing and needlework led her to volunteer in the ROM’s costume and textiles collection in 1958. She went on to become the first Chair of the Textile Endowment Fund Committee (1975-1990) and created the Textile and Costume Committee (1996), which she chaired for several years.  Patricia was also the first woman to be elected to the ROM Board of Trustees (1969) and was honoured with the ROM’s Distinguished Service Award in 2006.

In December 1999, Patricia’s husband William surprised her with an early Christmas gift of $1 million towards the establishment of a permanent textile and costume gallery at the ROM, later to be named the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume.

“Patricia’s incredible support has enabled us to share our world-renowned collections with a wider public,” says Alexandra. “We were very happy she joined in the unwrapping of the Dior dress when it first arrived at the ROM, as we strive to create truly memorable experiences for our supporters around our exhibitions.”