Ken doll fashion part of new exhibit at Cambridge's Fashion History Museum
'In my memory, that’s what menswear actually looked like,' collector James Fowler says
James Fowler loves vintage clothing, but his closet space is limited.
Clothing trends from 1961 to 1967 are particularly fascinating to him, so the Toronto man found another way to feed his need for vintage: Ken dolls.
"I started collecting Ken as a way of collecting vintage clothes, because I didn't have a big enough space to put actual full-sized clothes in," he said.
He admits to have a couple of favourites. One is a Ken wearing an orange hooded sweater and a striped bathing suit.
"It just reminds me of being a kid, being in California at the beach. Life was permanent summer at that age. You didn't have to do much," he said.
The other is Ken in a grey flannel suit.
"The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is the man who ruled the 1960s," Fowler said, admitting he has 14 of the suits.
Fowler, who is a fashion writer and former costumer, said he's also partial to one where Ken is dressed in a 1950s white dinner jacket with a burgandy bowtie and cummerbund.
"In my memory, that's what menswear actually looked like," he said.
'Oh, it looks like Mad Men'
Fowler's Ken dolls and their clothes are currently on display at the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge.
Curatorial director Jonathan Walford said the exhibit, which runs until Sept. 25, is a hit with visitors.
People are impressed with the amount of detail that went into the clothing – tiny snaps, zippers and buttons – for a 30 cm-tall doll.
"What I think is interesting is the casual wear ... what a collegiate or a man would be wearing in the mid-1960s, the shorts and the shirts and the jackets. There's looks that look like the Beatles, he had a little Beatle wig, in fact, to go with this sort of casual sport jacket," Walford said.
"That kind of everyday type of fashion thing is really interesting, too, because I like the clothes myself of that particular period. And they look a lot like today's clothes, as well: The skinny-legged pants and the nice form-fitting tailored jackets."
Exhibit on until Sept. 25
Segers and Fowler are friends, and together they have created a book of photos and Fowler's story called Ken and Me … The Vintage Years.
Fowler said he was excited when the museum wanted to do an exhibit of his dolls and their outfits.