Maybe it’s because of my background in vintage clothing, but I’ve noted on more than one occasion that people dress too darn casually. Jeans, ballcaps and those hateful flipflops make Torontonians look like slobs as they walk down our city streets. There was a time when no one would be seen in public without a proper hat, or gloves, and where “dressing up” wasn’t so much about putting on a clean t-shirt but actually dressing appropriately.
Which is why it was so delightful to see people dressed up at the Santé wine event we attended last week at the Carlu. Men wore jackets, crisp shirts and polished shoes. Ladies arrived in a variety of pretty dresses – not evening gowns, but something a bit more dressy than they’d wear to work.
Of course, odds are it was the venue that inspired the lack of jeans and sneakers. The Carlu event space is the former restaurant and auditorium of the old Eaton’s location at Yonge and College. Abandoned and left to deteriorate for decades when Eaton’s moved south to the Eaton Centre in 1976, the space was restored to its 1930s glory in 2003.
Also known as “The Seventh Floor”, the Art Moderne design by architect Jacques Carlu is a breathtaking example of the architecture of the time. The Auditorium had played host to greats like Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, while the long hallway separating the auditorium from the Round Room restaurant was meant to resemble that of an ocean liner.
Today the space is fully restored, right down to the original Lalique fountain in the Round Room.
With the buzz of wine aficionados sipping merlot and chardonnay, it was easy to stand at the entrance of the Round Room and picture something out of a 1930s film, to imagine Joan Crawford sweeping past the fountain in a sequined gown, or Joanne Woodward lounging in one of the alcoves sipping a cocktail. The ladies at the wine event we attended weren’t quite that decked out, but I have a suspicion that they would have been if they thought they could get away with it. I know I would have donned a gown just to sashay across that room and pretend I was a starlet.