Mary Simon’s coronation outfit represents her Inuit culture
Designer Beatrice Deer spent weeks designing outfit worn by Governor General at ceremony Saturday in London
While Gov. Gen. Mary Simon was among the thousands attending the coronation of King Charles in London, England on Saturday, her clothes told a story of her home thousands of kilometres away.
The dress, or annuraaq, Simon wore to the ceremony was designed by fellow Nunavimmiut Beatrice Deer, the celebrated singer-songwriter, designer and mental health activist.
That Nunavik connection was integral to the outfit’s design.
Simon, a longtime friend of Deer’s mother, reached out to Deer through a mutual friend two months ago and said she wanted to wear something that represented her Inuit culture.
“She told me she wanted to make the annuraaq have the traditional curved hem that we see a lot in our clothing,” said Deer, who is well-known as lead singer for the Beatrice Deer Band but who is also an accomplished designer, having sewn clothes since she was 13 years old.
Simon wanted the colours to include emerald green and with black and gold trim.
So Deer got to work coming up with ideas.
After meeting Simon in person and showing her a sketch of her design that blended traditional and contemporary designs, Deer began the month-and-a-half process of creating the garment.
In addition to sewing the different fabrics, like sheer green material on the arms, caribou fur details and a white fox-fur collar, the process included beading and embroidering the Governor General’s official coat of arms for a chest piece on the annuraaq.
Simon’s personal coat of arms features an arctic fox, which symbolizes her career as a diplomat and advocate for circumpolar affairs, and it incorporates her motto, Ajuinnata, which means “to persevere” or “never give up” in Inuktitut.
“If you look at historical photos of our women, a lot of them have this incredible beaded artwork on their garments, so that’s what I wanted to follow,” Deer said.
However, she added, “I wasn’t sure on how to accomplish doing it justice.”
So, after enlisting advice from friends and looking up different embroidery techniques she could use to tackle the complex design, Deer employed a technique that involved printing the pattern on a special thin paper, embroidering over the pattern and then tearing off the paper underneath.
Just as important to the look were the accessories.
Deer also wanted to add a modern twist on traditional kamiks, or sealskin leather boots, so she beaded some floral patches and weaved sparkling Swarovski crystals into a fuschia-and-gold design, colours that Simon herself likes, Deer said.
She added a matching pair of hair pins to complete the look.
The garment took roughly 50 hours to complete, with Deer working on aspects of it “almost on a daily basis,” she said.
Some last-minute assistance from friends, including singer Nadia Mike from The Jerry Cans, helped Deer collect enough beads to pull the look together in time for Simon’s fitting at Rideau Hall last Sunday.
So how does Deer feel knowing a garment she made was seen by so many people in person and around the world on television?
“It’s a real honour, for sure,” Deer said.
“I have such a high regard for Mary Simon and I wanted to create something that honours her and shows where she comes from.
“She’s just the most gentle, nice, kind woman [who’s] done so much for our people and now being the Governor General, knowing what she’s trying to accomplish in her position, is very inspiring and honourable,” Deer said.
“I just wanted to show my appreciation by doing this garment, and doing it properly.”