June 20, 2012
This month’s issue of CGW’s Squeals newsletter came out with a very nice review of my recent workshop: Amelia and her Shocking Bloomers, that I presented to CGW in April. It was written by Joy Flasher (thank you, Joy!), a member of CGW, who attended the workshop. Here is her review, and I hope you get a chance to see my presentation in person at Costume College in August this year.
AMELIA AND HER SHOCKING BLOOMERS WORKSHOP
Presented by Valarie ****
Written by Joy Flasher
On April 6, 2010 CGW members met in Buena Park at the home of Elizabeth McCash—thank you, Elizabeth, for hosting--for the first ever presentation of Valarie ****’s workshop “Amelia and Her Shocking Bloomers”. Valarie, Val to those who know her, is from San Diego.
This writer will try not to lessen the anticipation of those who will attend this workshop at Costume College but I will give you highlights that will be sure to whet your appetite for more knowledge on the topic of Amelia Bloomer and her fabulous outfit.
Val’s presentation was a delightful detour from the usual Dress Reform lectures. While she included some wonderful and interesting history of the Dress Reform movement Val’s primary focus was on the woman and the clothing that influenced Amelia, and how future garments were influenced by the bloomer style.
Cat Frazier, also from San Diego, modeled a gown from the late 1850’s, which would have been worn with multiple petticoats to achieve the desired silhouette. Val pointed out the potential and real problems women of that era faced wearing all those petticoats, most of them health related. Val wore her latest bloomer gown creation for the presentation and had her first bloomer gown on display for everyone to view.
Val’s quest to learn more about the bloomer gown began over a year ago in January 2011 when a costuming friend and mentor gave her a large stash of Civil War costume patterns. While going through the patterns Val came across a Past Pattern for an 1851 Bloomer costume, which had been produced by Saundra Ros Altman in 1997. However, the pattern was not completed and never marketed. So, Val began her search to learn all she could about the pattern but, more importantly, about the bloomer gown that was the inspiration for Saundra’s original pattern.
Val found that the Past Pattern bloomer costume had actually been based on a garment that was part of San Diego Historical Society’s collection. She was able to get an appointment with the SDHS to view the original bloomer gown that had been worn by San Diego resident Mary Thurston Stickney in 1851. Mary Stickney was influenced by a newspaper article she read about the bloomer outfit. How fantastic is that, to be able to get up close and personal with an extant garment you’re researching. She made the most of her visit with Mary Stickney’s gown by documenting the type of fabrics used as well as construction details. And, she was able to get some great pictures of this fabulous bloomer outfit.
During the months that followed Val’s research continued. When it came to researching this topic Val did not limit her resources to the internet and local historical societies. Some of her research included contact with different historical societies in New York where the women’s reform movement began.
Val’s research also brought her in contact with Saundra Ros Altman, the producer of the original bloomer pattern. Saundra’s renewed interest in the bloomer pattern meant that it would eventually be available to the public, and she credits Val in her acknowledgments in the pattern. Val has been in contact with Saundra regularly to keep us all updated with the pattern’s progress. As of the date of the workshop the patterns were almost ready.
Val’s presentation is a wonderful compilation of photographs, fashion plates and history, and it is clear that she put a lot time into the research and creation of this terrific workshop. It is not to be missed! Those who attend at Costume College will not be disappointed.
Thank you, Val, for a wonderful presentation of the history of Amelia Bloomer’s bloomers.
**Note: A last minute surprise from Val—she got permission from The Doll Reader to reprint their Amelia paper doll pages from 1985 and she will include them with her handout at Costume College.