In a Sow’s Ear 7-19-10
When I stopped by Susan’s house, I found her living room crowded with dress forms. It looked like a party was in progress – 150 years ago. The mannequins all wore gowns, dresses and bonnets from the 1800s.
It’s a good thing cowgirl Susan has “retired” because these days she has a full-blown business going making gorgeous period garments for rent and for sale. After she retired from horse and cattle raising, did her opposable thumbs go to twiddling faster than a runaway eggbeater due to lack of anything to do? Hah! Always adept at the sewing machine, she delved into her interest in historical clothing, especially the pre-Civil War era up through the late 1800s.
Susan produces “style shows” and “tea parties” for church groups, retirement homes, Red Hat Society groups, women’s clubs or any organization in need of historical entertainment. What makes her presentations outstanding are the “history lessons” she narrates as the models swirl and turn showing off the garments. She even has a spiffy website: http://www.RedNeckWoman.officelive.com.
“So, where do you find gals to model your clothes?” I asked. “And do they all have to be skinny?” I inquired, thinking of my personal medicine ball shape.
“Not at all,” said Susan. “While I sew everything by hand and make the dresses as historically accurate as possible, I do use elastic and zippers to make quick changes easier and to accommodate different sizes. As for models, any town or location I go to, there are always a bunch of girls and women who can’t wait to dress up.”
“Do you have to have young people or could those of us in the, er … more mature age group become a model?”
“Heck,” said Susan, grinning. “Once I did a show in an assisted living facility. I walked in and the nurse/attendant introduced me to the “models” – six ladies well into their golden years. One tiny little woman used a walker to get around. She was very quiet. The others chattered away but Mildred mostly kept her head down. I thought she must be very shy or maybe scared.”
Susan’s grin bloomed into an outright chuckle. “Boy, was I wrong about Mildred! I got everybody dressed in a costume. I put Mildred in a saloon girl outfit – shiny pink satin with ruffles and petticoats and black lace. She looked delicious – like a fluffy candy cane.”
“What happened?” I asked. “How did she do when she had to parade around the room?”
“Well,” Susan said, “in my routine presentation, I start by describing a garment and telling the basics for how it fit in a woman’s wardrobe – you know, was it a standard housework dress, a walking dress, evening gown, that sort of thing. The models then walk about and show off for the audience. So when I got to the saloon girl’s costume, I spoke my usual spiel about the girls of the hurdy gurdy houses – making it humorous.”
At this point, Susan laughed out loud. “And here came Mildred on her walker in her candy-cane dress and feather tiara. Head up and smiling, she walker-strolled around the edge of the room, then aimed for the center where I swear, she turned into an acrobat. Hanging on to the walker, she kicked out first one leg, then the other – kinda like a side-kicking cow. And wiggled her backside! Then she swiveled around so her walker was behind her, gripped the rail-arms and did two Rockette-style high-kicks making her pink satin skirt flare like a banner.”
Susan wiped her eyes, caught her breath and told me, “Nope, age doesn’t matter – you’d qualify.”