A couple of years back, Patricia Zanger was selling hats in Bonnet, her shop nine floors below my apartment, while I was writing Blue Thread. We were both working on revisions. I was polishing the story of Miriam and her involvement with the Osborne sisters, two milliners from Chicago who rented a tiny hat shop in northwest Portland in 1912. Downstairs in her real live shop, Patricia was taking a bolder step. Eager to provide her customers with hats they liked, Patrica decided to make her own.
Unlike the Osborne sisters, Patricia does not use toxic dyes in her hats. She buys the best materials and imports ribbon from France. She hails from New York City, not Chicago, and has owned shops for about 20 years. It takes several days to steam, shape, and stitch a hat, and then to add the finishing touches. Like the Osbornes, Patricia will sell you a ready made hat or personalize one. […]
In Blue Thread, Miriam goes to a Halloween party dressed as Marie Antoinette. Her mother, Lillian Josefsohn, gives her a pearl necklace to wear. Later,
Mama came to the front hall. She insisted that Mrs. Steinbachers chauffeur drive Charity and me to the railroad depot. Sure enough, a few minutes later the Packard was once again in front of our house. I feared for a moment that Mama would come with us, but she didnt. Instead, she gave me the pearl necklace Id worn as Marie Antoinette.
This pearl necklace will show up about fifty years later in a companion novel to Blue Thread. More about that later. For now, let’s focus on those pearls.
The first cultured pearls were developed in about 1916, and Blue Thread takes place in 1912. Clearly Mama’s pearls were wrested from the sea, and, in my story, most likely by the Ama, Japanese women divers. […]
Last week we looked at tops that women cyclists might have worn a hundred years ago. Today we get to the bottom…which in the late 1800s and early 1900s were often bloomers. Bloomers–those baggy pants usually gathered at the bottom–are associated with Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894).
Bloomer edited The Lily, what’s believed to be the first newspaper in the United States directed at women. The Lily grew out of the temperance movement (educating the public on the evils of alcoholic beverages) and expanded to include other issues important to women, including the right to vote. Among the contributors to The Lily was a person who signed her articles “Sunflower”–suffrage activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Stanton and Bloomer became friends and allies in the fight for women’s rights. They both began to wear the knee-length dress and pants that Stanton’s cousin, Elizabeth Smith Miller, designed. According to the National Park Service (which manages the Women’s Rights National Historical Park and has volumes of information on the Web), it’s Miller (1822-1911) we have to thank for “bloomers.” On a trip to Turkey, she was taken with the practicality and the mixture of modesty and freedom of movement of pantaloons. […]