June 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
As a part of the Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel) program entitled “The Prairie as Inspiration: House Architecture from Pioneers to Frank Lloyd Wright,” Amy Zepp portrayed Susan while I interviewed her this past week. While in Springfield, the Road Scholars studied log cabins, a Greek Revival mansion, a Sears “kit” house, and the Dana-Thomas House in depth.
For the occasion, Amy wore a brown silk day dress which her mother, Jan Zepp, had created. The two women have researched fashions of the turn of the century extensively and recreate as accurately as possible dresses and hats that Susan and her friends may have worn. As the seamstresses of Susan’s day did, they begin with an image of a dress and design the gown and hat to fit Amy exactly. The results are stunning one-of-a-kind ensembles.
We can conclude that Susan also wore unique outfits. The inventory that was conducted in preparation for the auction of her personal property revealed bolts and bolts of fabric stored in the house. Most of the rolls of fabric came from Europe, and several were rotted with age. However, each bolt had only one dress cut out of it thereby assuring that no one in Springfield had a dress like Susan’s dress.
Unfortunately, none of Susan’s clothes survived. I explain in Chapter 19 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House:
[Years after the auction] Grace Bice [wife of Earl Bice, executor of Susan’s estate] recalled that a Chicago cousin, presumably Farnett Radcliffe, said that she did not want Susan’s clothes to be sold. She wanted them destroyed. Mrs. Bice assumed that Susan’s elegant gowns were burned.
Although Jan and Amy Zepp are unable to replicate dresses that she actually wore, I am sure that Susan would have been pleased to wear the striking ensembles they create. Amy/Susan was without a doubt the best dressed woman in the room of Road Scholars.