Bloomers make sesquicentennial comeback on Westside, Pikes Peak

Three “bloomer girls” are shown from the Aug. 2 events on
the Westside commemorating Julia Archibald Holmes’ climb
of Pikes Peak in such a garment in 1858. LEFT: Elizabeth
Barber (left) and Beth Harmon at the Rock Ledge Ranch
Historic Site. RIGHT: Erin Kathman at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center.
Westside Pioneer photos Three “bloomer girls” are shown from the Aug. 2 events on
the Westside commemorating Julia Archibald Holmes' climb
of Pikes Peak in such a garment in 1858. LEFT: Elizabeth
Barber (left) and Beth Harmon at the Rock Ledge Ranch
Historic Site. RIGHT: Erin Kathman at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center.
Westside Pioneer photos        The Westside and other locations - including the summit of Pikes Peak - got a chance to see “bloomer girls” celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary of Julia Archibald Holmes' hike to the top in early August 1858.
       At Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site Aug. 2, Beth Harmon and Elizabeth Barber wore the freer (by mid-19th century standards) pantalet dresses, while at the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center was Erin Kathman.
       The Rock Ledge portrayal additionally offered an encampment in the style of the gold-seeking Lawrence Party from Kansas that the 20-year-old Holmes and her husband James had been part of.
       “It was a good time, a lot of fun,” commented Bret Tennis, the Garden of the Gods interpreter who portrayed James. “It was good being able to educate people about what happened 150 years ago.” One historical point he noted was that the Holmeses did not come so much for the gold as for the “romantic idea of adventure and to see the Rocky Mountain range.” Just before the trip, James, a strong anti-slavery supporter, had just evaded capture by a Missouri militia for helping abolitionist John Brown, Tennis said.
       Barber, the Rock Ledge interpreter, admitted some disappointment at the relatively low turnout for the free event at Rock Ledge (about 100 people visited the encampment over about seven hours), but figured the weather - “it was very hot that day” - had something to do with it. The bloomer dress itself was warm, she noted.
       Barber said she especially enjoyed the chance a few days later to act out Holmes' summiting on the peak itself. As had been the case with the bloomer girl, “Just as I reached the top, it started to snow,” said Barber, who had used Holmes' descriptions as a guide in making her own dress. Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site attempted to recreate an
1858 encampment by Julia Archibald Holmes and the
Lawrence Party along Camp Creek Aug. 2. The opportunity
existed because Camp Creek flows through Rock Ledge. Holmes and others in the party climbed Pikes Peak.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Bloomers were a new, lighter style of women's apparel that were coming into vogue in the mid-1850s. For wearing them while becoming the first white woman to climb the peak, Holmes has become immortalized as “the bloomer girl.”

Westside Pioneer article