Excited to find Elfriede Holtkamp (EHC’s Founder) contributions to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the Calgary Stampede, has been published in a new book ‘Calgary’s Stampede Queens’ by Glenbow Museum Librarian and Archivist, Jennifer Hamblin. The new book documents the history of Calgary Stampede royalty.
Thanks to my husband, Ian Rogan, of the LV Greyes Partnership, who on a research trip came upon the book. Following his instincts and knowing of Elfriede’s involvement with the Calgary Stampede Queen contest, wondered whether she had been referenced in the book.
As it turns out, there are a number of photographs as well as a newspaper article from 1968, making reference to the work Elfriede did. Between the years of 1964 and 1973, she created outfits for the Stampede Queen and her Ladies in Waiting (later Princesses).
Recalling her association with the Calgary Stampede, Elfriede explains it all began with a serendipitous conversation between her husband, Hermann Holtkamp, and Mr. Jack Gow, a member of the Associated Canadian Travelers (ACT) Stampede Queen committee, whose wife had been designing the Queen’s and her Ladies in Waiting outfits for the past six years. In talking, it was mentioned, that Elfriede was an accomplished seamstress working in Calgary. Shortly after in 1963 Mrs. Orpha Gow, asked if she would consider making the outfits.
In preparation, and while awaiting the final outcome of the contest that year, Elfriede took the measurements of all 20 young women! Meanwhile, planning the colours and styles for the Queens and Princesses, finalizing designs and calculating fabric requirements for the Stampede Queen committee to source. By the time the Queen and Princesses were chosen at the end of May, the sumptuous wool fabrics and brocades were supplied and the work could begin. Fittings took place in early June, a particularly rainy month in Calgary. Often travelling was difficult because of the extremely muddy conditions of country roads. Elfriede, recalls working all-night during a particularly heavy thunder storm listening to the late night news announcing concern about possible lighting strikes.
At the time, Elfriede’s atelier was staffed with just two seamstresses. With the very short lead time available, many hours of overtime were put in by everyone. Without the hard work of her employees, six tailored Western style riding suits, fully lined with embellishments, would never have been accomplished for Stampede opening events in early July.
During these years, Elfriede was also asked to create outfits for some honoured guests of the Calgary Stampede including Lady Patricia Brabourne (eldest daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten) who in 1974, succeeded her cousin Lady Patricia Ramsay, formerly HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught, as Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (SEE PPCLI BLOG) Katharine Duchess of Kent, first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and Norah Willis Michener, wife of Roland Michener, 20th Governor General of Canada.
Having opportunity for just a single fitting, measurements for honoured guests were sent in advance. In one instance, measurements supplied were obviously taken or recorded in error. Suspicion they were erroneous were confirmed when Elfriede met the Duchess at a pre Stampede event “and I discreetly reviewed her figure”.
For security reasons, fittings for both Lady Brabourne and the Duchess of Kent were held at the Palliser Hotel, where they were staying. On these appointments, Elfriede was chauffeured to and from the hotel and escorted to their suites. Elfriede recalls it being a special time, Lady Patricia Brabourne shared some personal thoughts and a few family photos with her, in particular a recent photograph of her son’s birthday present which was a miniature horse tied with a large bow around its belly.
Another year, the Governor General Roland Michener and his wife Norah Willis Michener arrived in Calgary for Stampede via the Royal Train. As the spouse of a Governor General is titled, the Chatelaine of Rideau Hall, the fitting was held in their private carriage. Even with only limited time and one fitting guests of honour remarked on how out beautifully fitted and finished their costumes were.
On one memorable occasion, Elfriede remembers the Stampede Queen took a tumble from her horse. With a great tear in the knee, they sent the riding trousers to Elfriede to mend. With time at a premium and needed for the next event, the entire Stampede entourage made a detour to pick up the trousers. Unfortunately, no camera was at hand to record the impressive convoy of ten vehicles with RCMP escort in front of Elfriede’s atelier! … cheers! J