Bravos to Worth ... and Welle

Southwest Life

Ann Butler

Current Columnist


Phone Number: (970) 375-4584

Bravos to Worth ... and Welle

The subtitle for “For Love of Fashion and History” could have been: “The least known but most influential fashion designer ever.”

The annual historical fashion show was held after the Strater Hotel’s open house Thursday in the Henry Strater Theatre and was a fundraiser for the Animas Museum.

Mrs. Camp’s Town Ladies and Gents, volunteers from the museum and Bella Dance Studio, and staff and management from the Strater joined forces for the event, which began in Paris in the 1850s and continued through the 1920s and into the speak-easy and flapper era.

Diane Welle wrote, produced, directed and served as co-mistress of ceremonies portraying Madame Devereaux. Niles Bruno, also known as Toulouse, and Carol Bruno, aka Adelaide Labille-Guiard, joined her in moving the show along.

But what Welle, along with Carol Bruno and Suzanne Parker, deserves the most credit for is sewing scads of utterly scrumptious gowns. All I can say is a gigantic “Wow!”

In fact, Welle made her own magnificent creation in cream with black and red accents, in just eight hours. I couldn’t have made it if I had eight years. This is what comes from being a professional costume designer.

The show was structured around the character of Charles Frederick Worth – played by Bob Thom – an Englishman who became the first haute couture designer in “Gay Paree.”

During his career, Worth was the designer for the French court of Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugénie (played with regal splendor by Cindy Cortese). Because Eugénie was fascinated with Marie Antoinette, Worth’s own interest in historical costuming was a definite plus for her when choosing a designer.

I learned a lot writing this item, including that Eugénie was Spanish and her given name was Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick. Now there’s a mouthful, and if you’re wondering where that Kirkpatrick came from, her mother was half Scottish.

Worth was the first to use live models, hold fashion shows and put labels in his creations. His wife, Marie, as played by Kristi Nelson Cohen, had been a hat model, which may have inspired Worth in some of his firsts.

He not only designed for the French court, but for the courts of Russia, Italy, Spain and Austria, and American “royalty” such as the Vanderbilts and Astors. Celebrities of the time, including Sarah Bernhardt, Lillie Langtry, Nellie Melba and Jenny Lind also glowed in Worth fashions.

As Welle put it so aptly in her script, it was the first time people weren’t checking out “what” women were wearing, but “who” they were wearing.

The show was split into several vignettes, beginning with a cancan at the Moulin Rouge courtesy of Bella Dance students Kayla Schultz, Aisy Lowe and McKenna Ferguson.

The show next visited the House of Worth, then continued on to a description of the three accessories every woman relied on to make her outfit, hats, parasols and fans. Welle very effectively staged that section on models wearing black tights and tops, so the accessories really popped. “Toulouse” gave a little primer about the secret language of fans, with the “careful, we’re being watched” movement eliciting a mock gasp from all the models. I have to ask, if everyone, male and female, understood the movements, how secret could the language be?

Then it was off to the French court and a visit to Paris in the springtime with a duet of “Lazy Day” by Carleen Utterback and Niles Bruno. Models wore lawn dresses and spring hats, with one model wearing a hat with a whole garden of roses on top.

After a scene reminiscent of “My Fair Lady,” the show concluded with a trip to the aforementioned speak-easy and the models breaking into some Charleston dance moves.

The list of models is long, and they all get kudos for getting into the spirit of it all. They were Aleka Tisdel, Bernie Welle, Carol and Jim Lewin, Dimitri and ChrisSchlotter, Susie and Dan Ammann, Eliane and John Viner, Janice Martin, June and Len Hahl, Karren Little, Leslie Johnson, Marilyn White, Marilee White, MeriOyler, Nancy Ottman, Patti Baranowski, Ron Smith and Sonja Bayley and last, but far from least, Parker and Tom Doak.

Ivy Walker provided the live piano accompaniment to the show, and Carolyn Bowra and Rani Holt from the museum were backstage helping with the fast-paced costume changes – or at least as fast paced as they can be with the complicated ensembles.

The clothes were fabulous, the concept great – next time, just know the script a little better, and you’ll knock it out of the park.


Enjoying balmy April birthdays are Deanna Schardt, Bob Riggio, John Sandhaus, Katie Benner, Jim Winkelbauer, Mark James. Ryan Slater, Saylor Stottlemeyer, Hanna Helms, Ethan Johnson, Jeramiah Silver, Aeneas McBrayer, Donna Jean Harper, Nancy Carr, Cole House, Vicki Ochocki, Sandra LeFevre, Bonnie Brennan, Sandy Sunderland, Sophie Brill and Carrie Vogel.


I often write about Leadership La Plata, which provides training for local leaders and would-be leaders about how our community works and teaches skills about how to be a more effective leader.

After those items run, I usually get calls from people who would like to learn more. Now here’s your chance.

An informational reception will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Alpine Bank, 1099 Main Ave. Adults 25 and older, of all occupations and walks of life, who want to hear more, are welcome.

I am going to throw my disclaimer in right here. I am a graduate of the LLP Class of 1991-1992. (Eons ago, I know.)

It was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my adult life. A news career wasn’t even a glimmer in the back of my mind in those days, but what I learned comes in handy every day. And I hear from my fellow alumni that what they learned and who they met during LLP has proven to be more valuable than they ever imagined it would.

Members of the current class and some of the more than 400 alumni now involved in a plethora of leadership roles in our community will be on hand to answer questions. It’s a casual, easy way to hear about the LLP experience.

Whether you are now or would like to be a leader in the business, local government or nonprofit sectors, LLP is a great way to improve your effectiveness.

More information and applications are available at


I’ve been watching the progress of Animas High School, the project-learning-based public charter school, with great interest. This year’s first junior class took part in internships. Not just a few hours after school but three-week-long out-of-school intensive internships in a program called Leading Internships for New Knowledge.

For all of the students, it was eye-opening, whether it was, “Oh, wait, maybe I don’t really want to do that for the rest of my life,” or “Wow, that’s even cooler than I thought it would be.”

Two students had fascinating experiences exploring the medical profession.

Caleb Darland and Zack Dowd lined up their internships through Resources for Medical Education and Collaboration and Katie Patty and Morgan Scott with the Spine Colorado Research Department. Over three intensive weeks, the young men worked with Spine Colorado, Durango Orthopedics, Mercy Regional Medical Center and Durango Family Medicine.

Before the internship, Caleb and Zack had to prepare an application, propose a novel project that would be of benefit to the organization and interview for their placement.

Each of them had a tailored schedule, and they shadowed docs in surgeries – yep, scrubbed in and observed actual surgeries – and clinics, rotated through specialized departments such as radiology, respiratory care and hospitalists as well as peeked into the behind-the-scenes operations such as billing.

And while they were doing that, they were working on their independent projects. Zack studied and presented on neuromonitoring during operations on spine care, and Caleb evaluated all those forms we as patients fill out when arriving for an appointment at Durango Orthopedics to improve their effectiveness for both patients and physicians. He presented a revised form that may be put into use soon.

A lot of professionals gave of their time to make these internships such valuable experiences, including Drs. Doug Orndorff, Kane Anderson, Jim Youssef, Richard Goodman, Patrick Kearney, Joe Murphy, and Valerie McKinnis; physicians assistants Lance Hamlin, George Baumchen and Doug Phelps; and Katya Licciardi, Tina Lewis, Haley Jones, Stacey Forsythe and Susie Tipton.

Between the first day and the last, all of these people saw Zack and Caleb become more professional, learn to use medical terminology properly, improve their communication skills and gain a much better understanding of the practice of medicine.

To hear more about their internships, visit or To learn about becoming a mentor, contact Rachael Sands at 259-3013 or

Students from AHS dipped their toes into all kinds of professions, and many people in many fields gave of their time and energy to provide these students with real-world experiences. From what I’ve heard, your time was well spent on all fronts while making an investment in the next generation.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I am so jealous.


Durango is spring green for the anniversaries of Van and Mary Butler, Tom and Kim McCarl, Fred and Pauline Ellis, Stan and Alice Crapo and Bill and Pam Brown.


Here’s how to reach me:; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk.

Bravos to Worth ... and Welle

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