Meet the 'Victorian Lady'

Johnstown woman hosts tea parties at Brookside Museum

Sue McLane is The Victorian Lady. A buyer and collector of antique clothing since the '80s, she's touched outfits that were hundreds of years old and become immersed in the stories of countless Victorian era couples and high profile players.

Now, for the past several years, she's been hosting Victorian tea parties for children during the February break from school at Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa. She dresses in antique outfits from her own collection and takes them through what a day in Victorian American would have been like and ends the two hour program with a traditional tea party.

"She explains how the clothing was different; women had to wear long skirts, heavy petticoats and gloves. She goes into things like cars, furnaces and other things kids can relate to. The kids make their own fans they can take home and help prepare the food and beverage for the tea," said Linda Gorham, education director at the museum. "It gives them an appreciation, in some respects, for what they have today; in terms of the ease of life that we have, they can compare what it was like to live in another period of time and look at hardships people had."

Tea preparation is a big hit, said Gorham. They wear aprons and prepare triangular shaped tea sandwiches with the crust cut off and frost their own sugar cookies. They drink blueberry tea and take full advantage of the sugar cubes.

"Most like the tea, some don't care for it and won't drink it, but I always see them piling sugar cubes in. It's funny," said Gorham.

McLane has been the Victorian Lady since 1991 and only became intrigued with the era and history itself during what she considers her second career: independent scholar. After spending seven years as a registered nurse in medical, surgical, cardiac and critical care units, she said she's gained an appreciation for the Victorian era's simpler way of life and applies it to her own.

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