This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**



About Me

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Past President & member of the San Diego Costume Guild, and Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of it.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle. And I've dabbled in some 1930s & 40s.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole--Watches

We’re just six days away from Costume College and I can’t contain myself much longer on sharing what I learned about ladies wearing watches and watch chains. So I’m going to share a little bit about my class, and will share more afterwards. My class is primarily a slideshow since you need to see REAL WOMEN in photos wearing them and how they wore them: this is honest to God documentation. You can’t get much better than that. So this makes it hard to be able to share that information in text other than dates. And that doesn’t always work because there were a variety of them worn all in a time period. But I can point you in the right direction so you don’t go too modern on your costume.
A few years back I was writing short blurbs on costuming research that I called “Down the Rabbit Hole”, because as the name implies, once you start you keep going and going and going. It was mostly links to photo albums and videos that showed REAL PEOPLE.  In my latest research, watches and how women wore them, I had no idea how deep that hole would be and that it would finally lead to me teaching a class on it at Costume College.

Watches & Watch Chains--  a Necessary Ladies Accessory

In the beginning…….I was innocently looking for some dress styles in the 1830s for a couple I wanted to make. I set on a couple in 1837 and once that was decided, I looked more closely at the accessories on them. These were actually paintings and a whole series was done by the same artist who apparently repeated his “stage” and seemingly the same dress, but different sitters. They all were wearing watches tucked into their belts that were attached to a long chain around their neck. Watches? Hmmm...
 So I kept looking and found more paintings with ladies wearing watches. At this time they were a few years away from the daguerreotype photographs (also called dags) of 1839. But I did start finding genuine photographic evidence of more women wearing watches. And then the snowball started rolling and down the Rabbit Hole I went. 1840s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and so on. Then backwards in time to 1820s, and further to the 1500s. Yeah, the 1500s! The first watch was made then, and the evidence of one dated 1530 proved it. One of my friends, Barbee, who works in Colonial Williamsburg, sent me a couple photos of paintings of ladies wearing watches in that earlier time period that added to my search. Then I got into the world of daguerrotypes, ambrotypes (gorgeous photos starting in the 1850s), tintypes, and CDVs (carte vistas or “calling cards”- small cards with photos), and later the larger version of CDVs, the cabinet cards. That’s an amazing detour off the Rabbit’s tunnel.
And you know what I discovered? A LOT OF LADIES WORE WATCHES! Much more than I ever thought, or noticed. And they weren’t the little petite ones that I was always looking for. They were the larger ones like your Grandpa used to carry. Are you old enough to remember those? They were about 2 inches across.

I can’t say whether more of them they wore the watches with a cover, or the open face one, since most of them are concealed on their dresses but it seems like both were used. I started talking to friends and one who used to be a jewelry dealer told me to come and look at some of her leftovers and see if I could use any of them. It was like looking through a treasure chest! She had some watch chains and fobs, a couple which I bought from her, and then told her I would try and sell the others for her. So I plan on bringing them with me to my class. In the past couple months I also have found a few more chains that fit right in my price point of $20 to try and resell also.
I also will be displaying my own collection of watch chains and found a nice display box at a store fixture shop to put them in.
This is just a quick overview of the time periods for the ladies. In my class the gents will be getting some attention too. I have almost 250 photos and that should tell you something about the reality of them.

1500s-1800:  equipage were worn, massive hangers that were clipped onto belts or waistbands, sometimes as a pair. (in 1820s the name became chatelaine).
                                                                                                   
1800s- 1830: Chains draped over their belts, some still wore the chatelaines.

1830s-1860: Long chains, metal, beaded or woven, hanging from the neck, watches tucked into belts or waistbands, or hidden pockets in the skirt.


1860s-1870:    Short chains, long chains, metal, beaded, woven hair, you name it. Hanging from the neck, the waistband, and now long chains with slides on them halfway down, which became very popular for more than 50 years.


  















1870s-1890:  Pockets for watches on the outside of the dresses were very popular, still using both long and short chains, both near the waist and some moving up. Concealed pockets were fitted into seams. And yes, some were still hanging onto Great Grandma’s chatelaine.

 
1890s-1900:  Still wearing long chains, tucked into belts and pockets but small watch brooches started to show up, some by themselves or attached to the chain.


1900-1910: Long chains and watch brooches continued to be worn interchangeably.



I pretty much stopped at 1913 because shortly after that wrist watches came into style during WWI. And that’s a whole ‘nuther tunnel to go down.
I hope you’re able to come to my class at Costume College, Saturday at 3pm, but if not, maybe this bit of information will help you in your search for accessories, because my favorite saying is “You can’t just bake the cake; you have to decorate it too.”
                                                             ~~Val


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PACKING FOR COSTUME COLLEGE

Photos of my costumes and more about them will need to wait until after I’ve worn them at Costume College. They need to be seen in their full regalia to be appreciated. And right now I don’t have a lot of time to write about them. I shouldn’t even be writing this right now but I can’t help it! I’m procrastinating.
Packing and making lists of what you need to bring to Costume College for your costumes is all part of the chaos that it involves. As I get into the final week before I leave, I’ve started to make piles of what I’m bringing. Right now the dining table has my narrative, student handouts, and display for the class on watch chains I’m doing. Also another pile of last minute photos to be displayed for Caught on Camera. We’re finally finished. And then there’s another pile of miscellaneous things I’m bringing for my friends, mainly patterns.  http://www.costumecollege.net/
The most important pile, The Costumes and Accessories, will begin shortly.  I'm driving up so I’m not limited by any more than my Honda CRV can hold, including my passenger and her things. Yay, I’m bringing Angela Burnley with me! Burnley and Trowbridge  
My gowns will all be in garment bags; underpinnings in my suitcase, along with a few modern street clothes and personal items; and a couple hat boxes that hold my hats, wigs, gloves, purses, and jewelry.
My biggest asset will be my costume packing list, where I list each costume that I’m wearing for what day or event, and then what is worn with it. I look at a previous photo of it, and visually dress myself, listing things as I go down my head. Here’s an example:

1886 Mourning












–bodice/skirt/apron, Vic corset, chemise, drawers, blk petticoat and bustle, blk socks, blk boots, black gloves, black hat/ 2 hatpins, wig, blk earrings/brooch. Blk purse

During the next week I’ll be pulling out things for it and my other gowns, check it off the list, build piles on the dining table, and then as usual worry that once again I don’t have enough chemises and drawers to wear each day. I’m wearing five costumes this year. There is no way I can wear each one more than one day. It would be nice to have a mini washer/dryer in our hotel rooms. Oh, wait, maybe I should make more than just 3 of each. I think I remember saying the exact same thing last year as I was packing.
I have both my 1837 Persimmon and Midnight Mourning gowns done, and just finishing up a couple accessories on them. My 1910 Black Ascot just needs some tweaking on the back waistband. So basically all I have left to sew is a rolled hem on a fichu I need for Midnight Mourning. I have a 1908 dress almost done but then that means a fourth type corset, and more underpinnings, and I just don’t think that’s going to work. So I'm wearing my Red/Wht/Blu Regency gown and pelisse, and Epic Bonnet during one day. But one never knows if the pressure MAKES you finish that final dress. 
So back to work! The clock is ticking! 
BTW, Chloe has been seen chasing some birds, and climbing the back wall in our yard looking for squirrels and lizards, so she’s baaaaack! 
                                                                         ~~Val~~

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Spam Folder –My Morning Laugh

A very humorous collection of spam comments on my blog.
I think Google needs to come up with a better translator because some of the comments which have obviously been translated into English are just so mindboggling and confusing as to what the sender was trying to say. I’ve started calling them my morning laugh. Most of the comments have absolutely nothing to do with the content of my particular post, and even when they try to make it sound like they had read it, it’s something totally different.  And of course at the end they add an invitation to visit their blog with a link.
These all automatically go into my moderation folder and I have to approve them before they get posted so if you read my blog very often you will never see them. Because they get marked as spam and then deleted. So guys, take notice: YOU'RE WASTING YOUR TIME HERE! 

But today I’m going to share a collection of them, without active links. I wished this idea had been suggested awhile ago because there have been some really good ones that had me splitting my sides with laughing so much.

This one on my 1873 Cotton Mourning Gown for Dia de los Muertos
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I get those ones with questions a lot. Like they think I’m an expert in technology. Hah! And btw, the link DOESN'T go to Clash of the Clans. You just have to scroll over it for the real url to show up.  At least I’m that smart.

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Haven’t they noticed yet that none of their comments are being posted?

I haven’t a clue on this one but no:
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It’s not that I don’t mind that people can’t speak English and we agree Google translater is pretty bad, but it’s the obvious spamming of their business when it has nothing to do with my blog.

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That’s enough hilarity for one post. Now back to serious stuff: Costume making!