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 find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**



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HI, my name is Val. I'm a Past President & member of the San Diego Costume Guild,Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, and Orange County Costume Guild, & a representative of the San Diego History Center. 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.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

BEHOLD, THE MESS

Following on the steps of a definite CADD-mode (Costume Attention Deficit Disorder) instead of trying to finish just one dress for Costume College, I decided to work on all four that were in progress and work on each part whichever got my attention at the moment. True CADD at it’s best.

I’m finally getting around to finish my 1908 Directoire olive green & brown striped skirt and vest, and getting a blouse made for it. I first was cutting out a pleated silk voile a couple years ago for it, but after dealing with it slithering around my scissors, I tossed it in a bag in the closet. So with a deadline approaching and a mini-theme of a Stripey Parade at CoCo, I recut the blouse using a plain off-white cotton voile. But while digging around in my fabric stash, I came across that bag of pleated silk voile, and since it was already cut, I decided what the heck. It was a simple pattern, but when I started pulling out lace to bling it up, it started to make me smile. So we’re getting there.

My 1870s tea gown has taken up too much time and it too is finally getting some more work done on it. Still playing with lace accents and going back and forth with various ideas. The lace collar idea I had won't work with this. What I have is something that used to be on a blouse. And I just came up with another idea a few minutes ago. So back to the stash I go!  The multitude of buttons that this required (somewhere between 14-24 depending on how far down you want to go) had me roadblocked since our local stores don’t carry more than 9 or 12 matching buttons at a time. The idea of covering them was mindboggling. But the Stash came through for me again, with a bag of around 30 metal buttons I bought about 10 years ago at a RenFaire.  18 buttonholes and buttons later, that’s done. Except somehow I made 19 buttonholes. Oops. Now onto the hem and figure out that lace I want to try.

My grand finale is an 1897 evening dress that will be my “Wow” entry this year. At least in my head I’m hoping for that. I thought I had my waist belt all worked out but after pleating it all together, it’s just too bulky. Waaaay too bulky. So I’m unstitching it and will just make one flat layer of it. That one single item has been the death of me this year. This will be it’s 3rd version.
The high-waisted skirt went together fairly easily but the blouse and I are still at a standstill. It’s something I have to build from scratch and my ambitions include a gorgeous lace table runner as part of the trim.


And on the “third try is the charm”-table I'm remaking my bodice on my 1908 Marigold dress where I found a better lace in my stash to use for the neck insert and the sleeve cuff trim. And the hem got redone too. Turns out it was about four inches too short. I think my dressform must have taken a header and lost some of its height when I marked the hem. Or I shrunk. I’ve heard that happens as you get older.


There was another project in my head for CoCo this year but didn’t realize I had so many others in the “almost-done” stage that I could use.
But as we all know, this time of year, we’re all a bit mad.

Mother Nature is helping me stay inside and sew, because any minute now our thermometer is going to hit 100d, and if you believe the weather forecasters, will surpass that by 10 degrees or more tomorrow. 

                                                       ~~Val~~

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NANNY BROOCH; Another Unusual Ladies' Accessory PART 2

This is Part 2 of my Unusual and Little Known Ladies' Accessories. For Part 1, Perfume Buttons, see my previous post here. PERFUME BUTTONS
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Following my previous post on little known ladies’ accessories, I bet you’ve NEVER heard of these either.  I can’t even remember where I first came across it but I think it was when I was searching for cabinet cards and saw this one above saying she was wearing a nanny brooch.
The seller had the cabinet card listed for $45 (which I’d love to buy but not for THAT price), and dated it as 1890s. The following description was included:   
 Victorian Nanny brooch pins have hidden compartments specially designed to hold needle & thread for emergency repairs to their children’s clothing. Usually they had threaded caps that could be unscrewed to reveal the hidden items within.   Victorian Nanny Pins are considered the Rarest of the RARE—thus highly sought after by Victorian Jewelry & Sewing collectors. Finding an authentic Victorian Nanny Pin is rare enough—seeing one in a vintage photo is EQUALLY exciting!   Offered here in GORGEOUS CONDITION ….is this fabulous RARE vintage original one-of-a-kind circa 1890 cabinet card photograph of a pretty young Victorian-era woman wearing what appears to be a lovely Nanny Pin. The Nanny Brooch has round knobbed end caps that look like part of the brooch design, but they cleverly unscrew to reveal a hidden compartment for emergency sewing items. Close expert examination with a magnifier has confirmed that this is indeed a Nanny Brooch Pin.

So that put me on the hunt. They are pretty rare, don’t come up often for sale, AND can be expensive. I finally found one in England around my birthday that was $60. So that was my birthday present to myself. This style is mainly dated around 1870s. So far it looks to me like the English are the ones giving it this name, nanny brooch, or housekeeper’s brooch. 
They’re also shown in sewing etui groups, since the back section holds a needle and thread, with the oft-repeated story they were worn by nannies to allow them to perform quick mending jobs for their little charges. You can recognize them by the little knobs on the ends that you would unscrew. But be warned that one dealer had one that looked like a nanny brooch but in fact did not unscrew. So you need to check or ask for those to be verified if purchasing one. And of course since there’s no way to check those in these cabinet cards, it’s only speculation but probably a good possibility.

 Most of them are dated by the sellers from 1850-1905, with most of them around 1890s, which many of these cabinet cards are from that time period. They were made of gilt brass, about 2 inches long, with stones that the majority of them are a round “goldstone”, also known as aventurine glass, a form of quartz, which was a common gemstone used for jewelry then. But there were a couple with rectangle shapes and stones of mother of pearl stone, onyx, and clear glass.




This is one without it's stone. 
They all have a German patent mark stamped on the back but they’re kind of worn down. Mine is marked GFS 3ESCH, like this one. Another seller had DRGM 49760 on theirs. 

And this other one had a sweet little hand engraving of “Love to Dorothy” roughly scratched on it, and another had someone’s initials, E L,  on it.
This is a cabinet card gifted to me by my friend, Sue, mostly because of its watch chain she was wearing. *I love that my friends think about me* It was unusual, and after looking at it with a very strong magnifying glass, I think she's wearing a nanny brooch with a watch hanging from it. You can see the tiny knobs on the end of the brooch. She certainly looks like someone’s special nanny.

So far this is all the information I’ve found on this seldom-seen accessory. Another one of those forgotten stories, I guess.

                                                       ~~Val~~

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'M A DIGITAL PATTERN GUINEA PIG


I’m sure any historical costumer, or maybe any pattern buyer, has noticed the recently trend of digital patterns. You purchase the digital pattern online, it’s emailed to you, and you print it out on maybe 20-40 sheets of paper, depending on the size pattern. The fun part is taping them all together. It’s a bit tedious and time consuming BUT you get the pattern instantly, and it’s usually less expensive than the printed paper one That’s especially good for buyers in other countries where it costs an arm and a leg to ship, or even shipping costs in the US, thank you US Postal Service.

**ADDED INFO FROM The Fashion Archeologist: "You know, I keep forgetting to mention that people can take these wide-format PDF scanes on a jump stick (aka memory stick/thumb drive) to a local print shop and have them run off one copy. You would just need to be sure the print shop has a 36" wide format printer. The cost per sheet varies but most cities of a reasonable size have at least one print shop that can do this work."

I had purchased one from  WEARING HISTORY   in the past but just haven’t had a need to make it yet so its sitting in my computer, waiting. But after recently coming across two 1912 patterns by a fairly new pattern company, Edwardian Rose, selling as the Fashion Archeologist, I decided to give it a shot. It’s a small company, and financially she can’t carry much stock of her printed patterns. So trying one of her digital patterns sounded interesting. The 1912 Afternoon Dress doesn’t look to have too many confusing parts for a beginner either. She even shows completed dresses made with her patterns.
                         
FROM BOTH PATTERN COMPANIES: Make sure you read the READ ME FIRST file before you print the pattern to make sure you have the settings right before you print.

When you print the pages out, you need to check the box on your printer page that says CUT MARKS. This will make little crosses on the sheets that you will line up when you put it all together.  I didn’t have to make any other changes to my printer instructions other than click on POSTER size.
The written directions that come with the pattern are very clear but once I printed out the first set of pages that make up the first sheet, they looked intimidating. This pattern has two sheets. There didn’t seem any rhyme or reason to them. But once I started laying them out as directed, I began to see the light. All around the outside of the pattern, the outside pages are numbered. And even if it confuses you a bit, as long as you do the layout as directed, it works. I kept my stack of pages clipped together so I didn’t get them mixed up, because the middle ones aren’t numbered.
My friend Sally had asked if each page was numbered, and they’re not, only the outside ones. However, YOU can number them yourself if you prefer. I would keep them in the stack as it was printed and just go to each page and make a tiny number on it yourself. This way if your stack gets messed up you can get them back together properly. OR you could lay them out and then put a number on them. Just depends on how brave you are.
It’s suggested you lay it all out in the order they were printed on a wooden floor or flat surface and then tape them together. The Fashion Archeologist directions suggests using Scotch Removable tape at this point so you can lift and move them if necessary. I laid mine out on a cutting board on my bed and after laying a couple rows down, saw I was doing it right, then decided I’d just work on two rows at a time because it was going to be pretty big. I tried lining up the little crosses on the pattern corners but couldn’t see through my printer paper very well. Fashion Archeologist suggests thin paper that you can see the crosses through but I used my regular printer paper. I just tacked the center of each page down onto the next sheet, got one row done, did the next, then tried to line it up with the first row. It was a bit catty-wompus, so I had to peel back the tape on a few to realign them. It still wasn’t working because I don’t think I was lining them up very well.



So here’s my first tip: On the edge that will overlap the next sheet, trim that edge off. Don’t do both edges because then you have nothing to tape over. And this way you can see them line up exactly. You’ll also see the pattern lines matching up too.
2nd tip: When you trim off those edges, draw a line down the side using a ruler from the cross at one end down to the other. Don’t try and just eye-ball it and cut it off. Use a ruler to get a straight edge. DON’T CUT OFF THE EDGES ALL THE WAY AROUND EACH SHEET.  *read that line again* You only want the top and one side to be trimmed.  See the red arrows?

So here is how I did this, and once I had all this figured out, it went pretty quickly.
I laid down the first row, only trimming the right side of each page that would overlap the next sheet. I only tacked the center of each page in an area without any lettering in case I had to peel it off again. Line the edges up like I show with the red arrow until the crosses match and the pattern lines look like they’re running into each other.

Then I laid out the next row, and used my ruler and pen and traced the lines along the top and right side of each page that will overlap, trimmed them, and then tacked them down to each sheet.
I lined up that row to the first row along its bottom, and starting with the center page, tacked it and then gently moved it around until it lined up the full length. Once I was satisfied, I tacked them to each other.  On to the next row, and so on and so on.
In the end, it looked like this. 
I put a small piece of tape diagonally across each dissecting corner of the four pages, and along the outside edges. I wouldn’t waste a lot of tape by putting it along the entire seam line. In the end, hopefully you might just trace out your size and cut that. Or it you are going to cut this pattern, then just tape the parts of the pattern that would remain after you cut the pieces out.

**Here’s a great suggestion from Fashion Archeologist- “What I like about the idea of PDFs is that you can always print out another copy, so you can thrash your initial one, write on it, chop it up, make changes, then start fresh with another printout (even to use a different size) any time you like!**
Tomorrow when I have more light, I’ll be putting together page 2 the same way. Per the pattern, this takes 40 sheets of paper, which I was told isn’t really a lot of paper, and it doesn’t use a lot of ink since it’s just printing the lines you’ll be cutting.  I thought I made my first mistake this morning when I saw just my one sheet took 40 pages, and when I looked at her screen print of the printer, it said it was 42.5” x 55”.  Mine was 42.5” x 88”. I had missed that tiny print on it. But after a panicked message to her, she calmed me down saying that sample was from another pattern, and mine showed Full size 100% printout. Whew! Thought I’d have to do that all over again.


This is where you can buy her patterns. https://www.etsy.com/shop/FashionArchaeologist?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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MORE UPDATES:  As I test putting together other digital patterns from different pattern companies, I'm going to add them to this blog post. 

Testing an easy one from WEARING HISTORY , her Edwardian Bust Improvers. Since I was just finishing up the other pattern, I didn't want to go too involved in a second one at this time, so I tried one of her's that I had. I also have the 1910-1916 suit pattern but that's for another day. 


Lauren's set-up is really similar to Edwardian Rose's so that was easy but she said her's cannot be put onto a thumb drive to print out at the printers, since her's are not wide format. But they still print out on regular size home computer paper. She said different companies may use different formats too so I need to look into that. 

These pages have the lines marked on them already for you to trim off some edges to do the overlap, so that makes it quicker, AND each page has a number dead center on it. So there you go for those of you who need that. 



I've started a project now to try and test some other companies, but since I have to purchase them, I'm probably going to keep them to the specific time periods that I wear. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

SOME UNUSUAL AND LITTLE-KNOWN LADIES ACCESSORIES

                                                     PART ONE
I’ve been hoping to gather enough information together so I could teach a lecture class on some unusual ladies accessories for the 1800s but can’t find enough to do that, so I decided an article on all three would have to suffice.  

                                       PERFUME BUTTONS 
I’ve had this 1860s perfume button I bought years ago on Ebay in my jewelry box just waiting to see if I could use it, or find out more about it.  It’s a 1/2 inch metal (brass?) button with a metal shank, with little clover designs cut out on top with velvet inside them. From looking for these for years, this design is the most common, although there are a few others, some that are simple, some quite elaborate. Most range from 1/4 inch to 1 1/4 inches. All of them have the velvet inserts and darker fabric, in common.  The most common scents used on them were violet, rose, and lavender. 
In the past few years I’ve bought others and it caught my interest in finding out more about them. I love the little strawberry ones, but my favorite is the moon-design one. 
All of mine except one have a solid back shank, whereas the one has a little loop coming out of the back.
This is a sample of other designs I’ve seen.


These two were being sold for $25 & $45 respectively on Etsy. Both are the larger ones.

I’ve searched the internet for any history or reference to them with very little luck, other than mentions of them. I kept reading the same information over and over that everyone was repeating on antique sites. This is basically what they were saying:  

Perfume Buttons were designed and manufactured in the States in the early 1800's, incorporating fabric as part of their design - usually velvet. The ladies of the day wore these buttons on their dresses, putting their fragrance on them rather than running the risk of staining their clothing.
The story goes that during the Civil War the ladies would take a perfumed button off their dress and give it to their loved one, sending him into war with a romantic memento. Many stories are told of soldiers who died with a button in his pocket or stories that recount how this memento kept them alive during those stressful times.
Perfume Buttons were also used earlier in history in France and England.”
These buttons should not be washed. Victorians removed buttons before laundering, as there may be many parts to a buttons like this, and water can get trapped inside.

Ok, so they began being made in the early 1800s, but no record of them until the 1860s?
The Western Regional Button Association in their paper on fabric backed buttons, state:                                                                                                                 
While Barrans notes that these negative fabric buttons are often referred to as “perfume” buttons, there is no evidence to support that they were actually used for that purpose. It is likely that the perfume would have discolored and deteriorated the velvet. She acknowledges that the name however, does have whimsy!

I have a couple in my collection that the velvet HAS disintegrated.

Then I found an article excerpted from “Dr. de Weerts’ Daughter: Sage-femme Extraordinaire” by Ambrose Keller. Published in 2015, it’s a real book


Amazon doesn’t state if it’s fiction or non-fiction book, but the author does say it’s part family history & historical-fiction. So I can’t say for sure if it’s all from his imagination. Again, no historical documentation other than everyone was talking about them.


By the way, none of mine have any residual odor of perfume. *sad* I would love to have been able to smell what perfumes they would have used.


Then I came across this PDF file called “Field Guide to Antique Buttons & Vintage Glass”. But Grandmothers Buttons is a blog and I can’t find a book listed anywhere as this being a real book. It’s possible it was a display for one of their button shows. 


As I mentioned, I would have loved do a class on these as a lecture, and then set it up where everyone could make their own little button but again, I‘m having a hard time now finding open brass buttons that could be used for them. If anyone ever comes across some that might work, and can be bought in bulk, PLEASE let me know.

In the meantime, have fun hunting for your own on Etsy and Ebay. I’ve been paying about $3-$5 for mine. Some of the dealers are making jewelry out of them now so if you’re in the tiniest bit interested, better move fast.
              **STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT TWO PARTS**
                                                           ~~Val~~