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

My Photo
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.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Exciting News to Share!

Many of you will remember reading about my re-creation of a Bloomer gown, and working with Past Patterns who had started the pattern years ago after tracing off an extant gown in the San Diego History Center but never finished it. In the ensuing years I did classroom presentations on it and also one at the History Center.

Early last month I was contacted by Pam Poulin,  Professor Emeritus from John Hopkins University, who had helped me with my research on Amelia Bloomer and the Bloomer gowns, and who also pointed me to Jody Luce (aka The Tailor of Peterboro) who portrays Elizabeth Smith Miller. Pam asked if I would be interested in doing a joint presentation with her on the Bloomer at next year’s conference by ALHFAM,    comprised of living history interpreters and historians, to be held in Williamsburg, VA in June 2015.
At first I was shocked. Then a bit scared and uneasy. I went into my mode of “they know more than I do and I’ll look like a fool”. But that only lasted about ten minutes. I remembered thinking the same thing when I was asked to join a costume guild, and then to go to Costume College until I found out we’re all different skill levels and we’re all the same. So of course I said YES!
Pam told me when she approached the Directors for ALHFAM about doing this, they were very excited so she wanted my approval and input. For the past month we’ve been putting together our proposal for the presentation to submit it. We still need the final approval but Pam is quite certain they'll like it. But I’ll still hold off a little longer on my jubilation. In fact, that’s why I haven’t said anything until now. We should know by December if we’re on the schedule and then I can really start sweating.
I will be bringing my reproduction of the San Diego bloomer and will be wearing my other one. Or as The Squirrel says, “You have to make a new one!” Pam portrays Amelia Bloomer and will be wearing her’s and telling more about Amelia and the Women’s Movement. She also plans on bringing the “other” Bloomer gown held at the Courtland County Historical Society in New York. Until I came out with my gown, they thought they had the only one in existence. I think it’s going to be very exciting.
I let Jody Luce know about this and she hopes that she and her Bloomer Brigade may also be able to come and join us.
 So, to any of my friends in Williamsburg: here’s your chance to make something new, a Bloomer, and come join us! I’m throwing down the gauntlet. If you’re serious about this, contact me and I can give you some quick and easy options for making your own, not just with this pattern. Or you can always come to the presentation and learn how.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I probably should have named this the Winter Bustle since I still have two months to go before I can even consider wearing my Autumn Bustle. Here in SoCal we can’t expect the weather to cool off until December. But at least it is done.  I think I may leave it on my dressform in my sewing room as long as possible because it’s just so bright and cheerful in here with it.

I took a couple photos of me wearing it as best I could so I could see it on me.  I really like the two sashes I put on each side. Because I’m twisting to take my side view photo the bodice looks like it’s wrinkled but it’s not. 
I am so happy with my watch pocket. This is the first gown I’ve put a visible one on. I made a pattern for it by tracing around my watch then drawing a U-shape around it giving it a 1/2 “ allowance with a little more on top. I folded & pinned  1/4“ under around it but you need some extra since the watch has some thickness that needs to fit in it. If your watch has a higher dome shape you need to allow for that. Then I slipped-stitched it to my bodice just slightly below my waist but where I could comfortably reach it.
I ended up using my “carnival” glass buttons on the front closure and ended up with four extra so am considering if adding them to the little lapels on the top are too much. Opinions? I’m thinking it might be too much. Or maybe it’s perfect.  These are just pinned on at the moment.  *See what happens when you sit back and keep staring at it? You keep wanting to do more. It’s like it won’t stop.*

And the butt in the back needed some finishing touches too. I was down to my last couple scraps of the copper taffeta and had just enough to make a long bow to attach to the peplum.
I really wanted to do this belt in front with a brooch and I may get *desperate/anal/obsessive* and sew a bunch of strips together to try and do this. I just may have enough of the bronze Dupioni that the rest of the bodice was made from to do it.
 In an attempt to stop the madness I let my brain start focusing on my next project which won’t be a total outfit, but just a 1770s short jacket to wear with my red petticoat I have. We have an 18th C. Picnic on the planning board for November in Balboa Park.  So on my planning table are these, all from my stash.  JP Ryan’s pattern with the laced up front, using one or both of these fabrics from Colonial Williamsburg I bought last year, to go over this red petticoat.  I’ll be all patriot again.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Further Inspirations & Progress on my Autumn Bustle

Last time I shared my Autumn bustle I was starting to sew it all together, and adjusting the Frankencostumed bodice and bustle. After sewing the extra pattern piece on the bustle, I decided I liked the poof it was doing in the center back when I put it on over my lobster bustle. I also decided the two sashes I’d cut out wouldn’t be enough to make a difference. So I set those aside. More on that later.

Next I unstitched the vestee and tried the copper collar lapels I wanted to put on it that I’d cut out from TV466 Alexandra bodice.  I only sewed one side on so I could see how it looked but unfortunately the vest portion (from TV463 French Vest) is wider than the one on the Alexandra and the lapels were ending up under my armpits. So I took out the stitching again and put it back together without them. But darn, it still wants a contrasting collar there.
I let my brain think on it overnight and came up with a shorter narrower version of the collar where it would just be only on the area above my bustline. Perfect! So I'm going to try that now. Then the neckline collar and the sleeves and cuffs are up next. 
And now I’m back to the bustle again. I lowered some of the pleats on the sides so it wasn’t up so high but could only go down so far before it became shapeless. So this is the final version of that. Not too much difference from the first one but it did go down four inches. 
Except it still needs something. I’m not a fan of fringe or braid but with this being a heavier fabric I can’t do my usual pleated trim. But then this photo gave me some ideas. It was from my album of how women wore watches, and her gown is kind of similar to mine. Her panels down the sides of her skirt are the same as her vest insert. I don’t have enough fabric for that. But I do have the four unfinished sashes of my floral brocade. I don’t think just one would make much of a statement but if I back them with some leftover bronze taffeta, I can have two for each side. 
And I’m going to do my first outside pocket for my watch on this just like she has!
I would love to do some pleats along the hem of my skirt but I have no more of that fabric either. So it will have to be all business down below, and party up on top. Back to work!

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Fall Inspiration and Going Back to My Costume Beginnings

Last Summer I started an 1880s bustle outfit that I wanted to use multiple tones of Autumn colors. After pulling out various colors I started sewing it and just wasn’t happy with it. It looked lifeless. The brown skirt was blah and didn’t seem to blend, and the light brown moleskin I used for the vestee was drab. I think that’s why it got put in a bag and stuck back on the shelf. But I also wanted to start a Xmas plaid dress so that was more exciting.

In the last week I’ve started feeling the call of Autumn colors again and pulled it off the shelf and put it on my dress form with the copper colored taffeta I was going to use for the apron. Bleh. It’s still not going to work.
I ripped out the vestee to start over; took off the brown taffeta skirt, and looked in my fabric stash for inspiration. I came across an upholstery weight burnt-orange floral I’d bought during my first trip to the Garment District back in 2003. Now looking at it, it reminds me of Victorian Orientalism. I draped it over the bodice and copper apron, and it came alive! But the brown skirt had to go. So I started draping more fabric over my dress form.
The copper taffeta wants to be the skirt. So I didn’t argue with it. Since it was already cut out for the apron, I had to carefully plan how to cut a skirt out of it plus two yards I still had leftover. I was going to try using the first Truly Victorian skirt pattern I’d ever bought, #208. I used it for the first dress I made to wear to Costume College in 2003 without having a clue what I was doing. I had some help from a Civil War reenactor, who offered to sew the skirt for me, but I ended up with a full circular skirt according to CW standards. Oh well, live and learn.  But when I laid out my fabric for it, I didn’t have enough. I really needed to use the apron and ties from it though with my limited fabric. So the apron pieces from Skirt A were cut out from the orange floral.
I pulled out my two other skirt patterns, TV#201 and 221, and did have enough fabric to make 201.
At this point I needed to make up my mind how to go from here because once I started cutting, there was no going back. I only had 3 yards of the orange floral fabric too. So I drew out my ideas on paper and then draped them over my dressform. The copper will become the skirt.  The orange floral brocade will be the vest insert and collar, and the apron.
 The bronzey-orange will remain the main part of the bodice and the sleeves, with the copper repeated on the cuffs, and lapels on the bodice. I have ideas of doing more to the cuffs but won’t know until most of this is constructed so I can stand back and look at it.
My previous bodice had been cut from TV 463 French Vest and I’m reusing that but I also loved the lapel collar and collar on the new TV466 Alexandra bodice. I asked Heather from TV if I could use that without any alterations, and she said yes. So that will work fine with my plan.
These are some of my inspiration ideas. I wanted more “stuff” on the front of the bodice. I’m really liking that bow coming down from the waist in the front on the second photo.

I bought these glass buttons last March up in Washington while I was at the Victorian Festival, and at the time they had an orange-ish tint. But now they almost look purple-ish black but I think they still might work. 
Now the fun begins. Here is the mostly sewn photo, where I’m still playing with the bustle.I think I may let down some of the pleats on the sides.
 I accidentally cut out all three pattern pieces of the apron for both Views A & B, so instead of tossing the third piece, I’ve decided to add that in back to make the bustle even more poofy. Right now the extra piece is sewn on the left side. The right doesn’t have it.I’m not sure if the sashes are going to work yet. So there’s a lot of stitching and unstitching as my Frankencostume grows.


More White Stuff- an Edwardian Petticoat

After buying my 7 yards of white 100% cotton at JoAnn’s with a 50% off coupon I swore I would work on my Edwardian petticoat until it was done. I can’t say I’ve had blinders on because my Autumn Bustle is visible in my peripheral vision, and I’ve been collecting some ideas for it. I think by later today I can put what I already had started of it on my dressform and start playing with it; finally.

I bought way too much cotton. I bought the wider 108” cotton this time instead of the 36” wide which shrunk to 33”. The pattern called for 7 yards of 45” wide, which after shrinking may not have been enough. What I bought apparently is the really wide stuff for backing quilts, and I only used about 2 1/2 yds of it. So now I have lots more for, what? more chemises?
As of today I’ve spent 3 days working on my petticoat. Why so long? I’m flat-felling all the seam allowances and this thing is loooooong. I’ve been sitting and pinning them while watching hours of recorded programs that had backed up. Then I’m turning over the edges of the neckline and armholes to finish them instead of using bias tape, and then doing the same for the hem. I sewed a very simple embroidered lace on the neckline but because of the curve of it, the lace wants to turn up on the sides. Oh well, it’s going to be under my dresses.
I made the largest size on the pattern, size 20. According to the pattern, that would be about 2 inches too narrow for my waist and hip measurements. But I remembered a couple people said it ran large on them. Simplicity has you do 5/8” seams. I now follow the 1/2” theory and it fit me fine, except in the bust area. I’m a little more deficit in that size range. But I sewed up all the seams and when it came time to do the front closure it all lined up nicely and I just folded the excess of the bust part back on an angle a bit and removed that excess fabric, and then folded the edges under about one inch. So now I have a nice straight line down the front.  
I put in nine tiny Mother of Pearl buttons from my Aunt Doris’ sewing collection, and then sewed it closed the rest of the way down to the bottom.
Other than the ruffles at the bottom, it’s done.
After tearing 6 lengths of obscenely long strips to make 2 or 3 rows of ruffles, and turning under the edges on the first tier layer that will go on it, I’ve had to cave in and leave it for evening handwork while watching more TV. It will get done. But Autumn is calling. I spent 4 months working on all black, and now all this white. I need some gorgeous Fall color. 

Ahh! Doesn't that feel refreshing? 
And here’s a sneak peek at what I’m working on now.


Saturday, August 16, 2014


The last thing I said before I left for Costume College was I really needed to make more chemises. It was also the last thing I said before I went there in 2013, and probably 2012. But at that time I did make two new ones but out of a too-thin cotton that just about got shredded when I hooked up my corset. And that’s what I was still wearing this year. For shame.
Normally when I get back from CoCo I’m still riding on a “sew all the things” –mode, and I take advantage of that to try and get something else done before it dies out in about a month.  This time I stuck to my guns and bought some 100% cotton muslin to cut out four and sew them.
I have lots of patterns for chemises but none had the deeper neckline I need for some of my square neck bodices. I tried an earlier time period pattern that was suggested but it was so loosey-goosey I felt it was going to fall off me any second. I’m going to take in a big front and back seam in the center of that one so as not to waste some good material.

I realized anything that I used would have to be altered some way and when I pulled out this Simplicity 7157 for an Edwardian petticoat, I saw the neckline I wanted.
The petticoat had to be postponed because it takes 7 yards of 45” wide fabric, and my poor muslin I bought at JoAnn’s is a measly 36”. And I need chemises more than a petticoat. But its next!
I planned on just using the top half of the bodice and extending it down into an A-line for my length but as I’m writing this, I just realized I had pulled out the pattern pieces for the combinations and it has a more slightly rounded neckline. But hey, it works! Its still lower than some of the others I tried.
 The length I needed was 36” from my shoulder to the bottom so I just tore 36” lengths of the fabric and it didn’t require a lot of extra cutting. Instead of having a front seam, I cut that edge on the fold.
As much as I love those pretty frilly chemises, I'd rather spend my time on the outside dresses. And I wanted to make these as quickly and simply as I could because all white gets a little boring. So they will have no sleeves, and I’m just turning the edges of the neckline and armholes under to hem them. I cut out four and zipped up all the side shoulder seams.
Some of my friends said to add some different laces so I could tell the difference between them and not end up wearing the same one on the same day. So I pulled out my lace stash and found bits and pieces that I could use but would also not be scratchy. One of the cotton eyelets was pretty wide and it was badly gathered but it had been cheap. So I cut off the gathered edge and turned it under, then pleated it to the neckline. It also gave kind of a cuff on the armholes.

 I finished these today and I find I’m still in “white mode”. I haven’t gone back to buy more muslin as I was waiting for another sale, and I see it’s on sale again today. In the meantime my “Squirrel” has been attracted by Wearing History’s Edwardian blouse pattern, and I want to do three-quarter length sleeves. 
 I’ve wanted a white blouse to wear with two of my Truly Victorian Edwardian skirts. The purple floral one is done, just no photos of it. I've also wanted to make a solid dark color skirt too. 

 While digging through my lace stash I came across a long piece of embroidered cotton that was given to me that would be wonderful to use on that blouse. I think it would look great going down the center, and then the center portion used down my sleeves. Or maybe the whole width with some cotton added. 
As long as my Sewing Mojo keeps going I’m taking advantage of it. At least I have no major projects due for the next four months.