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. most of the time. 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.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. This year I am the Dean of Costume College 2018. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Dia de los Muertos in Old Town San Diego

This event was last Nov 1, and I was just reminded about it. It also gives me something else to write about.
The Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican celebration, the Day of the Dead. It's the day after our Halloween, and honors those who have passed on, and they build memorials to them. These aren't religious altars as some people think, but memorials, and they had them all over Old Town during the celebration.
I had talked to a couple people running the Candlelight Procession that starts at the Whaley House, and goes to the El Campo Santo Cemetery up the street. They ended up asking if any of us would come in mourning costume and lead the procession. It was the first year they were doing this, and were really excited to get off to a good start. I wore my 1870s purple floral polonaise and an antique black lace mourning veil that I'd bought at the Johnson House in Old Town.
We had a very large group from our costume guild show up over in the marketplace.

We began the procession in front of the Whaley House, and our group stood on the porch waiting to lead the crowd of about 200 people carrying candles in the Procession. Many of us brought battery operated candles to carry.

While I was standing there waiting, I was next to a column, and near the edge of the steps. I felt someone push my shoulder like they wanted to get past me. But I turned and no one was there. I thought then maybe I had bumped into the wood column but I was about 8" away from it. So apparently one of the ghosts of the Whaley House was anxious to get by me. It didn't bother me, as I've loved the House since I was in elementary school, and first went on tours there.
Later we arrived at the cemetery, and gathered around some of the graves for photos.

The whole event kind of fell apart then because there wasn't anything planned other than going to the cemetery. But next year they've asked us to portray actual people, and hopefully the program will be a little more rounded out. This is one of the events I'm working on my 1850s black mourning gown for.
These are some of the altars around Old Town.


  1. I ALMOST went to this event, but having had my share of fun filled October nights at the Whaley House over the years, decided I'd skip it. Old Town hadn't really done the Dios de los Muertos up 'big' before, so I figured I wasn't missing out on anything.

    Come to find that well over 600 people showed up! Boy was I sorry. I'll definitely be attending this year.

    By the by...I tend to get most of my fabric at Rosies. I'm addicted. Yes, the fabric costs a little more, but I haven't seen the repro cottons at more than $8 per yard. There's still quite a few hiding about between $6.50 and & 7.50. They do have a little 'sale' room where they do have a pretty decent selection of period correct cottons for nearly half the price of their regular goods. Also they show up on the table outside in front. You just have to show up alot and scrounge. I'm lucky in that I am generally only looking for about 1 1/2 yards as opposed to the 7-8 yards I used to need. I'm finding that suitable fabric at Joann's is now running $8-9 per yard now too, so I figure I'd rather shop at Rosies.

  2. What an interesting event. Wish I was close enough to see. and visit the Whaley House.

  3. I just found your blog and I LOVE it! Thanks for representing SD so well! :)

  4. Robin, I know this is an "old" post but I wanted to let you know we're in the planning stages for this year's Dia de los Muertos on Nov 1, and hope you can join us. Some of us want to start a little earlier, around 5, and start parading thru OT before the actual candlelight procession.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!