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

My photo
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. 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.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dia de los Muertos – Celebrating the Dead

October 26, 2013

Coming up next Saturday on November 2 is the annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Candlelight Procession in Old Town San Diego. This will be its 4th year and I was pleased to be able to lead the procession for the first year and the following years I was joined by more and more members of our SD Costume Guild. And each year the crowds of people joining in have filled the streets and making this a highly successful event.
This year we’re being asked to up the ante and return to the roots of the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos by coming in full La Calaveras Catrina faces, or Elegant Lady/Skeleton.  So everyone in the lead procession are going to be painting their faces.
These are some photos I took of some of the Calaveras Catrinas in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in 2011, and just looking at them again makes me happy. They’re so colorful!

Last month I started a new 1870s mourning dress in black embroidered eyelet cotton to have a more comfortable & cooler dress to wear during our hot weather, and it’s almost done. I made it from the Truly Victorian polonaise pattern since it goes together very quickly, and is the right time period for Old Town. Now that they've requested going back to the basics of los Muertos, that leaves the costuming wide opening for what people want to wear; mourning or similar to those worn by the Catrinas. I’ve been making some pleated trim for along the neckline and sleeve cuffs out of a band of the eyelet fabric, and finishing that with black velvet ribbon. The embroidery design is not this shiny but I had to use my flash for it to show up against the black. I paid $3 yard for this at Robert’s in the Garment District, so this dress is going to be in the “very cheap to make" category. I bought velvet covered buttons at Trim2000+ there also to go on the bodice and the sleeve cuffs.
To wear with it, I bought a flowered headpiece from the Johnson House in Old Town and since the flowers were only on one side of the head band, I added more to the other side to even it out. Michael's has all their Fall flowers for 70% off right now but they had no Spring colors like the ones already on it so I had to blend the Fall ones in. Because of the different flowers, the front and back look totally different. I plan on having a black veil on the back but haven’t decided how to do my hair yet, and if I’ll be wearing a hat too. I don’t like a flat look to my head. 

During the Procession where we walk from the Old Town center square to the El Campo de Santos Cemetery, we are carrying either battery operated candle lamps, or the tall cylinder religious candles.
The candle lamps just showed up in Michael’s stores for 2 for $5.99. So the countdown is on to finish my dress this week!


  1. Hi Val!

    Your event sounds very fun! I love your dress idea and can't wait to see the finished product! Your flower hair piece is lovely! Hurry next Saturday!!!


  2. It sounds lovely. My parents are in San Diego right now but they'll be home before then. I did tell them to look out for people in historic costume for me!


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