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. 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.


Friday, February 7, 2014


This is a “Procrastination Post”. I’m marking all three hems on my 1830s dresses and need to break up the boredom. Two of them need to be finished in two weeks for the Dickens Festival fashion show, and I still have a turban and bonnet to do. And belts! Ack! I just remembered those!

I’m sharing a theatre trick that I was shown by one of our costume guild members, who works in the San Diego Opera as their costumer.
The majority of the time I have to mark my hems by myself. And I realized I kept putting it off until it was absolutely the last minute. I was never sure if it was going to work or be even. I sometimes had a neighbor mark my hem but I hated to inconvenience her. These are floor length gowns so she’s not as familiar with them and it was hard for her to get down on the ground to mark them.
Enter Margaret. She’s worked for a long time in the theatre and I’ve learned bits and bobs from her over the years. But this particular tip has stuck with me.
I have a dress form that’s set pretty close to my height with an extra bit for heels. I lined up both my waist line and shoulder line to it. Most important I learned is it HAS to have all the underpinnings on it along with the dress to mark it properly. Big petticoats pull the skirt length up more than you think.
So here’s the trick: have the hem marked level with the ground. She used safety pins so they would stay in longer, but regular pins can work. Then you turn up the edge to the height off the ground that you like your hems. Usually about 1-2” but can be more depending on the time period you’re wearing.
You can have someone else do this on you or like in my case, put it on a dress form. And to make it even easier for me, I put my dress form up on top of my sewing table. 
Without pulling the skirt down and crushing the petticoats, line the bottom to the table level (or floor) and mark it with pins. I straighten it lightly with the flats of my hand.
With this pointer, you can see where I placed my pins.
All I needed to do now is turn it up to the length I want and then hem it. My preference is hand-hemming simply because I find it relaxing, but I do have a blind hem foot for my machine and have done that a couple times.
“Procrastination Post” over. Back to work. Ooh, its lunchtime.


  1. I do my hems very differently. I always hem the skirt before I attach it to the bodice. Adjustments to length per front and back I do at the waist. I'll have to try it your way.

  2. Val, I plan on attending the Dickens Festival on Sat (Feb 22) and look forward to watching you in the Fashion Show.
    Rochelle, ATAA

  3. Ooooh! This is a great tip and I will have to remember it! Your dress is wonderful by the way!!

  4. Great Tip....And your dresses are looking spectacular!


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