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.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I’m just back from the weekend’s Dickens Festival that’s held each February to celebrate Charles Dickens’ birthday in Riverside, CA. For the past 4 years I’ve been in the fashion show, and most of the time I’ve worn two outfits. This year due to having come down with stomach flu the week before, I had to cut it back to just the one.
Due to another change in the venue location, this turned out to be even a better decision on my part as the fashion show was staged inside a large tent and our dressing room, a smaller tent, was quite small. But physically I don’t know if I could have handled changing in and out of dresses either, as my energy level was extremely low. All in all, it was a better choice for me this year.

I spent a couple days hand tacking the fabric ribbons to my bonnet and basted in the pleated white lining on the inside. Since the inside wasn’t going to show, for right now I left the very bottom open and will later stitch a round piece of the fabric inside to finish it. Then I tacked my vintage brown and aqua leaves about the crown. I first thought of having them stand up as you see on many period bonnets like this but just ended up having them tilt up in various places. Sometimes you have to let your bonnet speak to you while you’re working on it. I use straight pins to hold them in place, just sticking them straight down into the bonnet until I’m ready to sew. That way I can move them as I go if I don’t like where they are. You just have to be careful not to poke yourself as you sew, which I guarantee you will as I do.  
I finished up my bonnet on Thursday evening and was able to have a leisurely day making sure I had everything I needed before leaving Saturday morning. I just drive up in my costume and hubby was able to hook up my dress before I left. On arrival at my hotel instead of stopping at a mirror to put my bonnet on, I parked my car, got out and put it on- with no mirror. So it was tilted a bit too far forward but you got a good view of the top of it. The next day, with it in its proper position, you can see the underside of it.

I always have to share the “oops” parts of my outfits, and one was my belt. The gown has a slightly lower waistline, which is marked by the piping, and my belt  wanted to ride up to my waistline that my corset gives me. But when I get time I’ll be putting some belt loops on it, hopefully invisible since I don’t think they used them, and it will stay in place. 

I spent a good part of the day finding a bench to sit on and rest to conserve energy but did march in the Characters Parade through the event. We’re separated into different Dickens book catagories and carried signs of the character we are. At the end of it “Mr. Charles Dickens” introduces and describes each of our characters to the crowd. On Saturday I was part of “Hard Times” and the next day I was with “Great Expectations”. Here we are lining up ready to start our parade.

Later in the afternoon we headed over to the tent to start the fashion show. Our models sat outside in the back waiting to go on. The theme for the show was Women of Dickens World so we portrayed either women in his life or his books. I was Miss Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield.

On Sunday we repeated the show again with a few changes in the line-up. I believe there was a total of 17 outfits modeled with just a couple ladies having to change into another one.

I was very happy with my antique lace pelerine. I had it pinned at the neckline and during the fashion show I was able to lift it open to show the pleating across the front of my bodice. I had both a corded petticoat and a tiered ruffled petticoat on under my skirt but the ruffled one is kind of limp so I think it needs a stiffer fabric than the one I used. But I still had a nice fullness to my skirt. I wore my watch chain and pocket watch with it stuck under my belt. During this time period I haven’t found any evidence of the ladies having a pocket but mine kept sliding down past my belt. So I think I’m going to do one of my famous “fudgies” and put a little pocket on the backside of my belt to slip it into.

Being inside the tent, a smaller venue than the previous auditorium, there wasn’t any space for all of us to come out at the end of the show for people to take photos of us. So we went outside and lined up for them. When they came out, cameras began popping up, and many came running over to take closer looks at the details. I think everyone enjoyed that! The cars in the background weren’t so great but all the greenery was.
This is from Saturday.
And these are from Sunday’s show. 

This is one of my favorite souvenirs from the festival. A young lady apparently was sitting across the walkway while my friend April and I were seated on a bench for a while. She came over and showed us this quickly drawn ink sketch she’d done of us. I asked if I could buy it from her so here is my favorite “photo”. I hope she continues with this idea because I think it would be a wonderful addition to this event and to any costumer’s album. 
*Josephine Roberts/ website-  and on Facebook - 


  1. Dear Val,
    The sketch, the sketch! Hope you frame it. It's super neat. Also love the photos of you all lined up sitting, or wardrobe adjusting, behind the tent. It's like a painting of a city scene, in some ways.
    The outfit is really, really nice. Love all the touches, and that pelerine...a lace lover, my eyes went right to it. Bravo!
    Very best,

    1. Thank you very much, Natalie. Yes, I do plan on framing the sketch to go along with my tintype photos of me, which are also in my favorite collection.
      Each year I've taken photos in the dressing room of our fashion show as we get ready, and are mainly candid shots. Since we ourselves don't see the show, at least this way we get to see each other dressed up for it.

  2. Oh Val!!

    Your dress and bonnet look incredible! I think you have inspired to go ahead and make a Romantic era wardrobe...have no where to wear it around here, but you look so fabulous in your ensemble that I think I must make mine...Love the watch chain as well!! yeah!

    1. Gina, it never hurts to have at least one or two Romantic era dresses in your wardrobe as you may be the only one wearing them in a fashion show. That's mostly where I wear mine but we have had our English Authors Picnic where I dressed as a character of that time period.


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