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.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Beginner’s Guide to Fashion Shows--- Part 2

To read Part 1, go here

                          Fashions Through Time  1810-1910 
                   Presented by the San Diego Costume Guild
This is the artwork I did for the program I’ll be printing up for the fashion show this coming Saturday in Alpine (CA). I do it on a Word document, using the landscape/sideways page layout so all this will be on the right side of the page and can be folded in half. On the other side of the same paper will have the list of models and the year of their dress, along with acknowledgments of our Narrator, Gentleman Escort, Backstage Manager, Dresser, and the Writer/Director.  Any special acknowledgements would go here too.  This time I’m also including a request of the guests that if they take any photos, if they would email them to me. We’ll see if that works since our response using business cards is kind of slim.
I print them in black and white to keep the costs down. I think an average cost for about 100 two-sided documents is $20. At our local Staples, I’m able to drop my sample off one day and pick it up the next. If they’re not busy, sometimes they say you can come back the same day. I usually wait until Wednesday to put in my request just in case there are changes in the models lineup. After that, it’s set in stone. But be prepared for the last minute “real life” things that occur, which happens. Just be sure your Narrator is notified so she doesn’t end up describing a ghost on stage.
I also print out a list of the models in numerical order with a short description of what they’re wearing (blue bustle) and blow up the letters to a size 72 font in Bold. These are taped on the wall (using blue tape) near where we enter on stage, and one in the back of the dressing room or wherever the models can see it ahead of time so they’ll know what order they are. I bring a felt marker with me and do a quick map of the stage/floor layout and where they will walk. This works well if it’s the first time you’ve been to the location. In this particular show, I was able to draw one out ahead of time and can just print that out.

I give our Narrator a copy of the entire narration along with stage prompts about 4 days before the date so she can work on it ahead of time and maybe print it out in larger text or whatever makes it easier for her to read. I usually include prompts of when a model is brought out by the Escort during the narration, or takes a pause while she reads some extra narrative.  She and our Escort already have a way to signal each other and her signal to the model when she’s done reading their narrative is “Thank you _____”. This tells the model her time is up and the next model is coming out. For my show I’m having each model wait when she’s done and our Escort will come out with the next model, and then walk her off.
Considering we have a small space to work in this time, once I get to the site on the day of the show I have to look and see if there’s enough room to do this. It may not work. But it’s one of those things that are easily changed at the moment. Sometimes you just have to fly by the seat of your pants. I had written up a whole program of who would do what and when, but over the weeks I’ve weeded things out, cut out fiddly stuff, and fine-tuned it. I’ve realized I don’t want this so complicated that it causes confusion. A simple guideline works better.
If you’re lucky to have someone volunteer as a backstage manager or have dressers, it’s good to have a couple things ready for emergencies.  Water in bottles, and a sewing kit, safety pins and bobby pins are greatly appreciated by the models. Often we just help each other and we do fine. But we totally appreciate having someone to help us dress if needed.
When I plan on being in a fashion show I start pulling out everything I’ll be wearing the week before the show, even if it’s just a piece of it a day. I either mentally walk through each item I put on, starting with my undies, and write it down, or pull it out. I’ve even opened up a photo on my computer of me wearing the dress so I can see what all I was wearing, right down to my jewelry, wig and hat. Don’t forget the hat pins! Almost every show I’ve been in I always hear someone in the dressing room asking if anyone has one they can borrow. I stick mine in my bonnet that I’ll be wearing. Hmm, maybe I should put an extra one in the repair kit I’m bringing.  It doesn’t hurt to send out a reminder to your models to start getting their kit together.
So that’s it for three days and counting. I’ve already had to send a few corrections on to our Narrator but that’s to be expected. Back to some sewing now.


  1. Oh, GOODNESS! The lady-across-the-street who taught me to read when I was four gave me carte blanche with all her shelves of books, and besides the "chapter books" I claimed for immediate reading were shelves of Vogue and Glamour from the early days. My very favorites, however, were some that I'd "heard of" or read about---many, many issues of Godey's Ladies' Book, with all the graceful wasp-waists and elegant pleats and parasols. And those doll-sized, intricate little shoes. They must have "tripped the light fantastic" indeed.

    Your blog is such fun!


    1. Racheld, how lucky you were to receive all those treasures! I've only managed to find two in my price range.
      And thank you, I'm glad you enjoy my blog. :)


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