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, August 22, 2014

My Fall Inspiration and Going Back to My Costume Beginnings

Last Summer I started an 1880s bustle outfit that I wanted to use multiple tones of Autumn colors. After pulling out various colors I started sewing it and just wasn’t happy with it. It looked lifeless. The brown skirt was blah and didn’t seem to blend, and the light brown moleskin I used for the vestee was drab. I think that’s why it got put in a bag and stuck back on the shelf. But I also wanted to start a Xmas plaid dress so that was more exciting.

In the last week I’ve started feeling the call of Autumn colors again and pulled it off the shelf and put it on my dress form with the copper colored taffeta I was going to use for the apron. Bleh. It’s still not going to work.
I ripped out the vestee to start over; took off the brown taffeta skirt, and looked in my fabric stash for inspiration. I came across an upholstery weight burnt-orange floral I’d bought during my first trip to the Garment District back in 2003. Now looking at it, it reminds me of Victorian Orientalism. I draped it over the bodice and copper apron, and it came alive! But the brown skirt had to go. So I started draping more fabric over my dress form.
The copper taffeta wants to be the skirt. So I didn’t argue with it. Since it was already cut out for the apron, I had to carefully plan how to cut a skirt out of it plus two yards I still had leftover. I was going to try using the first Truly Victorian skirt pattern I’d ever bought, #208. I used it for the first dress I made to wear to Costume College in 2003 without having a clue what I was doing. I had some help from a Civil War reenactor, who offered to sew the skirt for me, but I ended up with a full circular skirt according to CW standards. Oh well, live and learn.  But when I laid out my fabric for it, I didn’t have enough. I really needed to use the apron and ties from it though with my limited fabric. So the apron pieces from Skirt A were cut out from the orange floral.
I pulled out my two other skirt patterns, TV#201 and 221, and did have enough fabric to make 201.
At this point I needed to make up my mind how to go from here because once I started cutting, there was no going back. I only had 3 yards of the orange floral fabric too. So I drew out my ideas on paper and then draped them over my dressform. The copper will become the skirt.  The orange floral brocade will be the vest insert and collar, and the apron.
 The bronzey-orange will remain the main part of the bodice and the sleeves, with the copper repeated on the cuffs, and lapels on the bodice. I have ideas of doing more to the cuffs but won’t know until most of this is constructed so I can stand back and look at it.
My previous bodice had been cut from TV 463 French Vest and I’m reusing that but I also loved the lapel collar and collar on the new TV466 Alexandra bodice. I asked Heather from TV if I could use that without any alterations, and she said yes. So that will work fine with my plan.
These are some of my inspiration ideas. I wanted more “stuff” on the front of the bodice. I’m really liking that bow coming down from the waist in the front on the second photo.

I bought these glass buttons last March up in Washington while I was at the Victorian Festival, and at the time they had an orange-ish tint. But now they almost look purple-ish black but I think they still might work. 
Now the fun begins. Here is the mostly sewn photo, where I’m still playing with the bustle.I think I may let down some of the pleats on the sides.
 I accidentally cut out all three pattern pieces of the apron for both Views A & B, so instead of tossing the third piece, I’ve decided to add that in back to make the bustle even more poofy. Right now the extra piece is sewn on the left side. The right doesn’t have it.I’m not sure if the sashes are going to work yet. So there’s a lot of stitching and unstitching as my Frankencostume grows.



  1. Could it be that the buttons look different due to the lighting? I have a set that appear a solid almost dark olive green under the fluorescent lighting of the store, yet under the 'true daylight" lamp they appear to be blue and green, similar to carnival glass.

    1. Yes, that's exactly what I thought they looked like when I bought them: carnival glass. I need to take these out in different lights and see what happens.


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