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.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

My Wardrobe at Costume College PART TWO

   My 1837 Persimmon dress I wore at the Costume College Red Carpet and Gala was one of my favorite and most popular gown. But I’ll explain later where it also went wrong.
   When I first started making this gown I wanted to copy a fashion print right down to all the trims and accessories. The last two things I did on it was the long band down the front with the graduating size bows, and the sleeves. I procrastinated on both of these until the last two weeks. When I don’t quite know how to do something I let it sit hoping that a light bulb goes off. The band was mostly something I knew would take a lot of time and I had to make a bunch of self-fabric bows starting at one size near the top and gradually getting a big bigger at the bottom. I sewed long tubes of the fabric and looped them into flat bows. It took some math getting them the right size, and gradually enlarging them, and spacing them evenly. I tried one at the neckline but I didn’t like how it looked. I still have the small bow I made just in case sometime I want it there.
   I tried looking around for metallic-type buttons with a green stone in the middle to put in the center of the bows with no luck and finally gave in out of desperation at one fabric store with some that had a plastic gold frame with a faux marblized center. Now that’s desperate. The package says they’re 24K gold plated. Yeah, right. (They’re in a bag w/ the receipt waiting to go back for a refund.)
   But just before I got home, that light bulb went off and I thought MICHAEL’S!  They have lots of beads and glass stones so maybe I could find something there. The first row I walked into there was jewelry and some pre-made bracelets. And I found perfection. Three packages ON CLEARANCE of a bracelet made of REAL METAL jointed frames and orange stones that matched my dress fabric. Each frame was attached to the next by elastic and I cut those apart and was able to use the little holes to loosely attach them to the bows. That’s for when I need to take them off to wash or iron my dress. 
   I kept staring at those sleeves on the painting, wishing my Sewing Faires would magically appear and make them. They scared me. A week before CoCo, that hadn’t happened. The sleeves were a different style than my pattern, which I’d already cut out anyhow. And there wasn’t any way to alter them. That’s not quite in my skill set yet. Someday I may be able to do those, or find a pattern I can use. So it was either walk away or come up with an alternate plan.
   The alternate plan was to go ahead and use the already cut out sleeves following the pattern design. And I’m so glad I did. I had some horrible cuts and bruises on my forearm that would have showed and I would have needed to wear gloves. With the long sleeves that extend over my hands, those weren’t needed.
I had been planning on making a turban to match the picture too but as the months got closer, I was still working on my dresses, and decided I didn’t need that stress. So I again called on my friend Cat, and gave her the fabric I found, along with some photos to follow. I think she did a smash-up job on it, right down to the tassels on the side. It felt really awkward at first with how big it was, but it grew on me, and I owned it.

   I wore my peach coral necklace my hubby had bought me while we were on vacation in Kauai, and carried my gold silk reticule I bought a few years ago from a friend, Jenny-Rose.
Now here’s what didn’t work. I have narrow shoulders and even though I had made my muslin to fit me, these shoulders still like to ride up on me. And when you sit down, it’s really noticable. Also see the center front of my lace that’s poking up and slightly curving in? That’s the boning. The pattern does call for a bone in the center and I’ll bet it said to stop just below the bust. But in my rush to finish my dresses, I missed that memo. So I have little wings on the side shoulders and a poof on my chest.
   When I asked two other friends who were also wearing 1830s they confirmed the bone stops there. At least this is an easy fix, and apparently I need to go back to all three of them and do some repair work. But I managed to stand as often as possible and pulled it down so most of the evening my dress behaved itself and I had a good time.
I even ran across another friend who almost matched me but had traveled to another time period. Jennifer wore her similar colored dress the day before but a friend has offered to Photoshop her into our photo so we’re all together. It’s a Pumpkin Patch!


  1. Val, you certainly did "own" that turban and gown ensemble! Beautiful - I knew that color would look perfect on you! Love all the little bows down the front and the "bracelet buttons" are spot on!

  2. Ooh, another favorite. No wonder it was popular. The trims are great: how nice it is when the right ones pop up when they're needed.

    Very best,


  3. This is an incredible gown on you and your accessories - turban, reticule - are so perfect!


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