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, January 10, 2015

1910-1912 Black Ascot, And Beyond

I started and finished this dress for Costume College 2014 last August to wear to the Sunday Fantasy Tea. Originally the tea theme was A Day at the Races, or Royal Ascot, or A Picnic at the Racetrack, or something like that. I can't even remember now what the final theme was. Either way, when I first heard Royal Ascot I immediately thought of my friend Cindy's Black Ascot dress she'd made and worn for our mourning fashion show, and thought what a great idea for us both to wear that to the tea. Black Ascot refers to the year in 1910 where everyone in England wore black in mourning for the passing of King Edward at the Royal Ascot Races, which he loved.
I already had a black dotted Swiss cotton in my stash to make it with, and collected some inspiration photos for the bodice. These two from 1912 were my favorites. And a belt with the medallion was something I wanted to try also.


My design came from an OOP (out-of-print) Simplicity pattern #8474, that had just the right crossover I wanted, and I liked the pointed front of the over-skirt. The pattern is a jumper with an under-blouse. I made the under-blouse from the same dotted Swiss but didn't line it like I did the jumper. I used Butterick 4049 for that, but made three-quarter length sleeves. 
I used a row of purchased trim down the front of the V-neck, and tried making a medallion but was running out of time fast. Then I remembered this antique thingamabob I had in my stash. 

The pattern fits rather loose on you and since I didn't have time to make a muslin to check the fit, the bodice is a bit long on me, with my short waist, and it also has a three inch waistband that adds more fullness to it. But wrapping the belt around the waist holds a lot of that in. I made a 5" wide belt out of black silk taffeta and scrunched it down on the sides and pulled it up at the top center where I attached it to the center of the bodice with a snap to hold it in place. Then I basted the thingamabob to it. 

On the blouse collar, sleeve cuffs, and edges of the V-neck I used more black silk taffeta to trim them. It helped brighten up the dullness of the dotted Swiss and gave it more texture too. My over-skirt was kind of limp so at the last minute I sewed a band of the silk taffeta around the hem of it. 
My accessories were an antique silk purse I'd bought in Florida last year that I had to replace the silk faille bag but was able to do that with the same fabric purchased at Fabrics & Fabrics in the Los Angeles Garment District. I had also bought a hat in WA that was perfect for this. At Cindy's suggestion I put a black feather boa around the crown and then hand basted some vintage black grapes I bought at the Johnson House in Old Town San Diego, which is a great place to find some vintage things sometimes. My jewelry was a black glass Edwardian necklace I'd bought in pieces and restrung a few years ago. 

I also got to wear a remembrance rosette for King Eddie that Cindy had made me. 

As you can see, it wrinkles pretty badly. And the over-skirt still is pretty limp. I didn't have time to try it on much before I had to pack and leave for Costume College, and I already knew the bodice was just too blousey. So that was on my agenda to do some restructuring at a later date. 

With multiple events for the 1915 Centennial Celebration of the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, I was able to kick myself in the butt to get this dress repaired, refitted, and restructured, to wear on the 8th for one of the first events there. Our Guild was asked for some costumed folk to attend as greeters and mingle with the guests at a Centennial Beer Tasting reception (of all things, I don't drink beer) at the Museum of Man next to the newly opened California Tower. That in itself is amazing because it's never been open in my lifetime. 
At first I thought I would wear my pink striped dress I'd made two years ago but wasn't happy with wearing a day dress to an evening event where it would be colder. I also needed to finish my long-line corset by adding 16 bones to it. So I couldn't do anything until that was done. After I did, I remembered my black dress and realized it would be more appropriate for this event. After conferring with Cindy, we decided to go as twins in our dresses. 

The first thing I had to do was take in the excess bodice fabric. My neighbor pinned it up for me but while I was looking at it I realized that just by taking out the three inch waistband that would correct it. So I ripped it out and sewed the bodice to skirt. The belt covers the waist so you wouldn't even know it's missing. The under-blouse was also an issue because the two cotton fabrics were rubbing up against each other. So I removed the sleeves of the blouse and sewed it directly to the jumper. Since I no longer had the blouse I had a lot of exposed neckline. I had bought a piece of black lace fabric from a vendor at the Costume College Marketplace last year so I sewed a band of silk taffeta to it along the top edge and basted it into the V-neck of the bodice. To add a bit of weight to the over-skirt I basted some crinoline tape under the hem facing and it gave it just the right amount of body. 
I was much happier wit the fit and my choice of dress for this event. And Cindy and I got to go as twinsies finally. *both these photos by Trudy F.*
*Photo by Mary J. *

There were 19 of us attending in costume of the period that night. The following are photos taken of some of our attendees by Dr. Dave Roberts. 
I don't know why I was never caught smiling, because I know I did. Dave almost caught me breaking out into a smile in one photo but not quite.   

These are a couple more photos taken by Cat F. 



  1. I like this second version much better than the first. It was difficult to turn a modern day jumper pattern into a fitted dress. Lots of fiddling but we did it!

  2. I never thought of using a black dotted swiss but I like this a lot!

  3. Lovely details on the bodies! And nice accesories, the hat and the bag, yum!


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